Integrating a modern residence into a historic setting can be a tricky prospect, especially when taking a fresh approach with shapes and materials. Tato Architects created a striking home for a 1930s neighborhood in Japan that hits just the right balance, blending into its surroundings while taking on its own unique visual identity.

The house consists of stacked geometric modules, with each one made of a different material. The base is a monolithic white grid with sliding translucent panels that allow access to the garage and a storage area.

Tato Ishikiri’s House Japan glass wall

Within this volume is a steel-clad children’s play area with windows lined with rainbow-hued curtains providing a pop of color.

Another glass volume lets lots of natural light into the interior, while the top floor mimics the archetypal house shape of surrounding residences.

Tato Ishikiri’s House Japan outdoor bathroom

The home is nestled into a hillside, giving it a private rock-lined garden sheltered from view of the neighbors. A glass-walled bathroom looks out onto this space, giving it the feel of proximity to nature despite its urban setting.

Tato Ishikiri’s House Japan view

Tato Architects has a portfolio full of similar projects: fresh, airy, breezy and modern takes on Japanese residential architecture. They’re often full of unexpected shapes and forms, prioritizing both functionality and quality of life in a way that’s markedly different from Western architecture.

Yo Shimada founded Tato Architects in 1997, after he graduated from KCUA. As a student, he completed a number of designs and build architecture projects at the school. Based in his home town of Kobe, Tato Architects undertakes projects throughout various locations in Japan. The projects are mainly private houses; however, in recent years the office has taken on assignments for interior and installation work as well. The ideology of the practice is to formulate positive outcomes through understanding the subtle conditions and constraints of everyday life, which exist within notions of place, culture and the ongoing history of architecture.”