Japanese architecture ranges for elegant to humorous and somber to strange; this bizarre set of stacked housing units is easy to slot in at one end of those scales, dressed to look like individual homes angled and dropped on top of one another. It gets weirder.

One might guess that each individual volume was a single apartment unit, but in fact they are all multi-floor homes that intersect and overlap in odd ways, connected by a series of ladders and staircases woven throughout.

A combination of skylights and windows are interlaced with the rooftops and angular walls, facing in every direction you could imagine from straight up, down and out to various angles in between.

The resulting patchwork provides surprise glimpses within and between the various parts of this piecemeal creation and views back to the outside world.

The stated purpose is complex, and arguably does not add to the experience of the residences … this may be one of those design ideas that you simply have to love or leave.

If you’re an appreciator of contemporary Japanese architecture, you probably already recognize the Tokyo Apartments as the work of famed architect Sou Fujimoto. 

Here’s his descripton:

Collective housing built in the residential section of the center of Tokyo. It consists of four dwelling units including owner’s dwelling unit. Each dwelling unit is made with two or three independent rooms of prototypical ‘house’ shapes. And the two rooms exist, separated like combination of the room of the first floor, and the room of the third floor and they are connected by outside stairs.”

“That is, it can be said that each dwelling unit is realized by experience of two rooms and the city when passing along outside stairs. When you go up outside stairs, you will have experience that it is a wonder climbing a big mountain such as a city. It seems that you have your own house in the foot and summit of a mountain, respectively. And by the act which rises and gets down the mountain, mountain = the whole city will be experienced as its own house.”

“This collective housing is the miniature of Tokyo. ‘Tokyo which never exists’ is made into a form. I meant making an infinite rich place which is crowded and disorderly.”

Photography by Edmund Sumner