During the day, this Japanese home is deceptively cool – a white structure that blends into the billowing snow drifts on all sides. At night, it gives off a stunningly warm glow, which reflects its mission: to provide cozy heat in the coldest of places.

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Translucent Japanese Home in sunlight

Kengo Kuma created this experimental structure called “Même House” on the north island of Japan, known for its blistering chilly winters, and uses traditional principles and concepts with modern materials and techniques.

Translucent Japanese Home daytime
Translucent Japanese Home glowing

For starters, its translucency works both ways – its occupants wake with the sun. It also works with distributed heat, based around historical prototypes in which the central hearth was never allowed to go out, and provided warmth by keeping the floor warm at all times (in this version: radiant heating).

Translucent Japanese Home daylight inside

But that is just the beginning – contemporary techniques take it past these traditions: “We wrapped a wooden frame made of Japanese larch with a membrane material of polyester fluorocarbon coating. The inner part is covered with removable glass-fiber-cloth membrane. Between the two membranes, a polyester insulator recycled from PET bottles is inserted that penetrates the light. This composition is based on the idea that by convecting the air in between, the internal environment could be kept comfortable because of the circulation.”

Translucent Japanese Home at dusk

More from the architect Kengo Kuma

“We do not treat insulation within the thickness of heat-insulation material only, which was a typical attitude of the static environmental engineering in 20th century. What we aim at is a dynamic environmental engineering to replace it for this age. That we utilize the radiant heat from the floor is part of it, and it has been verified that you could spend several days in winter here without using floor heating.”

“The other reason we covered the house with membrane material was our longing for a life surrounded by natural light, as if you were wrapped in daylight on the grassland. Without relying on any lighting system, you simply get up when it gets light, and sleep after dark – we expect this membrane house enables you to lead a life that synchronizes the rhythm of the nature.”