After decades of government-backed de-centralization urban life is again being promoted in Tokyo, and residential mid-rise and high-rise towers have as a consequence begun to populate the city in large numbers. Not surprisingly a side effect of this approach is the lack of livable outdoor space in the city centre.
This new residential block by FrontOffice + Francois Blanciak Architects, however, attempts to address this issue. Ha Tower is an eight storey building with nine housing units in Minato ward, Tokyo. The Ha tower proposes a hybrid model for urban life that embraces the city, pulling it in the heart of the units, while still offering large open spaces that otherwise are only available on the urban fringe. Located in Higashi-Azabu, within walking distance of a cluster of rail lines, Shiba Park, and the iconic Tokyo Tower, the corner site is small, covering only 130 square meters and is constrained by a floor area ratio that limits construction to eight floors.
The architects discovered the site had a maximum height that would never be reached simply by stacking floors from the ground up. But if they pulled the floors apart and designed from the top down it was clear that they could create large outside spaces that would extend the living area of the apartments and make a place for residents to literally live in the heights of the city. In this way the architects believe they are working towards a typology where the city does not stop at the front door but extends into and enlivens the home.
Taking this approach the change in spacing between the units naturally creates a variety of unit types. On the lower levels a roof deck connects the living rooms directly to the city; in the middle level a large balcony is carved out along with a mezzanine space; and on the top floors double height units take advantage of the height and views available to them and are literally open to the sky.