Stairway House | by Nendo

Multigenerational living is a hot topic in every corner of the world. This solution is particularly familiar in Japan, whose status as the world’s oldest population (with over 25% of residents aged over 65) brings with it a higher demand for informal caregiving and an increased desire for sharing homes to combat social isolation. Design studio Nendo has delivered a private house in a quiet neighbourhood of Tokyo for three generations of the same family; an older couple – and their eight cats – on the ground floor, and a younger couple with their child on the second and third floors.

Nendo has reinvented the humble staircase to both physically and visually keep the two family units connected while allowing each its privacy. Penetrating diagonally through the otherwise static cube, the enormous faux-staircase is a performative gesture that flows through each area of the house opening internal sightlines.

Acting as a dividing wall – or, in some places, display shelving for potted plants – the concrete stair hides functional elements such as bathrooms, and the more practical staircase, within a steel frame. As well as uniting the interior, the intervention extends beyond the boundaries of the house, sweeping from the rooflight through the building to the garden outside, taking a journey through the house to connect the sky to the city environment outside the boundary walls. 

Internally, the architecture is minimal and controlled, with white walls and dark wood-panelled flooring throughout. Integrated shelving hides the remnants of everyday life and black furniture provides a colour contrast to standout as a mobile element. The spatial layout allows the older couple to move freely between the house and the garden, with the fully-glazed façade blurring the division between inside and out. Closed to the main street, this openness to the private garden connects each layer of the house – and the family – to the natural environment.

Photos | Takumi Ota