The Japanese House
The standard construction unit of what was previously the guesthouse is the Tatami-mat (just 90 x 180 cm) on the floor. Its length corresponds to human height: its dimensions derive from those of the sleeping place. This human proportion is repeated as module throughout the whole house. Each of the main rooms has eight such mats, while the same measure recurs in the sliding elements of the walls and doors and in the fixed transverse panels above them, to be repeated also in the roof construction. The walls are thin space-fillers, slidable and removable. The Tatami-mats, as well as the tokonoma, the display alcove, are not added after the event, like furniture or items for display, but instead belong to the body of the house itself. In this type of construction, structure and decoration are not separate or distinct: no empty box is built, and then filled.
The relation between house garden and architecture is a symbiotic one. The character for "garden" is made up of three elements: an outer wall, the main building-complex within, and the planted grounds, which in turn may have other structures. Whereas inside the house right angles dominate, with crooked or curved lines nowhere to be found, the plant and landscape zones, which can be regarded at leisure from the house, are ruled by a kind of controlled wildness, free of any suggestion of axial symmetry. Because its walls are slidable, the view from within the house of the garden, designed to be free of all regularity, can be "framed" in various ways: one time to appear as a long cross-section, another as a large hanging scroll landscape painting. Nevertheless, the paving stones leading out of the house demonstrate that the gardens here are not only "position", but also "movement" gardens, the view of which changes in some specific way with almost every step.
Attached to the old house is a tearoom: it is there to create an atmosphere of simplicity. In the act of drinking tea together the barriers between persons valid within society are dissolved. Tea ceremonies usually celebrate a special and unique moment which can never be repeated; for just this moment, a particular painting or calligraphy has been selected in advance and placed in the tokonoma, and a flower arrangement placed before it on the floor. In the silent observation of the movements of the tea ceremony, careworn thoughts on past or future lose their gravity. Brief, intimate conversations over the present can then take place: over, say, the tea-bowl, the ink-painting on the hanging scroll, or the flower arrangement.