Muji enters the tiny house game, showcases its line of wonderfully minimalist ‘Muji Huts’

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RocketNews 24 (by Philip Kendall):

Japan does small better than pretty much any other country in the world. From intricate origami to beautiful bonsai to sushi made with barely a dozen grains of rice, the Japanese people are known for their dexterity and attention to detail.

It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that Japanese retailer Muji is now getting into the tiny house movement and recently showcased its range of prefabricated ‘Muji Hut’ minimalist homes and hangouts.

As a keen follower of the tiny house movement, I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours poring over videos, plans and concepts of small, minimalist homes built either out of financial necessity or by those who wish to simplify their lives. These micro-home owners have an altogether different view of what a house should be, keeping their possessions to an absolute minimum (or creating clever storage solutions to keep them out of the way), designing their homes so that rooms function differently depending on the time of day, and embracing a lifestyle that favours the use of shared spaces. It’s not what you’ve got but how you use it, they maintain, and it’s hard to argue when you see how happy this approach to life makes them.

Although its name is more likely to conjure up images of beige rugs, plain lampshades and stationery than one of architecture and floor plans, Muji—known as Mujirushi Ryouhin (lit. ‘no-logo goods’) in its homeland—has been building pre-fabricated homes for quite some time in Japan under the name of Muji House. These simple yet stylish homes are light, airy and functional, not to mention much more affordable than typical homes in Japan, and they seem to be growing in popularity every day.

And now, for those who want to downsize even further, the company has unveiled Muji Hut—a series of three prefabricated buildings of varying styles and dimensions suitable for either straight-up minimalist living or as weekend retreats or shelters.

First up is the ultra-small Arumi no Koya (lit. “aluminium hut”) by industrial designer Konstantin Grcic.

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As its name suggests, the building is covered with in sheets of aluminium on all four sides, with a front that can be folded out to create additional shelter and a small deck, or closed for additional privacy and security.

The interior, while incredibly bare-bones, is surprisingly light and cosy thanks to the shoji paper doors on the front of the unit. The Arumi no Koya comes minus any kind of fittings besides a simple wooden ladder, but with its high ceiling and private loft space up above, this could easily be used as anything from a simple, single-person weekend dwelling to a artist’s studio or office space.

▼ You might want to add a few more bits and pieces to make it more homely…

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▼ The shoji paper doors allow light to pour in while giving the owner privacy

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Next up is a design that fans of Japanese interiors will no doubt immediately fall in love with. The Koruku no Koya (“cork hut”) was designed by English product and furniture designer Jasper Morrison and features, as its name implies, cork cladding on its exterior as well as a narrow, distinctive Japanese-style deck which surrounds the building.

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Morrison’s design features a simple kitchen area, dining space and spacious living/sleeping area fitted with soft tatami-mat flooring, perfect for lazing around on while the wood-burning fire in the corner gets the place nice and warm.

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The third and final structure, Ki no Koya (“wooden hut”), was designed by Japan’s own Naoto Fukusawa and is perhaps the most livable of the three designs, even for those unfamiliar with the tiny house movement.

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The interior features a kitchenette, bathtub, wood-burning stove and dining area. The entire front of the house, meanwhile, is covered in glass to allow for plenty of natural light to enter. It looks wonderfully snug and inviting and we desperately wish we lived here.

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They may appear unfeasibly small to some of our readers in the west, but in actuality many of the “one-room” apartments let out in Japan’s urban hubs offer less floorspace than the Muji’s two larger weekend retreats here, so with some careful planning and cutting back on one’s worldly possessions living in one would be quite possible.

Design: Beijing Tea House by Kengo Kuma Associates

NetDragon’s ‘Star Trek’-inspired Chinese headquarters

Chinese game developers NetDragon might be in the running for coolest office space in the world with their recently completed headquarters building. Commissioned by executive Lui Deijian, television network CBS gave official permission for the building to be modeled after the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E, which many will recognize from the classic television series Star Trek.

The 260-meter-length structure took four years to complete, at a price of 600 million yuan ($98 million USD), and is said to be the only licensed Star Trek building in the world.

Tokujin Yoshioka’s Kou-an Glass Tea House reinterprets the traditional Japanese tea ceremony

Take a look inside Booking.com’s Singapore office by SCA Design

Japanese design firm SIDES CORE reduces the hair salon down to its essentials

Experience Japanese culture in a new way, inside a glass teahouse at an ancient temple

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RocketNews 24:

Imagine yourself nearly floating in the sky, surrounded by green trees and fluffy clouds. Now you sip some green tea and feel completely at peace. Does this sound too good to be true? It isn’t, because now you can actually experience this in Kyoto.

At the Blue Dragon Hall of Shorenin Temple, artist Tokujin Yoshioka has designed a clear glass teahouse sitting amongst the trees of Higashiyama, one of the city’s famous mountains.

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The art installation, dubbed Glass Teahouse-Kouan,” was first thought up by Yoshioka back in 2002. It wasn’t until 2011 at the Venice Biennale international art show, though, that he announced the design, bringing along a model version of his vision. It took another few years to get permission and to finish the piece, which is now sitting grandly next to age-old camphor trees.

The teahouse is a one-year long art piece dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the sister city exchange between Kyoto and Florence, Italy. Yoshioka chose to create this clear building in an attempt to allow people to see and feel the energy of nature and its deep connection to Japanese culture.

While participating in the tradition of tea ceremony in the small indoor space, you are still close to the heart and sights of nature, giving a sense of limitlessness. This unification between microcosm and macrocosm is exactly what the artist was trying to achieve.

▼ The glass teahouse is the first of its kind.

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Some would argue that the inorganic glass would taint the experience or bring about a cold, hard sensation. However, due to the perfect transparency of the glass, the room is flooded with natural light, bringing a warmth and ease to the structure.

The wooden stage that the Glass Teahouse elegantly sits upon is the look-out platform of the newly relocated and reconstructed Seiryuden (Blue Dragon Hall) on the Shogunzuka mound at the foot of Higashiyama. The hall, part of Shorenin Temple, is a converted martial arts dojo, originally built during the Taisho era (early 1900s) and was re-opened after its restoration in October 2014.

▼ The night view from the new observation deck at Seiryuden.

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The observation deck stands 220 meters above ground level, is five times bigger than that of nearby Kiyomizu Temple and has an unobstructed view of the city below, making it a new popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

The Shogunzuka mound and the observation platform at Seiryuden would be enough to get us up there, but now with the addition of “Glass Teahouse-Kouan,” our mouths are watering with excitement and thirst for green tea.

The hall and look-out platform are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a 500-yen (US$4) entry fee for adults. The “Glass Teahouse-Kouan,” however, will only be there for one year, from April 9, 2015 to April 2016.

While spring will most likely be the most popular time to visit, the crystal clear teahouse will be, without a doubt, a great place to experience all of Japan’s beautiful seasons.