Tenjincho Place: Finding beauty in ‘imperfection’

Online Exclusive Feature, Residential / 2024

Tenjincho Place: Finding beauty in ‘imperfection’

June 28, 2024

The site is located along the approach to a renowned shrine and on the edge of a plateau in the Yushima district of Tokyo. In recent years, buildings in the area have been replaced by apartment complexes, which rapidly transformed the area’s spatial character.

There were a few challenges within the site context that significantly shaped the design, namely the irregular shape of the plot and the lighting conditions, both due to buildings surrounding it from three directions. In response, the architects created a mass that resembled a thin curved board wrapped around a void, ensuring that each residential unit could obtain light, natural ventilation and views.

Capturing light and air

Having such a shape for the mass posed another challenge—the courtyard in the centre of the building would be dimly lit. In the effort to make this in-between space more welcoming, the architects implemented three strategies to introduce a sense of openness and better daylighting in the space.

Firstly, they minimised the number of corridors along the courtyard to reduce shading. By converting the end of each corridor into a maisonette residential unit spanning two floors, they were able to effectively divide the corridors.

Secondly, side openings were inserted to face the courtyard, serving as balconies for both common areas and residences. These openings allow for light and air to enter from various directions.

Thirdly, they applied textures to the 30-metre-high wall to enhance the perception of even the slightest light. This was done by reusing materials that had been deemed unsuitable for typical construction as formwork, with the goal of achieving a ‘linear yet irregular’ appearance.

Finding beauty in ‘imperfection’

In recent years, the local forestry industry has faced difficulties due to the proliferation of fungal diseases, which caused tree trunks to become permanently grooved and weakened. Finding the value in these ‘imperfect’ materials, the architects aimed to permanently imprint them into the design.

Hence, the courtyard’s formwork was made from Japanese cedar logs sourced from the Wooden Station Project in Sammu City, Chiba. This initiative aims to sustain healthy forests by acquiring thinned wood and forest residue that have been collected from forest owners. During construction, the logs were sliced into 15-millimetre pieces, retaining the grooved bark on one side and affixing them onto plywood to create the formwork. This technique allowed them to capture the organic contours of the logs into the concrete, resulting in a courtyard with a diverse interplay of light and shadow.

A space to linger in

While the courtyard may not be brightly illuminated, the designers have received numerous remarks from users that express a desire to linger there indefinitely, simply taking in the ambiance. Moreover, they were able to enjoy gentle breezes on the balconies, even in the absence of wind. This shows that the design strategies were able to provide pleasant light and ventilation conditions, even within the high-density environment. For its successful application of architectural solutions, Tenjincho Place has received the Nomination Committee’s Top Selection in the first Japan Architecture Award—Architecture Awards for Everyone in 2024.


Project Name   
Tenjincho Place

Tokyo, Japan

Completion Date
August 2023

Site Area           
782.21 square metres

Gross Floor Area            
2,448.55 square metres

Number of Rooms         

Building Height
30.87 metres

Architecture Firm
Hiroyuki Ito Architects

Principal Architects       
Hiroyuki Ito; Junko Uehara

Main Contractor            
Sanyu Construction Co., Ltd.

Mechanical & Electrical Engineers          
Tetens Engineering Co., Ltd.; EOS plus Co., Ltd.

Civil & Structural Engineer         
Shuji Tada Structural Consultant

Landscape Architect      
Kayoko Nagahama Garden Design & Construction

Masao Nishikawa

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