Part of Okinawa prefecture and about 100 miles south of the disputed Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands sits the remote Iriomote-jima. Its tropical location supports a lush rainforest, swamps and a population just over 2000. Despite not having an airport, the largest of the Yaeyama Islands receives an astounding 300K tourists per year, thanks to an airport on a neighboring island just a 40-minute ferry ride away.
Enthralled by the magical island which, in itself, is a national park, it’s not rare for these tourists to start a new life for themselves on the island that, theoretically, is just a little over 4 hours from Tokyo. That’s exactly what happened 14 years ago when this couple decided to move to the island. But it wasn’t until just recently that the two decided to break ground, building what will be their permanent home.
Completed earlier this year, “villa921” marks the very first project by the very young architectural firm Harunatsu Archi, led by architect Shoko Murakaji. The structure itself is primarily concrete but with large windows that open up onto a luxurious patio. A canopy extends out, shading the patio from harsh rays of sunlight that can be up to 5x as strong compared to the mainland. The house requires very little in that it’s more complicated urban siblings simply try to compensate for a lack of the great outdoors – things like privacy, sunlight, and openness are all already part of the package.
However, Iriomote-jima has something else that Tokyo doesn’t: tropical storms. These winds come frequently, often knocking out power (no air conditioner) and lasting for several days (no open windows). To combat this issue the architects installed fasteners around the house which can hold a protective screen in place, allowing the inhabitants to open their windows without letting the water in.