unless otherwise noted, all photos by Takumi Ota
Nestled deep in the Gokayama mountains of Japan is Marebito no ie, a wooden cabin constructed near Toga village. The region is renowned for a unique type of A-frame housing design and architectural style known as gasshō-zukuri (合掌造り) which uses wooden beams combined to form a steep roof that can easily shed snow from their roofs. Marebito no ie was designed as a contemporary homage to this tradition but with minimal impact to the environment: an affordable Shopbot 3D wood cutter was brought in and the entire project was completed with local timber that did not have to be transported.
The Marebito no ie (“House for Marebito”) project was spearheaded by VUILD, an architecture firm specializing in combining technology with architecture to circumvent the conventional value chain. Marebito is an ancient Japanese word referring to a supernatural being who comes from afar bringing gifts of wisdom, spiritual knowledge and happiness.
The firm’s philosophy is epitomized in this project, which puts digital tools — specifically, the Shopbot 5-axis CNC Router — in the hands of local builders and makers, allowing them to break free from the environmental toll and monetary costs of shipping and transporting materials.
The project began with a crowdfunding campaign in 2019 that sought to raise 5 million yen (about $47,000 usd) to cover construction costs. It raised twice as much and supporters were rewarded with lodging, which brings tourism and awareness to the local village with a dwindling population of 500. It’s available to rent on Airbnb.
construction process photos by Hayato Kurobe and Rei Ikeda | click to enlarge