all photos by Hiromitsu Morimoto

Tadao Ando’s Row House in Sumiyoshi, also known as the Sumiyoshi House, is a residential building located in Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Ward. It was designed by Ando in 1976 for a couple with two children and is considered one of the self-taught architect’s earliest and most influential works.


Built on a narrow road in a dense residential neighborhood with houses on both sides, Ando proposed a completely closed off concrete enclosure. By further dividing the small-scale box into three equal parts and placing a courtyard in the middle, the layout forces residents into the outdoors in order to get from the bedroom on the second floor to the bathroom.

It was a bold plan that could have been easily rejected. But the owners saw through what could have been interpreted as an inconvenience and accepted the rich space, which was the result of a thorough investigation by Ando himself into what it meant to live and occupy a space.

The excessive building density caused by intense urbanization in Japanese cities is irrevocably destroying the natural world with which houses can no longer come into direct contact. Current homes cannot have openings to the outside.

Tadao Ando

At the time of construction, many old row houses known as nagaya that survived the air raids of World War II were still standing. They were characterized by an elongated form that occupied most of the plots in which they were located. The nagaya have a long history (pun absolutely intended) in Japan and Ando himself grew up in one. It what that experience that went on to inform House in Sumiyoshi.