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Duplex Inspiration – Japanese 9 Tsubo House

by Chad Ludeman on January 23, 2010 · 4 comments

in architecture,Development,floorplan,inspiration

Recently, we were approached by someone to design and build a small duplex on a tight infill house in Philadelphia. Without getting into too much detail, the lot is roughly 27′ wide by 20′ deep. Tight constraints to say the least. This footprint reminded us of one of our favorite Japanese small house designs – The 9 Tsubo House. Special thanks to our pals Justin and Greg from Materialicious for helping us dig up links to these homes.

image credit:

Origins of the 9 Tsubo House

The 9 Tsubo House was originally designed and built by the late Japanese architect Masuzawa Makoto in 1952. The tsubo is a traditional Japanese unit of measure that equates to two tatami mats placed side by side. A tatami mat is roughly 3′ x 6′ so one tsubo would be 6′ x 6′ or 36 square feet. The 9 Tsubo house, therfore measured 18′ x 18′ for minimalist footprint of only 324 square feet. When a second floor loft is added the total square footage typically ranged from 500 – 540 square feet.

The reason for Makoto choosing these exact dimensions was based on a program offered by the houseing corporation of Japan after World War II. They would only provide loans to those people building a home of 50 square meters or less (~538 square feet). Anyone needing a larger house was assumed to be wealthy enough not to require a loan. Wouldn’t it be great if a US bank had a program like this incentivising people to build smaller homes?

Modern 9 Tsubo Houses by

In 2002 a company by the name of Boo-Hoo-Woo decided that this old 9 Tsubo House concept was pretty cool. They assembled 5 current Japanese designers to develop a line of homes all based on the original 9 Tsubo house by Mokoto a half century ago.

Currently there are 15 different models on the site by 12 different designers (one is a husband & wife team). The site is in Japanese, but your Google toolbar will easily translate the majority into your language of choice. The company sells these homes online in Japan for between $120K – $200K. The craftmanship and attention to detail in every aspect of the homes is incredible. Below are some selected images from the site and sources used for this post. I highly recommend spending some time checking them out. Detailed floorplans and elevations are shown for most models.

9 Tsubo House SAH Type 1 Interior
SAH Type 1 Model
9 Tsubo House Kinoco Model Top
Kinoco Model
9 Tsubo House Basic Model
Basic Model
9 Tsubo House Kyuuheya Model
Kyuuheya Model
9 Tsubo House Tall Model
Tall Model
9 Tsubo House Tall NUDE
Tall NUDE Model

Source Links:

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kitchen Goddess January 24, 2010 at 2:20 am

Love it, great models!

2 Jerry Hajek January 25, 2010 at 11:18 pm

I remember reading about these houses years ago. I do remember thinking at the time that it wouldn’t ‘fly’ in our culture, but that I enjoyed the ‘living machine’ aspect of the design. Just enough, not excessive, and WELL MADE. ‘Sculpture for living’, if you’re so inclined…
I hope y’all took the commission for the infill. What with the ‘Skinny’ and your general gestalt, I think the time is ripe to show that you DON’T need major square footage to live life and have a life. And we’ve all seen, heard, and perhaps felt the object lesson of what occurs when we buy beyond our means. And the banks need to learn what ‘flexibility’ can mean as well to their bottom lines…
I’ll stop ranting sooner than later now…*L*

3 tomas yentzch February 21, 2010 at 11:33 am

like too much your inicitive and not spend places idea
i love the litle place confort concep where you found place for everithing.
thank you ill use your idea in my country Paraguay in south america

4 kasozi emmanuel June 7, 2010 at 12:29 pm

the houses are so perfect. am still in my high school in uganda.
and am so interested in art and architect.

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