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From the land where housing depreciates …

December 3, 2013

You get this:

Japan 1

Japan 2


From Arch Daily:

is famous for its radical . But as Tokyo architect Alastair Townsend explains, its penchant for avant garde housing may be driven by the country’s bizarre real estate economics, as much as its designers’ creativity. …

In the West, deviation from societal norms can jeopardize a home’s value, since it may prove impractical or distasteful to future buyers. Bold design decisions can present investment risk, so clients usually temper their personal tastes and eccentricities accordingly. …

Houses in Japan rapidly depreciate like consumer durable goods – cars, fridges, golf clubs, etc. After 15 years, a home typically loses all value and is demolished on average just 30 years after being built. …

Clients need not contemplate what a potential buyer will think 8-10 years into the future. This gives them and their architects greater personal freedom.

Without property values to safeguard, Japan, generally lacks planning scrutiny or incentives to protect and preserve local character. Neighbors are largely powerless to object on aesthetic grounds to what gets built next door. This is a boon to architects’ creative license, but it also reduces the collective incentive to maintain and beautify communities by, say, nurturing greenery or burying overhead power lines.

Japan 3


It may seem sad that Japanese families slave, scrimp, and save to build a home, only to see their investment rapidly vanish over the ensuing 15 years. In this light, some of the avant garde houses seem like fatalistic last hurrahs – follies to the futility of home ownership in Japan. Resigned to their predicament, but needing somewhere to live and raise a family, it’s little wonder that Japanese clients reclaim control and quietly rebel in the best way they can – through design.

Besides… they’ll eventually tear it all down anyway.

More here.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. D. Volk permalink
    December 3, 2013 1:51 pm

    Very interesting. I lived for about a year in West Tokyo (think suburbs) in 2005. At the time, one of my favorite things to do was to ride around the seemingly endless suburban neighbourhoods – the absence of a road grid system made finding my way home interesting. Most homes are distant relations of the Vancouver Special (boxes maximizing square footage). However, every once in a while, I would come across an architecturally unique home, many of which were quite stunning. It always baffled me to see such homes randomly set amongst the typical box homes.

  2. David permalink
    December 3, 2013 4:48 pm

    Housing depreciates everywhere, even Vancouver. What doesn’t seem to depreciate here is the land on which that housing temporarily sits.
    My first childhood home was built in 1950, massively renovated in 1970, updated frequently, massively renovated again in 2004 so it looked like a brand new house, and finally demolished in 2011.
    I watched it come down. It had been decades since I’d lived there and the house no longer looked like the one I’d lived in so my only sadness was seeing one of the “newest” and nicest homes in the neighbourhood knocked down for no good reason. Even worse it appeared that almost nothing had been salvaged.
    I watched another house get demolished this morning and took photos to show to the two generations of family that had lived there for the last 40 years. Again very little was salvaged. Leaded glass windows and hardwood floors ended up in the same pile as the plaster and stucco from the walls.

  3. foo bar permalink
    December 3, 2013 9:04 pm

    Good luck trying to get any house even remotely creative past the Vancouver city planners. There’s a reason all houses look the same here.

  4. Bob permalink
    December 8, 2013 9:36 am

    @David – yes it sure is strange how the supposedly “green” Vision council does nothing to discourage wholesale demolition of perfectly good homes.

  5. December 8, 2013 4:49 pm

    Interesting. Perhaps a compromise might help us here: some areas have tight building guidelines, but other areas have not, allowing more creative freedom.

    Re real estate value: Land values in a country with declining population is generally sinking, like many European cities/regions, but UNLIKE most US or Canadian cities.

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