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A cup of tea with... ofea

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

Ritratto dell'architetto Norio Yoshinaga
© Nao Takahashi

The architect Norio Yoshinaga, founder of the OFEA studio, of which we particularly love the Sasebo (Yoshinagasaki) renovation project, talks to us today about his work to restore the Nagaya, the typical traditional terraced houses in Osaka and its surroundings.

The Nagayas, houses built from the beginning of the 20th century, have a wooden structure and beaten earth walls. Each housing unit shares the side walls with the neighbors and the roofs are continuous and connected to each other.

The buildings that survived the devastation of the war and the period of radical urban transformation appear mainly as old abandoned and abandoned houses and their peculiarities, both architecturally and socially, have gradually been lost.

This until 2003, when one of these typical houses - built in 1932 and now in a state of total abandonment - was not defined as an "important cultural asset" for the city of Osaka. Well yes, from 1932! Not all homes in Japan are demolished after 20 years, let's try to dispel this "myth"!

It is certain that the purpose (unlike the Italian practice) is not to preserve the house, but to renovate it in order to be able to reuse it in a contemporary context. Therefore, the recovery of urban and non-urban areas, now in a state of neglect also due to the aging of the population, wants to lead to a repopulation of these areas, obviously also encouraging the opening of shops and structural services.

The recovery of this type of traditional housing has allowed an economic revaluation of the urban areas subject to intervention, as well as the possibility of attracting new inhabitants and thus recovering the sense of community that had always characterized this type of housing unit.


Let's start with the first question to break the ice: How do you get your tea?

I like Japanese tea. There are teas from various regions in Japan, and I change the tea I drink depending on the season. I always drink tea during my desk work.

To this day, what do you think is your most significant and representative work of your design approach? Is there a project that you consider emblematic to tell who are you?

I’m based in Osaka. There was the time when Osaka prospered about 80 years ago, before the war. It’s called “the Great Osaka”.

At that time, a large number of wooden “Nagaya”* were built in Osaka City, and the place of life for the common people was Nagaya. It hasbeen demolished in large numbers due to the war and postwar development, but there are still Nagaya around Osaka City.

I’m continuing to renovate the Osaka Nagaya.

I’m updating those old homes to suit today's lifestyle and environment.

*Nagaya: Jananese old style row house.

Nagaya_photo by Nao Takahashi
© Nao Takahashi_Nagaya

What do you think is a decisive project (of others) for your professional career? Who do you consider your teacher or an important reference for your work?

Every day I think about the relationship between the environment and architecture.

When thinking about architecture, learning from the environment is everything, and I consider it a teacher we should learn.

What will be the direction for the future of Japanese home architecture? Climate change, the aging of the population, the evolution of our daily habits due to the pandemic, which changes can affect the living spaces of tomorrow and how?

The world has changed a lot due to the pandemic, but the values of good architecture and good environment have not changed at all.

I’ll continue to create good architecture and environment through good works.



1980 Norio Yoshinaga Born in OSAKA

2004 Graduated from Wakayama University

2012 Established Office for Environment Architecture (ofea)

2014- Lecture at Setsunan University

2016-19 Lecture at Kyoto University of Art & Design

add: Osaka, Japan mail: URL:


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