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A cup of tea with... Tato Architects

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

Ritratto dell'architetto Yo Shimada
© Tato Architects

Today we meet Yo Shimada, founder of the Tato Architects studio. We have followed his projects with passion since the beginning, but it is with House in Itami from 2012 (included in our book Japanese Contemporary House) that we have had a shock for his design approach.

We admire his distribution of internal spaces, devoid of filters, with a continuous and harmonious relationship between architecture and furniture, which intersect and sometimes even invert: in this way a container unit also becomes a structural and integral part of a connecting staircase, while a difference between levels can also be used as a seat.

The use of the metal material for the construction of the structures in his projects, despite appearing as a completely modern choice, refers to the Japanese tradition of construction in wood, paper and straw: in fact his creations almost always take place using the dry system, which implies an ease and speed of assembly that is typical of Japanese constructions.

At the center of everything: always and in any case relationships. The spaces generate a vortex of infinite and always different views between architecture, furniture and inhabitants, which amplify the interactions of daily life and connect the parts with the whole in a continuous relationship beyond time, but each time new and surprising.

His ideology pursues an architecture that primarily has an understanding of the conditions and constraints of everyday life, which exist within places, of different cultures but which are also found throughout the history of architecture itself.

"We are convinced that architecture is a means to try to love the environment and we continue our research to make an architecture that makes the environment more attractive".


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

I'm a daily drinker of coffee, Japanese tea, and at times Matcha. I drink coffee in the morning and afternoon, Japanese tea in the evening, and Matcha for special occasions.

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 can't narrow it down to just one, but I would say that House in Rokko (2011) and House in Miyamoto (2017) are central.

House in Miyamoto_shinkenchiku_sha
©Shinkenchiku_Sha (tutti i diritti riservati) House in Miyamoto

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?

I was not influenced much by my teachers or mentors as I founded my firm right after graduating from an art university where architectural education was not very popular.

So all architecture in this world, famous and anonymous, is a reference for me.

However, I am naturally influenced by the works of architects of my generation, as well as the works and discourse of the generation slightly older than I am. Specifically, the works of SANAA, Jun Aoki, and Atelier Bow-Wow.

© Ken'ichi Suzuki (tutti i diritti riservati) House in Rokko

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?

Even before Covid-19, I have believed that houses inherently need semi-external spaces as buffer zones from the environment-climate and community.

Up until now, much of the housing environment in Japan has been overcrowded, and all but the bare minimum functions have been discarded.

However, after the stay-home experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, people in Japan are beginning to think that their houses need workplaces and gradual contact with the surroundings.

People also acquired a sense of being uncomfortable in closed spaces.

I believe that semi-external space, as a buffer zone, that can be opened or closed to the surroundings in stages is important in the post-Covid world.

It will also become more important in dealing with climate change.


Tato Architects 

1972 Born in Kobe Japan

1995 Graduate, Kyoto City University of Arts

1997 Postgraduate, Kyoto City University of Arts

1997 Established, Tato Architects

2016 Visiting Professor, Kyoto University of Art and Design

add: 2-13-23, Kitano-chou, Chuou-ku, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan mail: URL:


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