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A new Kyoto night, lit up by a fishing boat lamp. Just a 1-minute walk from Karasuma-Oike intersection, there remains 3 traditional “machiya” townhouses next to one another, one of which I refurbished into a sake and craft beer bar for this project. A “machiya” is traditionally a community of houses, where merchants or craftsmen typically lived, but also used as their place of business.

The owner of the bar is a former sake brewer, who is dedicated to restoring his brewery, and at the same time, to preserving the declining number of Kyoto’s “machiya”. We were really drawn to his commitment towards his business, and based our design concept on repurposing the traditional architecture of this “machiya”. This particular “machiya” was different from the typical Kyoto-style “machiya”, in that there is not as much depth in the layout. We felt a sense of mismatch between the traditional materials that remained, and the non-traditional prominence towards the front of the structure.

As such, we wanted to make the most out of this discrepancy as a key aspect in the design, and made it our objective to create a space where people can easily stop by; a space for people to close the gap between the traditional “machiya” architecture and modern-day Karasuma-dori street.

The existing dirt floor portrayed an image of the interior space extending to the outside street (or the outside street extending into the interior, depending on one’s view). We had to consider how we can utilize this unique feature, and decided that it would best be expressed by combining the skills of modern craftsmen, and their work on the existing materials of the architecture, such as mortar and lauan timber

We converted the tiny backyard plot of land into a sunny staircase, and by removing more than half of the flooring on the second floor it created an illusion of unity between the upper and lower levels, as well as a feeling of comfortable openness upon entering the bar.

In the original kitchen space area, we constructed a beer tap inspired by a traditional Japanese-style oven called “kudo” out of a block of mortar. Served from this beer tap are craft beers from all over the world. The originality of the beer tap handles is achieved by slicing off four sides of a cherry blossom branch to create an octagonal shape. The irregularity in length and color of the wooden handles adds to the unique character of the bar.

As you enter the bar, you will notice a change in the flooring and furniture height, which we hoped will create an opportunity for some interesting communication and interaction. When you turn back towards the entrance, Karasuma-dori, the street onto which the bar faces, suddenly looks like a portion of the landscape framing the façade. This mixture and diversity of spaces all come together under the lamplight from the lighting fixtures of a squid fishing boat. The details in our design are inspired by the scene we imagined is created of the unique and lively people, sake, and beer, all congregating under this particular type of light.

The pegboard wall along open ceiling area gives you an impression of regularity and cleanliness, in contrast to the old building architecture, and was deliberately placed for acoustic consideration to the neighboring house. It turned out that this pegboard wall was the perfect area onto which the owner can project his favorite monochrome movies, which was a highlight discovery during the construction phase. We hope that this design can inspire to shed a new light onto Kyoto’s night sky, connecting people through drinks, conversations, and architecture, which all surpass the passage of time.

Designed by Puddle + CHAB DESIGN
Photography by Takumi Ota

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