Some housing developments practically sell themselves. Others are not so lucky. The team behind Vent Vert (a name meaning “Green Wind” in French) faced multiple challenges when they set out to erect a residential complex on a Tokyo plot of only 117 square metres. This site limited the building’s footprint – and any single-storey apartments in it – to a diminutive 74 square metres, making it difficult for them to stand out in a market already saturated with unrented properties. Finally, the location along a treeless street of a dense commercial neighbourhood meant there was little greenery to attract potential buyers.
To greenify the treeless streetscape, the architects decided to install an expansive green wall on the facade. But rather than just sticking plants on the front of the building, where they can only be enjoyed from outside, the team devised a light frame, watered by internal sprinklers, and separated from the rest of the building by an open-air corridor. It’s a clever solution that allows the foliage to be seen from inside the residences, and from the bars, hair salons, and restaurants of the neighbourhood. Since the building is situated near a bend at the end of a busy shopping street, denizens can enjoy the bucolic scene from blocks away.
Although the lukewarm Japanese economy was out of their control, the architects were able to make the most of the space at their disposal. To address the limitations imposed by the site’s compact footprint, ESA thought vertically, doubling the height of each unit and adding a mezzanine to increase the available floor space while retaining the soaring ceilings. The interiors, left with a raw, industrial finish, are drenched in light from double-height windows facing directly into the planted screens.
It’s a welcome sight for residents, whose views now include a private garden, and a thoughtful architectural gesture in a neighbourhood short on green space.