From the Series
Tucked away in a Japanese forest lies a unique series of five huts. Designed by renowned Japanese architect Issei Suma, the modest but intriguing complex belongs to two women in their 60s – one is a chef and the other a social worker. Each hut is designed to fulfil a specific function, forming a beautiful and cohesive structure that doesn’t detract from its serene surroundings. Located in Japan’s mountainous Shizuoka Prefecture, elderly care and accommodation are what inform the purpose of the space.
With construction completed in 2016, some have called it the world’s most beautiful retirement village. While it is not a retirement home per se, it does function as a kind of hospice for the elderly. The women who reside in it demonstrably support community upliftment by offering a food delivery service and other forms of support to the residents of the surrounding community, as well as providing nursing care for the sickly.
Called Jikka, the complex contains an assortment of facilities – though its external appearance belies little of the sort. A prime example of beautiful architecture that is also highly functional, each hut was designed to appear as unassuming as possible while enhancing the tranquillity of its surrounding environment. Each individual structure includes various-sized entrances that provide its residents with constant views and connect dwellers to the comforting exterior.
According to Mentalfloss, “Providing care to the elderly is a pressing issue in Japan. More than 25 percent of the country's population is 65 or older, and those numbers are set to reach 40 percent by 2055. As Japan’s rural communities age, Jikka and sites like it could help fill a growing need.”
Featuring slender timber planks left in their natural state that mimic the structure’s surrounding forest, the interior features white-coated timber panelling and sheathing that ascends to a small skylight, indirectly illuminating the interior spaces and reflecting natural light throughout. Meanwhile, its walls take the form of arches and its concrete foundation forms gentle curves that frame the semi-circular doorways and windows.
Each hut serves a specific function; at the centre is a spacious kitchen where meals for delivery to the surrounding community are prepared, while another hut contains a spiral-shaped pool, which, due to its unusual design, is easily accessible for wheelchair users. The remaining huts feature comfortable accommodation for temporary residents and guests, while its other facilities are made available daily for public use.