They say your home is your "third skin," after your clothes and your actual skin. Our second and third "skins," just like our actual skin, have a significant effect on our lives. If your clothes are wet, or aren't warm enough, you might catch a cold. If your house is designed and built without natural, eco-friendly materials... well, you may not catch a cold, but the space you live in, its materials, its design, surely has an effect on your well being.
Tono Mirai is an architect who believes this, and has focused on making houses out of, for lack of a better word, "earth" for nearly 15 years. His series of "earth houses" began while experimenting with traditional Japanese plastering techniques—which have a deep, 1,000-year history in Japan—used to make "tsuchikabe" (literally "mud walls") in an effort to create a more natural, healthy home for his wife. Through this experimentation, he realized how soil, wood, and other natural ingredients could be used to fulfill the three things he wanted to achieve with his architecture: sustainability, health and beauty.
Tono's latest concepts combine the ideas and designs of a traditional Japanese home with his environmentally friendly Earth Houses. His new designs feature an abundance of eco-friendly materials, down to even the smallest details. Instead of aluminum sash, plastic walls or chemical bonding agents, Tono brings in wood, paper, solar power, mortar and, of course, soil in an effort to maintain a healthy, natural environment to live in, all balanced with a design aesthetic that is unique to traditional Japanese homes.
With his latest concepts, Tono is interested not only in building houses that are eco-friendly, healthy and beautiful—he wants the process of building itself to bring value as well. With a vision to "build a community while building a home" his new projects include workshops, which involve many people in the local community (recently over 200), to work alongside him and other professionals to bring his designs in to fruition.
While Tono's work has currently been limited to Japan and the UK, his vision is to build his sustainable, healthy, beautiful houses all over the world. He and his team of traditional Japanese plasterers are ready for the international call.
Kai Mitsushio is the co-founder of wakumi, a business-to-business marketplace that brings together the companies behind the finest products and services from Japan with businesses from around the world. Special thanks to Tomoko Miyake for coordinating.
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