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Nest or cave?

I was recently introduced to the work and writing of Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. One concept that he writes about that I really like is the idea of nest vs. cave.

The way Fujimoto describes a cave is that it’s a naturally occurring and pre-existing condition. It is exists independent of humans. So if and when a human decides to occupy a cave, he or she must assimilate their lives to that which is already there. They have to deal with the ambiguity of the spaces because it is not clear how everything should be used.

A nest, on the other hand, is something completely created by and for the benefit of a person or animal. It would not exist without someone creating it and so it is prescriptive and functional in a way that a cave is not.

Fujimoto is interested in exploring architecture that is analogous to caves. Which is why he designs houses like this one (House NA) in Tokyo:

In most countries, a house like this would not meet code and would be illegal. But in Tokyo it’s obviously allowed. And his hope is that the owners will discover new and unintended ways to interact with the unusual pairing of levels and platforms.

However, I think about this juxtaposition differently – likely incorrectly in the mind of Fujimoto.

I’m actually more interested in nests. Because in a way, mass produced housing is like a cave. It exists whether or not we decide to occupy it. And it is generally created to appeal to lots of people, rather than to the idiosyncratic tastes of one person. So when someone does occupy it, they invariably end up trying to shape it.

But not to the extent of a nest. A nest is custom. It is what you would build for yourself given the opportunity to do so. And that thought is really appealing to me. Maybe it’s because I don’t like the ambiguity of a cave. That could be a possibility.

I could also be thinking about it differently because I tend to think of Japanese homes as being quite individualistic. Since Japanese people generally don’t care about resale value, they don’t have the same fixation with marketability and future value. That means they’re more likely to just build what they want.

I’d love to have my own nest.

Image: Wall Street Journal

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