An innovator: Hiroshi Nakamura

Microscopic designing methodology

At only 36 years old, Tokyo-based Hiroshi Nakamura already has an impressive line-up of projects under his belt. For his designs he uses ‘microscopic observation’. This is an approach which recognizes a phenomenon as a minute motion of a small object, not the whole as static taken together. The microscopic designing methodology is to create affluent relationships around people by finding clues from  movements.

Nakamura’s architecture manifests in the detail. Aspects such as an individual’s movement, microscopic thermal expansion, movement of eyes, path of light and behaviour of nature are analyzed and parametrically translated into the design. The combination of his microscopic designing methodology with an extensive knowledge of detailing and building technology allows Nakamura to realize truly pioneering architecture.


“Lanvin Boutique”, Ginza, Tokyo (2004)
A high-fashion boutique in the famous shopping district. The concept was to create the smallest of show windows.  Nakamura wanted to make the components of this window – the frame, glazing beads, stickers and adhesives – completely invisible. Everything unnecessary had to be excluded to project the phenomenon of luminescence created by the walls. In order to to achieve this he developed a method called “chilling shrink fit”, that makes use of the contraction of the acrylic material caused by cooling. The iron plates are cut to micrometer accuracy with a lathe turning machine to create the walls. The acrylic cylinders slightly exceeded the perforations and are cooled to a temperature of -40 ⁰C, causing them to contract. These acrylic cylinders were inserted into the perforations and the expansion force generated by the cylinders at room temperature made them adhere to the walls.

This is an innovative way of creating a watertight window which employs only the natural forces of each material without using any kind of adhesive or frame. A new type of façade was realized by exploring the movements of materials on a scale smaller than one millimeter.


“House SH”, Tokyo (2005)
A private house located in the city center. Three sides of the site are surrounded by buildings and the only surface which contacts the street is north-facing.  This north wall is designed to bring light further into the house, as well as to create a space that would allow any individual to find their own comfortable spot. Light was collected from top lights and light wells without windows on the outer walls. In order to fill the living area with bright light, the walls were expanded. The expansion was directly linked to the paths of light that needed to be reflected as well as human relaxation behaviour. Nakamura analyzed the various actions that people perform while relaxing, such as sitting, lying and reclining. The data is compiled to create a shape that changes its depth and height along a gradation. The bulge in the wall reflects light and delivers gentle light to the back of the room.

The interaction of architecture, light and motion make for a colourful relationship.


House C”, Chiba-shi, Chiba (2008)
A weekend house for a family of three. Nakamura designed a spectacular space featuring soil dug up at the site, covered in a swaying wildflower prairie. The decisive factors in determining the form, texture and color of this structure were all natural elements, e.g. earthquakes,  the climate and the earth at the site. The thick structure provides insulation and protection for the home, and by sourcing materials locally for construction, they were able to save on both costs and emissions.

The design utilizes precise detailing to become one with its surroundings. It continues to change with the seasons when the greenery blooms or withers, the seeds get carried by the wind to sprout and grow and when the structure weathers. It is this transition that marks its place in modern architecture.

Optical glass house”, Hiroshima (2012)
A private house located in the city center. Nakamura faced the challenge of creating privacy and tranquility among a bustling thoroughfare filled with cars and trams. The Optical Glass House animates the street with a dynamic 8.6 x 8.6 meter glass block facade, revealing its material capacity to be both translucent and transparent depending on light conditions. This 3-ton façade consists out of 6,000 glass blocks, each measuring 50mm x 235mm x 50mm. With their large mass-per-unit area, the crystalline glass blocks, effectively shut out the urban noise and create a sparkling backdrop for the garden with modulated city views.

The glass blocks are strung together by stainless-steel bolts suspended from a beam above. They are also stabilised by stainless-steel flat bars at 10mm intervals. The mass of the supporting beam below is laterally minimalised by employing a pre-tensioned steel beam encased in reinforced concrete. Despite the facade’s massive weight, it appears to be transparent from both the garden and street. The façade depicts images of passing cars and trams as a silent film.

The dwelling is transformed into architecture which displays the fundamentals of nature − trees, water and light − within the dynamism of the city.