The translucent Meme Meadows House in Japan is a lovely example of minimalist architecture. More importantly, though, it's an experimental house, built by design firm Kengo Kuma and Associates to test heating methods in extreme climates — with plenty of inspiration from the traditional building methods of the Ainu people.
The Ainu housing style, known as Chise, includes sage or bamboo cladding, a central fireplace that never goes out, and floors covered in cattail mats. According to Kengo, "The fundamental idea of Chise, 'house of the earth,' is to keep warming up the ground this way and retrieve the radiation heat generated from it."
The designers at Kengo Kuma and Associates used modern materials to replicate these ideas. For example, a larch frame is wrapped in polyester fluorocarbon coating on the outside and removable glass-fiber-cloth membrane on the inside. The two-part insulation is filled with plastic made from recycled bottles, allowing light to pass through. This double membrane warms the air and keeps the interior of the house warm . It's been so successful that the researchers have gone days without turning on the radiant heat flooring. The natural light that filters through the walls is the only light available in the house, so occupants have to follow the rhythms of the sun and moon. The lining of the house can be removed for experiments.
The Environmental Technology Institute at the Meme Meadows research facility will use the house to test how different factors affect the thermal qualities of its construction.
Read more about Meme Meadows at Dezeen.