Ireland House, Tokyo

Competition Entry : 3000m² Embassy building

The House of Ireland has been conceived as contemporary townhouse in the tradition of Irish Georgian architecture adapted to the context and climate of Tokyo. The building is set back from the edge of the site creating an “area” that provides a separation of the ground floor accommodation from the street as well as providing light to the lower-ground floor. The street frontage is a transparent façade allowing passers-by to see into the reception and exhibition spaces whilst maintaining a secure separation thanks to the setback. The entrance is accessed via a small bridge across the sunken area and accesses directly to the reception.

The movement of people through the Yotsuya Station Front Park continues on through the building to the private green garden to the rear of the site. The ground floor of the House of Ireland is largely transparent so that the people of Tokyo can see into the reception, library, and sculpture terrace, and out to the lush garden beyond. In this way the landscapes and vegetation of Ireland and Japan are horizontally linked through the ground floor. The consular section of the embassy is located to the left of the reception area and this suite functions independently within the House of Ireland with the consular staff office at the rear of the suite linked vertically to the embassy offices and shared staff facilities above.

The section of the building has been developed around a central hall that extends vertically between the representational hub on the lower-ground floor and the office accommodation above. This is the heart of the building where the different parts of the community come together and from which they can be seen. Visitors pass along a gallery through this space and then descend a helical staircase to the hub below. On their way they can see down into a central performance area or look out to an outdoor sculpture terrace. At the end of the gallery they look over a garden in the depth of the site. This space will be filled with Irish specimen trees and plants. As a shaded grove in the heart of Tokyo it will allow visitors to experience a scent of Ireland when they visit the house and will visually draw them into the building from the street.

The programme of principal accommodation has been stacked with public and semi-public accommodation on the ground and lower-ground floors, and office accommodation on the first and second floors. The state agencies are housed in the front part of the building facing the street while the embassy occupies the rear facing onto the garden. This allows the embassy offices to connect vertically down to the consular office on ground-floor, and up to the official state residence on the third floor. The ambassador’s residence is conceived as a two-storey house sitting above these with the official accommodation on the third floor and a private family apartment on the fourth floor. As both of these suites are set back from the northern edge of the building, they each enjoy dedicated outdoor roof terraces and gardens that provide shade during the heat of a Tokyo summer.