WA House, Shirahama / Curiosity

WA House, Shirahama / Curiosity

Project: WA House
Architects: Atelier Haretoke, Curiosity
Location: Shirahama, Japan
Area: 162 m2
Year: 2022
Photographs: Yasutaka Kojima

Gwenael Nicolas has created a modern fisherman’s house, iconic in appearance but modest in scale, in the stunning natural setting of Wakayama, one of Kansai’s leading resorts. It is located on the coast of Nanki-Shirahama, which is also a national park. Situated on a rugged rocky coast reminiscent of the Atlantic Ocean, where Nicolas was born, the WA house has been carefully designed in collaboration with Haretoke Architects. It confronts nature while accepting its challenge.

The linear, single-story house is designed so that the height of the building almost coincides with the ocean horizon, so as not to overwhelm nature. The character of the house is created by the unique shape of the wing-like roof, which is designed to withstand the extreme winds as the house faces the ocean.

WA House, Shirahama / Curiosity

The wooden house sits delicately on a concrete foundation that lifts it above the rocks. In the event of a storm, the large waves spread under the concrete pillars of the house. The dark color of the house blends in with the natural surroundings and the dark stone of the reef. The extended roof also provides shade on the side of the terraces. It is reminiscent of vernacular architecture revisited as a sculptural object reduced to the minimum form.

The WA house is sheltered and covered with a single material: Yakisugi, burnt cider wood, the ideal surface material for such an extreme location. The highlight of the house is the 180-degree ocean view. The terrace is so large that it feels as if it was built directly on the sea, and it flows seamlessly into the living room. To emphasize the continuity between indoors and outdoors, the same floor finish is used throughout the house.

WA House, Shirahama / Curiosity

The house is punctuated with surprising objects and artworks that seem to come from the sea; Genta Ishizuka’s lacquer art above the sofa. The open kitchen is a large monolith in the middle of the living room. Open to the large window, it allows you to enjoy the outside scenery while entertaining and cooking. Each element of the interior is designed to evoke primitive and essential interaction with nature and trigger emotions and sensations that have been diminished by the urban lifestyle. Another piece of art near the kitchen is the large rusty panels created by nature.

dining area

The interior consists of only two Japanese-style rooms, an atelier, and a large living room, all rooms generously open to the ocean. The Japanese-style rooms allow for flexible use of the space, both for entertaining, for the tea ceremony, and resting. All the functions, lights, handles, and switches, are hidden in the linear lines of the black wood, emphasizing the timelessness and primitive feel of the house.

The palette of colors and materials in the house is inspired by the environment and the conditions, the color of the soil, and the natural tone of the surroundings. From the rough textured wall to the ceramic tiles of the floors and tatami, all the materials have a similar warm grey giving the space a sense of spaciousness and continuity. The rooms all have large sliding doors that merge with the walls, disappearing to open the whole house.


The bathroom is designed as a retreat within the house. The vanity area is bathed in the warm and luminous light of an oversized shade suspended from the ceiling, bringing a sense of ease and comfort to this intimate space. The bathtub is made lower as if it was carved directly into the black stone floor, connecting with the natural feel of the surroundings, resulting in a more primitive appearance and sensations.

The WA house can be completely enclosed with Yakisugi (burned cedar) shutters to protect the interior from the weather. In a similar way to the old houses of Japan. Wa House’s aim is to create a dialogue between vernacular architecture and modern abstract archetypes.

living room, Curiosity

bathroom, Curiosity

dining room, Curiosity

WA House, Shirahama / Curiosity

WA House, Shirahama / Curiosity


WA House, Shirahama / Curiosity

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