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Adam Roberts

MA work

Kyōmachiya Futures

There were over 50,000 machiya in Kyoto. For eight-hundred years, skilled craftsmen have been constructing these townhouses using traditional joinery techniques resulting in a complex, layered and resilient vernacular. The machiya has withstood earthquakes and civil wars – only to emerge stronger in each iteration – but its delicate form is now sinking under the weight of Japan’s rapid globalisation. In order to preserve Kyoto’s tight-knit communities and fine-grained urbanism, we must rethink the typology by adapting its sophisticated cultural and aesthetic principles to the unique way in which people live and work in twenty-first century Japan.

From their linear spatial hierarchy to their soft boundaries, an unspoken language penetrates every fibre of the machiya. Through the transposition of machiya fundamentals to a new, densified form, the project envisages the cultural reprogramming of the residence to reflect evolving values of Japanese home life. It also addresses the proliferation of bland residential towers that have begun to absorb the city’s identity.

Meanwhile, existing underused machiya are refurbished and opened up as public assets through programmes of community construction, creating a network of entangled public spaces and preserving craftsmanship through education. Relocating ‘pre-cut’ timber technologies into the city block serves to scale up production, while also reconnecting citizens with a deep-rooted culture of making.


  • MA Degree


    School of Architecture


    MA Architecture, 2015



  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) Architecture, University of Sheffield, 2011
  • Experience

  • Urban designer, London Legacy Development Corporation, London, 2011–12; Architectural assistant, Allies and Morrison Architects, London, 2013
  • Awards

  • Prize, Kyoto City University of Arts Scholarship Award, 2014; Prize, MA Dissertation Distinction Award, 2015