Library of Priest



Private Housing Extension


Realized –


Muto Family


Nagano, Japan






This is a housing extension project for the married couple of Japanese Shinto priests, located in the rural area in Nagano city, Japan.

The site is faced with the shrine gate, which is registered as a cultural asset, and the clients required a new main entrance with a small reception space, office space, storage space for ritual utensils, and library space for almost 3,000 books they owned. they also wanted to add a garden next to the building and position them as a part of the shrine facilities. Furthermore, the building needed to solve the gap of maximum 2,170 mm between the front street level and the existing housing level internally, which used to be connected by outdoor stairs.

In addition to deal with these practical requests, we tried to give to this small building a conceptual role that supports not clients lifestyle but their existence as priests, since we felt this building was destined to become other than a normal living machine. Under the simple side-gable roof responding to the surrounding environment, there is one continuous tube-like room loosely divided by lightweight sliding doors. All-dark-colored wooden surface gives abstractness and unity of the space, and multi-layered sliding doors and densely-designed bookshelves highlight the depth of the room. Having a face toward the shrine gate, this “tube” shows the whole interior to outside visitors when all doors are opened. By showing their behavior as priests in this depth, the inhabitants relate themselves with the shrine visitors (=external world). This theatrical feature represents the culture of Shintoism and the profession of priests which consist of the sophistication of styles and postures.

Furthermore, the window under the pilotis enables the inhabitants to see the garden even when the door shuts off the view from the outside. This mechanism paradoxically stimulates their consciousness of the professional beings as priests, in a so-called reversed theatricality. In other words, since the stone garden is also the representation of the world, this distorted status of being connected and disconnected simultaneously with the world or society reveals their existence as priests to themselves, much more than just through the simple alternate connections and disconnections.