“sumu yakushima” rises in the wilderness of japan with regenerative architecture


Sumu Yakushima by tsukasa ono

The name Sumu means “to live” and “to become clear”, and designer Tsukasa Ono saw both when he stepped in to work on the residential project Sumu Yakushima on the island of the same name, 60 kilometers from the southern tip of Kyushu in Japan. Ono turned to regenerative architecture as his main concept, a personal way to reconceptualize the relationship between human habitation and the natural environment.

Gone are the concrete-based materials that embody current architecture, replaced by slabs of wooden construction which join the gifts of the Earth which grow naturally on the territory. “Rather than being a discrete site, the design takes a holistic view of the entire river basin, from the mountains to the sea, making a positive contribution to natural processes,” Ono writes for designboom.

images courtesy of Tsukasa Ono and Sumu Yakushima | exterior, all buildings and bridges are raised floor style.

Ono invites residents to make positive impacts while living in Sumu Yakushima’s alcove. As an experimental housing cooperative created jointly by eight owners, the cabin in the woods reaches out to nature and reflects on the architectural climate that the present experiences through the conscious use of the materials of the house. For Ono, regenerative architecture underscores the defining characteristic of Sumu Yakushima where the designer and his team combine traditional Japanese civil engineering with contemporary technology.

Reduce the time invested in manual work to focus more on efficiency, while ensuring the strength and quality of the structure. The use of cutting-edge technology in architecture does not mean giving birth to a house that cannot withstand the harshness of nature, but rather traversing its capabilities to materialize a residence that stands the test of time.

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono
buildings are placed around the symbol tree

Regenerative architecture for Sumu Yakushima

Tsukasa Ono and his team considered three elements for the design of Sumu Yakushima. It was imperative that the design team lift the construction and provide space below to create an underground environment. They studied the flow of water from the nearby river and the air that could pass through the house, caused by the myriad of trees surrounding the house.

They pursued the creation of a permanent connection with nature through architecture, hence the use of natural materials and terrains. “Sumu was adapted to fit the surrounding landscape without cutting down large trees or leveling the ground,” Ono writes for designboom.

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono
dining room

The design team raised the wooden architecture off the ground. They drilled the wooden blocks into the cement and formed the foundation of the house. The leaves graze the raised house with its new height. Wooden slabs make up the platform and floor, and the design team carved out space for the surrounding trees to let them continue to grow instead of having to cut them down.

Inside, the Japanese bible of minimalism blesses the house with its sacred marks. Wooden panels, doors, furniture and light fixtures complement the white paint of the rooms. No visual disturbance. The cabin, from its roofs and decks to its design cues, rejuvenates the architecture and rejuvenates the residents.

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono

“Nature is something people both appreciate and fear, with the beauty of the sea and the forest juxtaposed with the tremendous power of typhoons and heavy rains. The interiors are a simple combination of local wood and plaster that beautifully frames the forest and coastline, fostering deeper connections with nature by allowing residents to admire it from a protected space,” Ono writes for designboom.

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono
lounge area connected to the main deck

Sumu people embrace a regenerative lifestyle

Sumu Yakushima has private cabins and communal facilities which are separate buildings but connected by outdoor pathways, incorporating walks through the forest into daily activities. Adventure constantly evokes the feeling of living in harmony with nature.

True to their concept of making a positive impact by living among nature, residents of Sumu embrace a regenerative lifestyle that improves the environment through daily activities, from collecting driftwood to use as firewood to clearing grass to allow fresh air to circulate in a way that benefits the landscape.


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