There’s an urban phenomenon known as “spite houses,” in which hyper-narrow pieces of architecture are squeezed into too-small spaces. Their name is derived from the fact that they are usually built out of spite—to block a neighbor’s view after a feud, to lay claim to an irrelevantly narrow plot of land, to troll the neighborhood. Given the long-running association between skinny architecture and spite, it’s refreshing to see a building just as narrow, but without the drama.
Enter: SO&CO‘s office building, an eight-and-a-half-foot-wide workspace tucked in a Tokyo alleyway. The Japanese architectural firm’s newest construction stands on an L-shaped plot and is bookended by two buildings in one of the city’s buzzy shopping districts, Ginza. Within, the narrow structure is outfitted with five miniature workspaces for a tenant, distributed across four stories, along with prominent windows, glass walls, and a skylight, which opens the cool, concrete interior up to Tokyo’s lights.
“From the main streets in Ginza, there are uncountable alleys that radically differ from the idea people usually have of this area—transparent facades and fashionable—and are mainly composed by solid and unattractive buildings,” So Teruuchi, the studio’s founder, told Dezeen. “Being the site in one of those, we felt that, in the middle of this packed area it would [be] necessary to create an iconic building that make people look up, like a bell tower.” The monochromatic concrete facade and curiously narrow walkway up to the entrance help distinguish the office space and entice pedestrians.
Given the unique constraints of the alleyway, Teruuchi and his team decided to divide the worksite into two perpendicular buildings, forming an “L.” Upon entering the doorway that faces the street, visitors and employees are met with an open circulation space—anchored by a hybrid stairwell-lightwell—which connects both parts of the office block. The stairwell that conjoins the distributed series of offices will be used as a showroom and exhibition space.
While a space this narrow may veer into claustrophobic territory, the upside is that the architects occupying the office building don’t have to deal with the noise and distractions that come from large, open-floor office plans. For people who yearn for quiet, focused workspace, this building’s lack of conventional floor plates could be a boon.