A Minimalist Interior Design for Japanese Dorms

Years ago, I learned two things about working in a Japanese company that Americans would find odd:

1. After being hired, it’s not uncommon to begin by being sent to a company training center for a year or more, where you would live in a company dorm.

2. After completing training and starting work, it’s not uncommon for you to be placed in a completely different position from your degree. For example, if you were hired by a chemical company as a chemical engineer, you might start by unloading trucks at the loading bay. You will then be transferred to several departments (Marketing, Sales, Logistics, etc.) and possibly placed in only one depending on your “suitability”; in other words, you might end up in the Accounting department, rather than Engineering!

This entry only has to do with #1 above (I’ve included #2 because it still blows my mind). Takenaka Corporation, based in Osaka, one of Japan’s leading general contracting companies, employs more than 7,000 architects, construction managers and engineers. Whatever degree they hold, all start by spending a year in Kobe at the Takenaka Live Training Center, where corporate culture is instilled.

In 2019, Takenaka redesigned its dormitory for employees in training. While the Takenaka architects handled the architectural details themselves, the design consultancy Taiji Fujimori Workshop was hired to design the furniture for the common areas and the dormitories themselves.

This being in Japan, where people are just as comfortable sitting on the floor as at chair height, the common areas present a mix:

Where it gets really interesting, though, is the dorms themselves. First of all, you can tell by the door handles that the doors are not typical:

Obviously, it’s not a button at all. Doors slide rather than swing:

You will notice that there is a second sliding door above the first, well above head level:

This allows you to open the upper door to see what’s going on in the hallway or breathe in the fresh air from the loft bed inside each room.

The “furniture” in each room is super minimal:

As Taiji Fujimori Atelier describes it:

“The dorm furniture is a ‘room-like furniture’, which is a combination of shelves, a closet, a bed, and a desk. This unit is simply made of steel pipes that look like a single line and horizontal MDF panels, and the shelves can be used as a staircase to go up to bed.While making a small room practical and functional, the unit still maintains the appearance of a single piece of furniture.

If you have a project from last year that you are proud of, take a few minutes to submit it to the Core77 Design Awards 2022. We have 18 practice categories, and for this year we have a special sustainability award for all projects that have a beneficial environmental impact. To verify designawards.core77.com for details and timetables.