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Case Study 08 - the loop

Ultimate solution for small apartments: THE LOOP

To find a small apartment with good layout among all is quite difficult: either with no entrance foyer, or with a tiny bathroom. There’s never a perfect small apartment in the market.

In japan, there have been studies about the layouts for humble homes. And in conclusion, a loop is the ultimate solution.

One might be curious: doesn’t the loop require an even bigger space to apply?

To explain it, let’s start from Japanese gardens.

Unlike the most typical dry landscape garden, there’s another type of garden in japan, that guides you to walk and appreciate within the designated loop.

Usually, the bigger the garden is, the more the landscape we view. To make a small garden look big, the garden designers tend to use the loop to connect the path from the beginning to the end so to link the landscapes together.

But that’s just not enough. The designers came up with a smoke screen: some space can be small and confined whiles the others are big and open. The space contrast leads visitors to believe: this is a rather big garden. In Chinese, we call it 欲扬先抑.

A lot of architects have applied this basic method of landscape design into their architectural projects, such as the buddha at the Makomanai Takino Cemetery in Sapporo by Tadao Ando.

Having the flow within the loop is one of the most basic and important principles in landscape design.

And how shall we reflect it in residential buildings??

The very first architect who designed an apartment with a loop is Le Corbusier.

In 1925, Le Corbusier did his very first project: Villa Le Lac, a 60 square meter lakeside house for his parents. This house has all its functions connected with a loop flow.

Functionally, the loop created great convenience for users. You can have your dinner prepared at the same time when your laundry is under going. When your laundry is finished, you can quickly hang them out in the next room. There is big contrast of brightness and space, that made the room feel much bigger than it actually is.

Later on, Japanese designers have made this design more popular in its origin country.

The most common way is to separate the different flows with the loop. For example, a flow for visitors is parted from the daily flow for family members to have a better privacy.

Between the kitchen, the dining room and the living room, the loop creates the continuity visually that aids families with babies to take care of.

Moreover, here’s a popular flow for housewives: kitchen – laundry – balcony.

The conventional flow with individual space easily makes excess steps between each space which has affected working attitudes greatly.

But with the loop flow, there are always shortcuts. This can not only shorten the path to reach one certain space purposely, but also creates visual impact to help releasing the stress from housekeeping.

Below is a loop layout designed by me to connect entrance, dining room, house keeping room and living room all in one go.

Sometimes we think of reducing numbers of partitions to create an open plan so to make a space bigger.

But remember the smoke mirror in garden design?

The secret of having a big space is not to create one physically, but more to have the illusion of having a bigger space.

Walking through the narrow hallway to enter a much wider living room.

Le Corbusier believes, the smaller the apartment is, the more important to emphsize the walking experience inside of it. The loop flow works it well to be the ultimate solution for humble homes.

-the end-

About the author:

草三冉 Cao San Ran

is an interior designer and writer, based in Canton area, China. He has been working in design industry for over a decade both in Japan and China. His works are always well-thought-out in layouts and details to ensure the unique and best hierarchy solutions for each client. His great writings also put an in-depth theory into an accurate but simple explanation that made me a big fan of his.

If you read Chinese, scan above QR code to read more articles in Chinese from 草三冉.

I will be happy to translate more of his works to share with English readers.

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