Ota Residence


Ota Residence

10300 61st Ave S

Est. 1955

Writing and images by Sierra Miles, 2021 Summer Researcher

Located in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, the Kengi and Kemi Ota Residence is a post and beam single-family residence designed in a Japanese style to reflect the culture and values of its owners. McAdoo infused his unique mid-century Modern style with programmatic and ornamental Japanese features resulting in an intimate and personal residence for the Ota’s growing family. The 2,540 sq ft split-level L-shape home has five bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Working with the steep natural typography, the Ota residence is tucked away in trees and native vegetation that provide a canopy of privacy. The main entrance is located on the south elevation west of the enclosed carport. The interior entry sequence includes floor-to-ceiling sliding shoji screens and a staircase descending to the lower-level. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the open living space showcase the backyard with sweeping views of the tree canopies. A signature two-way fireplace defines the boundary between the living room and dining room. The fireplace punctuates the flat planar roof with a double flue chimney and extends to the second floor living space, giving each level access to a fireplace. Adjacent to the fireplace is a tokonoma, a traditional, dedicated space for displaying Japanese paintings, calligraphy, scrolls, and ornaments. The exterior wall of the tokonoma has a built-in desk showing McAdoo’s ability to simplify the design by providing built-in elements that support the client’s lifestyle. The outdoor terrace spans both the living and dining room and acts as a room onto itself.

The design of the Ota residence is a delicate balance of mid-50’s modern Pacific Northwest ideals and the clients’ desires for a place that feels personal to their culture. In a growing neighborhood, the backyard serves as a Japanese oasis with greenery, a rock garden, and a flowing stream built to extend into the neighbor’s backyard. In a time when Japanese people were returning to Seattle to rebuild their lives after World War II, the flowing rock garden stood as a symbol of culture and community that was stronger together.

The Ota residence is of great cultural significance as it represents the rebuilding of the Japanese community in Seattle after the internment during WW II.  Rainier Beach would be one of the few areas people of Japanese descent could rent or purchase land. Benjamin F. McAdoo Jr.’s community was facing the same housing restrictions and fought actively against the racist legislation. Working together, McAdoo and Ota, designed a single-family residence that would signify the unity between the Japanese community and the black community as they fought for equality in the city of Seattle.

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