The Shutter House follows the “Uniform Floor” principle of traditional Japanese style. Sliding doors can open the house into a uniform space. Shigeru Ban uses floor to ceiling glass windows, which lift up to open and unify the space. There are five shutter-window-enclosed courtyards in the house; each sliding strip of Mylar represents one of these courtyards. Once opened light wells bring in light and one can see all the way through the book, thus unifying the space.
The five courtyards act to divide the rooms of the house. The room sequence flows from public to private, and the rooms vary in height and size. The pages are divided into chapters, each with an amount of pages relative to the room size it represents. The chapters open from opposing sides of the book, because the rooms in the house are entered from opposing sides. Shigeru Ban laid the courtyards out in a checkered grid of alternating rooms and courtyards. This results in a zig-zag-like circulation, which is reflected in the book. The pages mimic this zig-zag movement from room to room or chapter to chapter. The reader must turn the book back and forth and make a conscious transition from one chapter to the next.
The cover was made using three sheets of Mylar, the first: one page thick, the second: two pages thick, and the third: three pages thick. This represents the layers of translucency of the house; walls of ivy, a woven metal wall, and courtyard buffers protect the interior from direct light and external views into the house.
The square shape of the book and the “windows” express the square nature of the Japanese style. The floor plan and room shape of most homes retain the basic square or rectangle form, embracing its functional simplicity.