Japanese master architect Ban designs boutique hotel

George Sell By George Sell
10 July 2019 | Updated 10 July 2019

Japan: Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has designed the newly opened boutique hotel Shishi-Iwa House.

Set in the central Japanese mountain resort area of Karuizawa, the property was developed by Singapore-based HDH Capital Management and aims to offer guests what it calls "bespoke involvement" with great architecture and contemporary art surrounded by nature.

Karuizawa, located less than two hours north of Tokyo by high-speed train, features hotels, restaurants and thermal hot-spring facilities in a wooded mountain environment. It has been compared to the Hamptons area outside New York City as a retreat for affluent city dwellers.

Set in a forest just outside the town, Shishi-Iwa House offers 10 guest rooms divided among three terraced villas, each overlooking woods and some with views of Mount Asama, an active volcano.

"Shishi-Iwa House is a piece of art in itself, not a hotel in the traditional sense," said HDH Capital Management CEO Huy Hoang.

Phillip Wang, who heads the company's project development, said: "We wanted our project to be about the art of architecture. We aspired to say something about space, movement and communication."

Ban is best known for using paper and recycled cardboard tubing in buildings, and for incorporating structural elements into designs for buildings as diverse as the Centre Pompidou in Metz, France, and the Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Ban has called his designs "problem solving."

The structure and furnishings of Shishi-Iwa House bear many elements of Ban's signature design concepts. "There are unique openings we designed for each room at Shishi-Iwa House to blend interior and exterior atmospheres at the hotel and its garden," Ban told the Nikkei Asian Review. "The various types of openings, which include the big timber door at the entrance, timber sliding doors throughout the garden and the glass shutter in the Grand Room, showcase the vibrant Karuizawa nature alongside the modest timber hotel design."

Shishi-Iwa House is one of only two hotels designed by Ban, and his only completed boutique hotel project. Ban said his architectural firm, Shigeru Ban Architects, developed a new construction system for the hotel called PHP, which uses timber boxes constructed from prefabricated plywood that are sandwiched on a timber frame and fashioned into the elements for each villa. "This method of using prefabricated wood panels has never been used before in hotel construction," Ban said.

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