In this installment of the unique homes in Japan series, we feature a vacation home in Karuizawa, a popular resort area near Tokyo that was designed not to fit in with its natural surroundings, at least initially, but to appear to float like a spaceship marooned on a forested planet (maybe Endor?).
The two-story concrete house, designed by ARTechnic and named Shell, is made of two tubes with oval sections encircling a fir tree. The floor is raised 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) above the ground, making the whole structure appear to be floating above the ground, like an “abandoned spacecraft” in a science fiction scene, as envisioned by the architects. With time, as the trees and underbrush grow, the “spacecraft” is meant to become increasingly encircled by greenery, harmonizing it with the landscape.
Low-Maintenance and Functional
Karuizawa, where the home is located, is about 70 minutes by shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo, and has historically been a popular getaway spot for the well-to-do to escape the summer heat.
The architects note that “leaving the boundary between human life and nature ambiguous” is considered a Japanese ideal, but this ideal can only be attained through meticulous attention to pruning and shaping nature on a daily basis, which defeats the whole purpose of a vacation home, as a place where one goes to relax.
According to the architects, the greatest function of a vacation home is “to provide us with good rest, leisure, and picturesque views that never become dull — all in the vicinity of nature.”
So, they designed the home in the style of a modern sculpture: to enhance the natural surrounding by incorporating it within the spatial structure, and with features to make it as low-maintenace as possible.
- All mechanical and electrical fixtures in the house are controlled by only three buttons in the central control system
- A biometric lock and security system ensures the house is secure when not occupied by the owners
- An energy-efficient in-floor heating and air conditioning system minimizes cold air currents in the house while allowing for a large interior space with large openings.
- The interior walls were sprayed with a synthetic resin with vermiculite, which is efficient for preventing fires, absorbing sound, and insulating against heat, moisture, and mold.
- While at a glance, the oval-shaped cylindrical space might appear to be a waste of space, furniture was installed in the lower half of the oval cylinder to maximize the functionality of the space.
The house is built on a site area of 1,711 square meters (18,417 square feet) and has living space of 329 square meters (3,541 square feet). It was completed in 2008.