Shigeru Ban-designed Shishi-Iwa House opens doors in Karuizawa

Shishi-Iwa House, a 10-key boutique resort designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, has opened its doors. Developed by HDHP GK, a social enterprise sponsored by HDH Capital Management, Shishi-Iwa House is billed as a restorative retreat with a focus on the relationship between nature, architecture and human connection.

Located in Karuizawa, a mountain resort destination in Japan’s Nagano Prefecture, the two-storey retreat has been created within a smooth, curvilinear form with an undulating roof that flows with the movement of the forest. To minimise impact on the environment, Ban has developed a new building approach with the goal of conserving as many existing trees as possible, wherein timber frames were sandwiched between pre-fabricated plywood panels to create a series of modular structural frames that were transported to the site and assembled.

“For this project, I was interested in developing a distinct design language befitting to its beautiful location,” Ban explains. “Everything from the construction to the furniture and interior detailing was carefully planned and considered to achieve a bespoke atmosphere. Blending the interior and exterior spaces, we created unique openings in the guest rooms and social areas to allow best views of the garden and encourage outdoor access. Timber was our material of choice for the design, which is used to heighten the sense of warmth and coherence throughout the boutique retreat.”

Comprising 10 guestrooms divided amongst three terrace villas, the layout seeks to encourage both private and social experiences, with the property showcasing a flow of spaces designed with humanistic qualities. Guests are welcomed into the hotel through large timber-framed glass doors to the Library and Reception Room. The Library opens up to the resort’s garden featuring over 250 trees, ranging from evergreens, cherry blossoms to Japanese maples that change colour with the seasons and create a living backdrop. The shared Grand Room space also offers direct access to the garden, whilst an adjoining catering kitchen is equipped for hosting private dinners and professional functions.

Head of Project Development Phillip Wang comments: “Shishi-Iwa House is built to embrace the notion of social hospitality, which sets the property apart from typical hotel experiences. Rather than only focusing on the private spaces, all areas beyond the rooms are designed for guests to make discoveries and gain new connections. Unique in its architecture, the property is planned to accommodate both individual travellers and groups, where they can choose to take over a terrace villa or the entire hotel, but still be able to enjoy privacy in their own rooms. We are extremely privileged to be working with visionary architect, Shigeru Ban to realise this one-of-a-kind project.”

The Grand Room is further linked to three connected clusters. A common area kitchenette and three to four guest rooms form each cluster, and each is equipped with simple cooking and hospitality amenities allowing independence and space to meet. Each guestroom also offers views of Mount Asama or the garden, whilst combinations of double and single accommodations feature their own bathroom and writing desk. Rooms on the lower floor open out to a private garden, whilst upper floor rooms incorporate a private balcony terrace.

All interiors and furniture have been designed and selected by Ban, with guestrooms and public areas fitted out with timber and paper tube elements for a sense of interior ambiance. In the Grand Room and Library, alongside his own designs, Ban has also selected furniture by architect Alvar Aalto, whilst other custom-made furnishings and lighting have been designed in similar materials to harmonise with the warm timber textures and materials.

“The genesis of Shishi-Iwa House began with an interest to use architecture as a means to provide a peaceful sanctuary and a place for intellectual creativity,” adds Huy Hoang, CEO of HDH Capital Management. “The retreat aims to be a place to reflect and restore energy, and in turn spark new ways of thinking for our guests. Iwa House will also serve as a meeting place for corporations, communities and others to exchange ideas and discuss today’s most pressing issues and trends. This property marks the first of a collection of hospitality concepts by HDHP, and our goal is to build similar self- supported and sustainable social projects globally.”