Shishi-Iwa House — Nagano, Japan

Shishi-Iwa House — Nagano, Japan

How might architecture be used to provide a peaceful sanctuary to reflect and restore one’s energy? Or to create a place to stimulate intellectual creativity? Nebulous lofty goals, perhaps, but then again, Japan’s Shishi-Iwa House was conceived by its architect – the Pritzker Prize laureate Shigeru Ban – to be a little out of the ordinary.

Located about an hour’s train ride from Tokyo in Nagano’s mountain resort town of Karuizawa, the two-storey, ten-room boutique hotel is a calm retreat of shaded courtyards, enclosed gardens and vast rooms. Its gently undulating roof almost hidden by the surrounding forest of maples, cherry blossoms and evergreens.

Aimed at both private travellers and corporate bigwigs on an office retreat, the resort draws guests out into the public spaces, luring even the most reluctant couch potato onto sun-lit terraces and a soaring A-framed sitting room – the public spaces lined in timber by Ban and furnished with customised pieces and Alvar Aalto furniture alongside 1960s art by the likes of Masaaki Yamada and Jiro Yoshihara.

Contemplative moments are supplemented by breakfast bento boxes, barbecues of wagyu beef, Karuizawa whiskey and sake tastings in the library, forest treks towards Mount Asama, and scenic biking tours to the Sengataki falls. §

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