Pritzker Prize-winning Shigeru Ban designs luxury retreat, Shishi-Iwa House


Known for his innovative work with paper, Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has designed a new boutique luxury hotel, Shishi-Iwa House.


Nestled within the tranquil, green woodland of Karuizawa, Japan, lies Shishi-Iwa House: a ten-room boutique resort designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect, Shigeru Ban. Developed by HSHP GK, Shishi-Iwa House is a restorative retreat that aims to reinforce the relationship between humans, nature and architecture.

Ban’s design for the hotel reflects his exploration of materials, and responds to the building’s landscape. Built over two storeys, the retreat features a smooth, curvilinear form and an undulating roof, which flows with the forest’s movements. The architect’s goal was to conserve as many of trees that previously existed on the site as possible. As a result, timber frames were sandwiched between plywood panels; these created a series of modular frames, which were assembled onsite in order to achieve the building’s curves.

Shishi-Iwa House’s ten guest rooms have been divided across three terraced villas, with the property’s interiors creating a seamless flow between the spaces; these have been designed to encourage both social and private experiences. On entering the hotel through timber-framed glass doors, guests will first move into the Library and reception room.

Behind the Library is the resort’s garden, which can also be accessed directly from the Grand room, a shared social space designed for guests so that they can meet and interact. The garden itself is home to over 250 trees; ranging from cherry blossoms to evergreens, the trees morph and change colour with the seasons, creating a living backdrop and reminding guests that they are in a beautiful, natural environment.

The Grand room is linked to the three villas – or clusters – which house the guest rooms. Each cluster features a common area kitchenette where guests can make their own meals, and three to four guestrooms, each of which feature their own bathroom and writing desk. All the interiors and furniture has been carefully designed and selected by Ban, with his design incorporating timber and paper tube elements for a unique ambience.

Bespoke furnishings and lighting complement the warm, timber textures and materials; alongside his own designs, Ban selected furniture from Alvar Aalto. The guest rooms particularly have been designed as meditative hideaways, and either look out onto scenic views of Mount Asama or the garden. The rooms on the lower floor also open out onto a separate, private garden, while the upper floor rooms have their own private balconies.

“For this project, I was interested in developing a distinct design language befitting to its beautiful location,” says Ban. “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.”

Phillip Wang, the head of project development at HDH Capital Management, adds, “Shishi-Iwa House is built to embrace the notion of social hospitality, which sets the property apart from typical hotel experiences… unique in its architecture, the property is planned to accommodate both individual travellers and groups. We are extremely privileged to be working with visionary architect Shigeru Ban to realise this one-of-a-kind project.”

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