SAAD Architects: Runner-up of World Design Awards 2021. Fenix Furano’s forest analogy is stark. Slim, vertical timber columns weave around the first storey as if spontaneously while on the upper storeys, they are bunched together to read as thick tree trunks. At nights, these trunks appear to merge with the ceiling shadows that suggest spreading branches. These local Hokkaido laminated larch wood elements juxtapose with its rectangular, fair-faced concrete shell, expounding on dualities between warm and industrial, organic and restrained.
The hotel’s architecture aims at offering a more intensified liaison with nature within its location at the crux of an urbanised setting and natural features. Located in the Furano region, at the base of 13km of soaring Tokachi mountain ranges, the region is a 2.5-hour-drive from Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido in Japan. The hotel sits as part of the Kitanomine Ski Resort, which has existed since 1931. The building replaces an old guesthouse, and hopes to be a catalyst to improve dwindling crowd numbers due to depopulation.
The hotel is the area’s first luxury, international hotel. But here, luxury is not expressed through gilt and expense but clarity and richness of idea. The project showcases that a compelling landmark can be created using low-cost materials, conventional technology and rational construction techniques. The forest motif connects the building with its natural context while giving guests a relaxed ambience. The screen is read as an abstract forest framing views both in and out. This new layer gives the nature narrative a more tangible presence. In the guestrooms, the screen becomes denser in accordance with the guestroom balcony depths to imbue the building’s skin with a dynamic and three-dimensional quality. It is also functions as privacy screens between units at the balconies.
Contextual references are both obvious and subtle. The external pavement’s concrete floor alternates one-directional brushed concrete surfaces with one that employs ironwood to form rough, circular patterns alluding to Furano’s flower farming culture. These bands of texture catch the sunlight differently, deepening the tactile experience. They continue into the building and up massive curved walls on the first storey. The curvature softens the concrete walls’ planner expressions while leading the eye up toward the lobby’s lofty height, which is capped by a twisting, timber ceiling. The lobby, lounge and restaurant-cum-bar takes one half of the first storey, and the other houses a retail space with generous street frontage.
These multi-sensory experiences continue in the guestroom corridors. On the ceiling, an animated, modern version of Komorebi (a Japanese light-and-pattern effect mimicking the view of the sky through forest branches and leaves) continues the link to nature. The lighting is programmed to mirror the external environment’s changing day and night illumination. In contrast, guestrooms are tranquil with oak flooring and furniture, and light grey wallpaper on walls and ceilings. The lithe timber columns, first encountered at the hotel’s entrance, reappear at the balconies as visual cues to re-focus guests’ attention to external views and context.
World Design Awards Category
Tomoyuki Sudo, Momoyo Yamawaki, Mimi Okuhara
©Kenji Masunaga, Ikuya Sasaki
SAAD – sudo associates, architecture and design
Founded by Tomoyuki Sudo, SAAD – sudo associates, architecture and design is an innovative, young design office based in Tokyo with extensive experience in the ski regions of Hokkaido. Sudo’s design philosophy and architectural aesthetics is grounded in, and informed by the local culture, materials, and respect for the site and the natural environment. SAAD’s portfolio includes residences, holiday homes, hotels, and commercial facilities for clients from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia.