River House | SAAD Architects | Architect of the Year Awards 2021

SAAD Architects.: Winner of Architect of the Year Awards 2021. A walk in nature is a sensory encounter of uneven earth, vistas of mountains and trees and the gurgling sounds of water bodies. The River House abstracts this multi-faceted trajectory into the domestic sphere, enriching the rhythms of daily life and heightening awareness to changes in season, colours of nature and time of day. Situated in the region of Niseko in Hokkaido, Japan, the house segues into its context rather than strictly delineate shelter and land.

The site has views of the symbolic Mt. Yotei and Shiribetsu River toward the east, forests up north. River House’s programs are arranged with this context in mind. Entering the front door, one is greeted with a view of Mt. Yotei before turning the corner to meet another natural scene at the end of a long corridor. The architectural tectonics corresponds with the internal planning: two long walls travel north-south along the plan’s length while eight shorter, perpendicular walls steer views toward Mt. Yotei. Disengaged from the long wall, the shorter walls are read as planes, encouraging fluid movement through the space.

From the entrance inward, the short walls define in sequence the master bedroom, living room, an outdoor deck and the kitchen-cum-dining area. The sunken living room breaks the topographical monotony, as well as brings the eye level closer to the external ground view when one is lounging. All open through ample glazing to a shared terrace. Along the rear wall are two bedrooms and an onsen with a private deck. The house’s large, flat, tilted roof covering the entire house extends over external walls to provide shade and shelter.

The proposal of a single-storey house used mainly for summertime activities for the client and his friends invites easy step out to nature. Chiaroscuro effects mirror nature’s spontaneity and contrasts, where a blanketed lighting experience is eschewed for comfortable and cosy shadows, dim illumination and accent lighting. For instance, it washes in at the Mt. Yotei side, while seeps in through narrow slits at others. Each experience in River House considers how to weave poetics and nature.

Project Details
SAAD Architects

Project Name
River House

Tomoyuki Sudo

Architect of the Year Awards Category
Residential Built

Project Location
Niseko, Hokkaido

Tomoyuki Sudo, Mimi Okuhara


Photography ©Credit
©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.