Minami-Uonuma, Niigata, Japan
- Ashida Architect & Associates
- Minami-Uonuma, Niigata, Japan
“ryugon” is a 50 years old hot spring hotel in the Niigata prefecture in Japan. It was originally built by relocating traditional Japaneses house to the current site, and in 2019 newly renovated, while respecting the outstanding original building. The hotel is well known throughout Japan for its interesting history and beautiful nature.
The site is surrounded by rice fields with scattered private houses and faces Mt. Sakado. That gives the impression to be shielded from the troubles of the city. Heavy snowfalls are very common in that area. Although snow can be perceived as troublesome, we aimed to create a new, sustainable place that treats snow as a gift from nature.
The challenge of the project was to keep the parts of the buildings that are registered tangible cultural properties of Japan and yet giving the hotel a new atmosphere.
The complex consists of traditional Japanese houses built in the 19th century and afterwards relocated to this site. While featuring many of the traditional elements typical for architecture in winter areas in Japan, the overall insulation performance was very bad. Heating and air conditioning consumed a lot of kerosene and energy. It was not just necessary by regulation to keep the traditional parts of the building, but it was also important for us to respect and underline the interesting history of the building.
In order to revive the old buildings, we refrained from adding too many new elements, but instead created a completely different impression by taking unnecessary parts of the original buildings away. We turned parts of the inside corridor that connects all the houses into an outside corridor by removing all walls and ceiling, revealing the beautiful roof structure. That increased the moments of experiencing the rich nature that surrounds the hotel and its interesting history. By carefully adding new and modern parts, we introduced a new appeal to the hotel while respecting and underlining the traditional quality of it. For instance, we placed in the lobby a red unregularly shaped sofa that stands in nice contrast to the space that was originally the landlord’s farmhouse, while not overpowering it. We also created a new hearth that follows a traditional design, but was constructed from modern acrylic stone.
To increase the sustainability, we added heat insulation where possible and introduced ecological air conditioning to the common spaces. Using well water and blowing it with a fan coil unit naturally cools those areas. The used water is returned to a close by river. Where the corridor became an outside corridor, air conditioning became obsolete and a new quality to it by bringing the guests in direct contact with the surrounding nature was given. An afforestation program was also founded to recover the adjacent forest.