LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Kengo Kuma: Reinterpreting the Ryokan


Once renowned for his spectacular private residences, the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma is applying his signature style to hotels, blending traditional notions of Japanese architecture and hospitality with his unique brand of modernism.

The Japanese architect Kengo Kuma once famously stated that his aim is to “recover the tradition of Japanese buildings” and to reinterpret it for the 21st century. While his latest project, the Garden Terrace Hotel in Nagasaki, perfectly encapsulates this desire, it goes one step further. For not only is Kuma fusing the old with the new in design but he is also reimagining Japan’s historic attitude towards hospitality.

Garden Terrace Nagasaki is Kuma’s second hotel project, the first being The Opposite House, Beijing, which opened in 2009 to instant critical acclaim. Seemingly constructed entirely from colored glass, The Opposite House is one of Kuma’s most obviously modernist structures. The Japanese traditions, which Kuma is famous for championing, lie in what the hotel refers to as its “ambience”, which promotes relaxation and rejuvenation. It has quickly gained a reputation as being one of the most accomplished hotels in China.

A completely different proposition of a hotel is Garden Terrace Nagasaki, which opened in early 2010. With a façade of wooden panels (cedar for the walls, maple for the floors), the Garden Terrace gives a nod to nature, around which ancient Japanese buildings were often constructed. Though this is by no means a return to tradition, with Kuma’s talent for the contemporary on display in the randomly positioned windows and linear planes that slice into the cube-shaped structure. The architect’s signature is most evident in the roof, which is punctuated with square cutouts, creating a clever interplay of light and shade in the roof garden and top floor rooms.

Though the Garden Terrace Nagasaki is not intended to be a contemporary take on the ryokan (the ultra-traditional Japanese inns that still maintain some of the highest standards of service in the tourism industry), the hotel that Kuma has created supports Japan’s long-established hospitality culture. Like The Opposite House, it is a building that inherently encourages well-being.

Indeed, the work of Kengo Kuma & Associates, which has created a number of important private residences as well as the headquarters of the LVMH Group Japan, translates particularly well to hotels. With the opening of his second hotel, Kuma is achieving more than his desire to recover Japanese tradition in architecture by also updating Japanese hospitality for the 21st century.

More info:

Kengo Kuma

Garden Terrace Hotel, Nagasaki

The Opposite House, Beijing

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