“Being in sync with nature isn’t about yielding to nature,” states the architect Kotaro Ide of Tokyo-based practice Artechnic. “It’s about coexistence.” This was the guiding principle behind the Shell House, a striking home constructed in the middle of a lush forest, 1000m above sea in the mountain resort of Karuizawa, north west of the Japanese capital. “Desiring a place that will be occupied frequently over many years and yet at the same time be in sync with nature, we came up with the scenery of a large shell structure floating above ground,” he explains of the radical concrete tubes constructed around a fur tree. Even Ide admits the unusual silhouette in the middle of a clearing conjures images of “an abandoned spacecraft”.

Making the most of the Shell House’s privileged position surrounded by tall trees was just one way in which Artechnic responded to the brief to create a contemporary take on the traditional Japanese villa. Karuizawa has long been a fashionable getaway for wealthy Tokyoites, as seen in its handsome summer homes built from wood with sloping roofs and shoji screen walls. But whereas once it took a few hours to reach the mountain town and visitors would stay all summer, the arrival of the Nagano Shinkansen bullet train means that Karuizawa is just an hour away from Tokyo and is the weekend home of many visitors. Ide explains the affect this has had on the local architecture: “A shorter visit calls for a shorter duration of maintenance.”

A ‘lock up and leave’ property is what he refers to and which he created by utilizing the latest technology. “The central control system enables all mechanical and electrical equipment to be managed by three buttons,” he says. “In addition, the biometrics lockage and security system reduces anxiety and stress over house safety management.” Landscaping at the Shell House is almost non-existent, with the garden being surrounding forest.

Yet despite its innovative gadgetry and interior, it is its pioneering styling that defines the Shell House. “In the style of many modern sculptures, we aimed to enhance the surrounding nature by incorporating it within the spatial structure,” says Ide. In doing so, he has reinvented the notion of what a Japanese villa should look like and function as.