River Tei Ruminations

River Tei Ruminations

Words by Conor Acutt, Photos by Ikuya Sasaki

We look into the design process behind one of Niseko’s newest and most cutting-edge homes.

SAAD are a multidisciplinary design studio that have created some of the most iconic homes and hotels in Niseko. They are the team behind the award-winning homes Yukikage and Cloud 9 as well as the stunning new Fenix Furano. These iconic designs push the boundaries of form while drawing on elements of the surrounding landscape to ensure they keep their Hokkaido essence.

SAAD was established by Hokkaido native and Principal Architect Tomoyuki Sudo in 2014. In establishing his own design practice, Tomoyuki is able to leverage his local knowledge of the region to create designs that both highlight the beauty of the heavy winter snows and flourishing green summers while ensuring the buildings age gracefully.

One of the team's most recent projects is a spectacular riverside home in Niseko Town called River Tei. We caught up with Tomoyuki to discover what were the inspirations behind the project, what particular design elements were included and how was the Hokkaido climate considered in creating this home.

Q. What was the brief for the project, and what did you set out to achieve with your design?

A. The brief for this project was centered around summertime activities for family and friends. BBQing, river swimming, glamping, and cycling were some of the activities that the client highlighted as his favourites. We proposed a single-storey house which connected inside with the outside.

The most essential design element was to make the living areas open through the use of ambiguous space where there is no clearly defined borders between inside and outside. This house has no corners with which to define the edges of the rooms. Most of the walls are designed to be detached and allow a continuous floor to meander throughout the home.

Q. I love the single-storey concept. One long hallway running the length of the home connecting all the living spaces together, almost like the branch of a tree with leaves extending from it. Why choose this style?

A. Most houses are designed to be centralized for convenience. They have single views from the main space which allows people to enjoy the outdoor visuals but keeps them away from really experiencing the environment. The river house expands the viewpoint to include every direction and with one long walkway from the entrance to the end of the home it creates an experience like you are walking through the environment.

Q. How important was it to bring a sense of nature into this project?

A. This was the primary approach when thinking about the design. We wanted to provide an exceptional experience to the homeowners, bringing the natural feeling inside the space. The intention for the project was to create a ‘pavilion’ rather than a home; pavilions often being described as freestanding structures with no sides.

Q. What materials were considered for this home and why?

A. In keeping with the theme of 'bringing the outside in' we chose natural materials for the construction. We focused on those materials which had a rough texture to further blur the lines between the external landscape and the internal walls and floors.

Q. Do you consider how the materials age over time and how they change visually?

A. We considered materials that would feel more natural as they aged. The final visual aesthetic for the home will be achieved after 5-6 years. The Hokkaido climate will expose the home to heavy snow, rain and bright sunshine. This will in turn cause a change in the texture and colour of the building materials.

Q. How did you account for the winter conditions and heavy snow? Both in the home design and how easy it is to live in the home in winter.

A. The extended roof eaves provide a protective space from which to enjoy the winter conditions. This also keeps any falling snow away from the windows. The angled roof also deposits all the falling snow at the back end of the house, opposite to the living areas, making snow removal easy.

River Tei is another wonderfully executed home from the team at SAAD. Their designs continue to impress and excite the Niseko community. To explore more work by SAAD head to the H2 Group website to see the outstanding Puffin or the contemporary yet very Japanese Foxwood.