The Shell House - Design Bureau

The Shell House

Monday, October 15th, 2012

By Justin Ray
Photos by Nacasa & Partners Inc.

There's no shame in telling your peers you're living in a contemporary taco like this out in the woods.

"Shell" residence by Japanese Architect, Kotaro Ide of ARTechnic is fascinating for many reasons—not just for its resemblance to a popular handheld food item. The structure, finished in 2008, is located in the Karuizawa forest, Kitasaku, Nagano. Although it doesn't correspond precisely with the surrounding nature in terms of visuals, it doesn't disrupt surroundings because of its organic shape. The reinforced cement also helps create harmony between the structure and the foliage.

In Karuizawa, the climate can be tricky. Low temperatures along with increased humidity levels make house building a challenge. With this knowledge, the architect decided to give the structure a "shell" of reinforced concrete to protect it from the elements. The house also has a custom-made floor heating system for energy conservation and cold draft blockage. 

The building was meant to be a vacation house, a home away from home. The two-story home features Cherry hardwood flooring, a patio made of deck wood as well as mini central amphitheater that surrounds a full grown tree. The communal space is on the ground floor while more private places like the bedroom and bathroom are on the upper level. Vast double glazed openings give the home light and a connection with nature. Because the walls are concave, many of the pieces of furniture had to be custom made to fit inside of the home. After all, there are practical reasons you don't see curved walls all that often.

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