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Nasu Tepee House in Tochigi, Japan by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Architects

AR House Shortlist: Whimsical forms belie a considered response to a challenging site in a Japanese woodland

This holiday home summons a basic idea of shelter: a collection of pitched tents in the woods, a home hunkering in the wilderness.

The tepee spaces offer an exploratory journey, up short flights of stairs and down to corners of nestled comfort. It is a house to hear the rain on the roof, or understand the weight of snow. There is a strong sense of place and of nature – and attention to detail with delicate wildflowers pressed between resin and glass doors.

Triangles are difficult to work with. All that wasted space. What do you with the doors and the windows? There’s a reason architects prefer squares or rectangles or curves.


Floorplan - click to expand

But these tepees feel right for here. They’re charming and whimsical, according to our judges (though they acknowledged you might want to watch your head).

There is also a practical reason for the triangles. The house is located on sloping coastal land. Landslide is a rare possibility, but it’s there. The triangular shape will withstand and divert the landslide around the building’s right and left sides.

There is a strong sense of place and of nature – and attention to detail

Mountains provide a lush backdrop for the house, but the ground is not firm and there is much underground water. So the architects had to use special water-proofing around the strong reinforced-concrete structure – and bury the building deep in the slope.



Other physical challenges include salt corrosion and heat gain from the powerful rays of sun. The architects turned to nature for the answer, spraying a fibrous soil on the building and covering it with greenery. The soil, made up of Japanese cedar and cypress bark – otherwise intended for incineration – has bactericidal qualities and will not rot. Because it contains air it provides insulation and because it is fibrous it is highly permeable to water so should not collect salt.

There is a strong use of wood throughout the building, which is fitting, and it is suitably offset by white walls. What to do with those low sloping areas? Seating areas, and counters, and beds, of course. It’s quirky, but it works.

Nasu Tepee House in Tochigi, Japan

Architectural Design: Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Architects

Structure: MID Architectural Structure Laboratory

Photographs: Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP, Koji Fujii_Nacasa and Partners Inc


Entries are now open for AR Schools awards
The Architectural Review is seeking the most exciting places of learning in the world – from kindergartens to universities, nurseries to high schools. This is your chance to be recognised on the global stage as a leading designer of spaces for learning. The deadline is 7 August.
For more information on AR Schools and to enter the awards, visit


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