Architects are finding ever-new ways to innovate and build community-centric projects that help the people and the environment that resides alongside it. And Itomachi Hotel 0 crafts itself to meet the needs of the community. Built in the city of Saijo in Japan, and designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates, in cooperation from Takumi Saikawa Architects, the hotel’s design lines up with the principles of the Itomachi Project. 

Far view of the whole establishment. Photo by Masaki Hamada.
Far view of the whole establishment. Photo by Masaki Hamada.

The University of Tokyo’s Kenga Kuma Laboratory spearheaded this project as a way of creating “environmentally-friendly cities based on the theme of water.” Architects held workshops and spoke with local residents to discuss their needs. They then used their research to create the “Zero Energy” hotel with a design best suited for the city.

Crafting Mountain Lodging

Itomachi Hotel 0 may be a commercial establishment. And yet, the architects built it as a community hub for the locals as well, taking advantage of the “uchinuki” water that comes from Mt. Ishizuchi. Uchinuki, which roughly translates as “extracted,” refers to the mountain spring water extracted from the hotel’s central garden. This garden also functions as the hotel’s “outdoor living room” and can be used for performances and other activities. 

View of the community hub from the outside. Photo by Masaki Hamada.
View of the community hub from the outside. Photo by Masaki Hamada.
The "outdoor living room" at night. Photo by Masaki Hamada.
The “outdoor living room” at night. Photo by Masaki Hamada.
The hotel's garden at day. Photo by Masaki Hamada.
The hotel’s garden at day. Photo by Masaki Hamada.

This inclusion of green space exemplifies how the architects fosters a sense of community. The massive garden contains trees and benches for people to enjoy the scenery. Its open design and connection with the surrounding nature create a feeling of inclusivity and encourage interaction with the environment.

It’s as if the hotel’s roofs deliberately give way for the trees to grow. The roofs are covered in solar panels to ensure that the area is environmentally-friendly, and the various angles allow the buildings to receive the optimal amount of sunlight every day. These panels are essential in creating the “Zero Energy” establishment.  

Symbiotic Creation

While Itomachi Hotel 0 keeps the communal areas distinct from the lodging areas, there’s still an effort to seamlessly integrate with the surrounding environment. Open-air hallways between rooms and strategic openings in the roof to bathe the hotel in sunlight. The deliberate use of plants in these spaces blur the lines between the hotel and the nature around it. Timber planks hide the air-conditioning units while maintaining the hotel’s drive as an environmentally-conscious building.

Side view of the rooms in the hotel. Photo by Masaki Hamada.
Side view of the rooms in the hotel. Photo by Masaki Hamada.
The hallways of the hotel. Photo by Masaki Hamada.
The hallways of the hotel. Photo by Masaki Hamada.
Itomachi Hotel 0 from the top view. Photo by Masaki Hamada.
Itomachi Hotel 0 from the top view. Photo by Masaki Hamada.

Nature itself is utilized to give the lodgers a sense of privacy, yet every room looks out into green spaces are potted next to the rooms, or outside of the windows next to the walls. The result is a sense of seclusion achieved without sacrificing connection to the natural world.

Marrying the Commercial and the Communal

Itomachi Hotel 0 transcends its impressive architecture by fostering a unique connection with the surrounding community. It achieves this through a thoughtful balance of commerce and social responsibility.

The hotel leverages its natural environment for the benefit of all. This focus extends to the creation of a welcoming space. Unlike some urban hotels that feel isolated, Itomachi Hotel 0 fosters a sense of openness and inclusivity. It moves away from the typical seclusion of city hotels, inviting the community to connect and engage with the space.

Related reading: The Cliff Hotel Jeju: How to Accentuate the Environment Around Us

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