Simply Tracing the Beauty of the Region and Nature
Beniya boasts a history of more than 135 years in Awara Onsen, and the previous building was designated as a tangible cultural property, but tragically the building was destroyed by a fire in 2018. In the reconstruction process, our key objective was not to simply rebuild the old sukiya-style ryokan as a nostalgic attempt, but to create a new Beniya that will lead to the future while preserving the memory of the original Beniya.

Location : Awara, Fukui
Year : 2021
Category : Japanese Inn
Structure : Steel frame + RC + Wooden
Structural/Mechanical Engineer : Arup
Landscape Design : Doi Zoen
Construction : Shimizu Corporation
Photographer : Satoshi Shigeta
Architecture : Tetsuo Kobori Architects
Photography Credits: Satoshi Shigeta
Other Credits:
Structural/Mechanical Engineer: Arup
Landscape Design: Doi Zoen
Construction: Shimizu Corporation

Kofuyuden Beniya By Tetsuo Kobori Architects - Sheet2
©Satoshi Shigeta

I still remember the first time when I visited Beniya. It was a labyrinth of light. A long, dimly-lit corridor bent in a chevron shape. An endless stretch of eaves. When I saw this, I felt that I understood what makes traditional ryokans so attractive. There was a sense of architecture as a collective body that has accumulated layers of time, and that had been organically expanded on an ad-hoc basis, which I had never felt in a newly constructed building. I realized that spaces that allow you to feel changes of the times is the essence of ryokan.

Two Rooms Are Combined to Form Each Block, and Blocks are Arranged Diagonally in Plan
We carefully studied gentle forces of nature, such as light, wind, water, and geothermal energy of hot springs that are unique to Awara Onsen, and thought about how we could use them to provide comfort. We also thought about how to incorporate two flows of time into our design: one is the long history of Beniya, and the other is the passage of time in a day.
The key to this design was to combine two guest rooms into one block. Two guest rooms are connected by tsuboniwa (a small inner garden) to form each block, and individual blocks are arranged diagonally on slightly shifted axes. As a result, we were able to open up the building to gardens in two directions: the garden on the north side which survived the fire, and the newly created tsuboniwa. Top lights were installed to basically provide natural lighting on three sides, not only in all the rooms but also in bathrooms.

Kofuyuden Beniya By Tetsuo Kobori Architects - Sheet7
©Satoshi Shigeta

The single-story building allows natural light and breeze to flow into the north garden, reflecting light on the water surface and filling the rooms with soft light through shoji (paper screens) and sudare (bamboo blinds.) The prevailing winds flowing in the north-south direction along the Kuzuryu River are caught by the building stretched in the east-west direction, and is brought into each room by adjusting sliding doors placed installed throughout, creating spaces that become one with nature.
The seventeen guest rooms all have different designs. By changing the layout, design, finishes of all the rooms and deliberately making differences, the new and the old merged into a design that evokes the passage of time. The tsuboniwa connect the blocks and at times act as buffer zones between them, and the way the building unfolds diagonally towards the back along gradually shifting axes may evoke memories of the former Beniya.

Structure to Achieve
inevitably has more complex roof shapes. To bring the scenery of the garden into the interior, we did not want to have exterior walls that would obstruct the view in each room. In addition, the challenge was to figure out how to organize the entire structure to meet the severe climatic condition with a snow depth of 150cm.
The guest rooms are wooden structures in the sukiya-style. In order to avoid placing load-bearing walls in undesired locations, which is often the case with wooden structures, the central corridor is stiffened with a reinforced concrete wall structure to ensure earthquake resistance, and wooden structures are attached to both sides. Horizontal beams are installed at the ceiling level and are stiffened with in-plane braces to transmit seismic forces from the wooden sections to the reinforced concrete section smoothly, while also serving as transfer beams for sloping roofs of various heights to rest on. As a result, wooden guest rooms with no exterior walls were successfully created, bringing the view into the interior and generating a sense of integration between inside and outside. The flexibility of wood structure also makes it easy to expand and renovate the guest rooms.

Kofuyuden Beniya By Tetsuo Kobori Architects - Sheet10
©Satoshi Shigeta

The central wing, which contains the lobby and large public hot spring baths, is made of a steel rigid-frame structure in order to achieve large spaces and large openings. To minimize the thickness, the eaves are cantilevered only about 1.2m and thin columns are placed at key points without pushing to the limit. The gable-shaped column-free space in the center consists of a highly efficient three-dimensional structure that does not require tie beams in order to maximize the ceiling height.

Engineering Ideas Implemented in the Ryokan
Large public hot spring baths and guest room baths are supplied with fresh hot spring water directly from the fountainhead. Thermal potential of hot spring water is utilized to prevent the floor from getting cold in winter and to regulate the temperature of hot spring water supply by letting the heat dissipate through water heat exchangers from the pipes in the pits under the lounge, guest rooms, and corridors. These spaces make the most of Awara Onsen’s environmental potential, where you can immerse yourself in the seasonal and temporal changes of light, wind, water, and heat.

Author

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