Founded in 1884, ‘Beniya’ ryokan is a long-established traditional Japanese-style hotel with onsen in Awara City, Fukui Prefecture. After a devastating fire in 2018, Arup was engaged to work with Tetsuo Kobori Architect to revive the hotel as ‘Koufu Yuden Beniya’, responsible for structural, electrical and mechanical engineering and sustainable building design.
The revitalisation project focused on creating a space for the future while paying homage to the memories and experiences of those associated with the previous ‘Beniya’. Rather than simply reproducing the traditional Japanese architecture for nostalgia, the new design was carefully crafted to embody this spirit.
A total of 17 guest rooms, a lounge and a hot spring were thoughtfully arranged to incorporate the breathtaking view of the garden that was spared from the fire. The design inherits the image of the hotel known as ‘Beniya Kofukan’ in the Meiji era, with each room designed to provide guests with a comfortable and welcoming space to experience the unique light, wind, water and heat of Awara.
In harmony with nature
The design allows an abundance of soft natural light to flood the rooms through the skylights and windows, reflections from the water surface of the pond in the garden, and soft natural light transmitted through shoji screens and bamboo blinds.
The building is oriented from east to west to catch the prevailing north-south wind along the Kuzuryu River, creating an open-air environment that allows the wind to flow into the rooms. The location and dimension of the openable fittings were meticulously planned using air flow simulation to optimise the airflow.
Unlocking the thermal potential of hot spring water
The bathtubs in the main bathroom and each guest room are directly connected to the hot spring source with a constant supply of fresh, hot water, allowing guests to enjoy the quality of the spring water.
The heat generated from the Awara hot spring source is used to dissipate heat under the floors of the common areas and guest rooms, preventing the floors from getting too cold in winter while enabling the temperature of the hot spring supply to be adjusted.
To reduce the temperature difference between the upper and lower levels in the baths, a hot water gutter has been installed. The hot spring water is submerged at the bottom of the bathtub before being fed into the bath. As the hot spring source is free flowing, the excess water overflowing from the bathtub is discharged through a passageway leading to the open-air baths. The discharged water is used to warm the surface of the passageways, allowing guests to walk around the bath area without getting cold feet.
Realising the open timber structure
In the snow-prone region, the snowfall can reach up to 1.5m. In such conditions, we designed the complex building structure with a planar shape and sloping roof to facilitate ease of construction. Furthermore, to make the stunning garden view visible from each and every guest room, our structural design miminises external walls that would have otherwise obstructed the view.
The guest rooms are of timber structure following the Japanese ‘Sukiya’ architectural style, while the central corridor was made of reinforced concrete (RC) walls to ensure earthquake resistance. Steel braces were installed in the beam structure at the ceiling level to provide lateral stiffness and transfer the seismic forces from the timber structure to the RC side. These braces also serve as transfer beams on which sloping roofs of different heights are placed. This design ensures an unobstructed view from each room.
Blending the tradition and the future
The central building, which houses the entrance, lounge and public baths, uses a steel moment frame system to achieve large internal spaces and openings. The lounge features a gable-shaped, column-free space created by a three-dimensional truss system that does not require tie bars, ensuring maximum ceiling height.
To create a building for the future, the structure is made of wood without load-bearing walls that allows for easy expansion and renovation.