I House in Izu-Kogen is a minimal home located in Shizuoka, Japan, designed by Florian Busch Architects. The brief for this project was, like the site, encouragingly modest: A small shelter for an urban family to spend their weekends. When the architects went there for the first time, they understood why the brief had not mentioned the views. They were as hidden in reality as they had appeared obvious in the preliminary analysis. And yet, they can and should be defining holiday life here. The views are obstructed by neighboring buildings, which are —with hardly any exception— without adventure.

Good intentions and superficiality have led to guidelines and rules focused on Munsell charts and roof angles instead of substance. The size of the site is typical of the area: Some 600 m² will give you just enough green to contrast the density of the city you leave behind. But not enough to forget anything around you. It is the typical 別荘 (‘besso’) development: Here, any encounter with ‘nature’ means compromise. In fact, one is reminded more of suburbia than of a recluse. While lush vegetation is never far away, so are the neighboring houses; between them: hidden views to the ocean and some not too distant mountains. (Only 2.5 km to the north is the most prominent: Mt Omuro, a mountain famous for getting its annual ‘shave’ by the 700-year-old ritual of burning down the dried grass to make room for the new.)

In order to find happiness in these confines one must filter. When the area was turned into a residential resort, the developers cut tiny roads into the mountain. And with it created hard-to-access sites throning on plateaus above the roads. The site is on one of those plateaus – perched a nice five meters above the road, and yet so are the houses behind. While protected from views on the side facing the road, the studio needed to devise ways to hide on the other sides, and equally important, to see the natural assets waiting in the distance. The anticipated brevity of each stay gives us freedom. They are only here for a couple of days in a row. This means that things which would normally be considered inconvenient can become completely plausible, maybe even desirable.

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