Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) design for a resort on Japan’s Sagi Island draws inspiration from the 19th century dialogue between Scandinavian travelers and their Japanese hosts.

Opening its borders after two centuries of isolation, Japan invited international trade and gave the world a glimpse into its unique design sensibilities. Visiting Danes, in particular, were fascinated by the structures’ simplicity and use of natural materials.

This cultural exchange underpins NOT A HOTEL Setouchi, on Japan’s Sagi Island. The project reflects the synergy between Scandinavian and Japanese design principles, seamlessly integrating into the island’s natural landscape with a focus on local materials and a deep connection to nature.

“Japan is one of the cultures in the world where commitment to craft and care for quality remains intact,” says BIG Founder and Creative Director Bjarke Ingels. “The honesty and simplicity of the structure and careful choice of materials can be said to have greatly influenced the traditional architecture of Japan and the modern architecture of Denmark.

“NOT A HOTEL Setouchi will be an experiment in what happens when the sensibilities of both countries come together—the Danish desire for simplicity and the care and perfection of Japan,” he adds.

Credit: MIR
Credit: MIR

NOT A HOTEL features three villas following the site’s natural contours and is positioned to maximize views of the surrounding mountains and water.

“Setouchi comprises a dense and dramatic archipelago, characterized by beautiful undulating silhouettes of mountainous islands,” says Ryohei Koike, a BIG associate. “Our approach for this design aims to simultaneously expand and enhance the vast panoramic views of the archipelago while creating moments of intimacy and privacy through minimal architectural interventions.”

Credit: MIR
Credit: MIR

Each villa is named for the views they provide:

  • 360 Villa: Highest altitude, offering 360-degree views with a central courtyard for privacy.
  • 270 Villa: 270-degree views of the archipelago, featuring floating island bathing spaces, a sauna, and an open firepit.
  • 180 Villa: Closest to the sea, following the coastal landscape with an inner courtyard and seasonal foliage.

Buildings will utilize local materials such as rammed-earth walls using soil from the site and natural slate floors inspired by the layout of traditional Japanese tatami mats. In another nod to traditional Japanese design, glass façades reinterpret shoji screens, enhancing the connection between interior and exterior spaces.

Sustainable features include solar tile roofs, rainwater collection for irrigation, and operable façades and overhangs for passive cooling.

Construction is expected to begin later this year.

Project Data

Size: 2,350 square meters

Location: Setouchi, Japan


Collaborators: Maeda Corporation, ARUP Japan, 1moku, NOSIGHT, BOCS, Mir, LIT design


Partners-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Leon Rost

Design Lead: Ryohei Koike

Project Manager: Yu Inamoto

Project Architect: Mamoru Hoshi, Casey Tucker

Project Team: Andrea Hektor, Christina Papadopoulou, Cullen Yoshihiko Fu, Don Chen, Jan Leenknegt, Jasmine Nicholson, Jeremy Felson, Joanna Lesna, Konstantinos Koutsoupakis, Margaret Tyrpa, Matthew Lau, Naysan John Foroudi, Oskar Alfred Maly, Paul Heberle, Pavel Tomek, Sang Ha Jung, Steven Op, Suyue Huo, Théo Hamy