In Japan, a country whose territory is almost three-quarters mountainous, developing new property outside of the densely packed urban areas can be problematic—unless you’re willing to work with the terrain instead of against it. That’s what architect Keita Nagata did when he built Miyawaki Gurido, a Shire-ready housing complex that is literally buried into the side of the mountain.
Living inside of a mountain also has its practical advantages: since the complex is surrounded by the mountain’s soil, geothermal energy stabilizes the indoor temperature to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Heating and cooling tubes below the dwelling capture fresh air through an air-supply tower and pump it into the house to regulate the temperature as needed. Each unit also has a front yard landscaped with a variety of oak trees—a yard which also happens to be the roof of your downstairs neighbor.
What’s more, the mountainside apartments are a steal, at least compared to big city rates: rent ranges from around $500 for the smaller units to $1,080 for the larger ones.
Earth-sheltered homes aren’t a new idea. Even early American pioneers were known to build sod houses into cuts in surrounding hills to maximize the insulating properties of surround soil and clay. As Nagata and other modern builders’ homes show, the physics remain advantageous—and a lot more livable with the luxury of with big windows and skylights.