This Japanese home-cum-office on the edge of a precipice is designed to resemble a dragon flying over a mountain

Teetering precariously on the edge of a steep verge, the Mountains and Opening House offers breathtaking views over the southern Japanese city of Takarazuka.

Designed by Eastern Design Office, a Kyoto-based practice, as a home and office for the owner of Japanese footwear firm Dragon Beard, its sculptural white form creates a scintillating and melodramatic silhouette against the blue skies above and the sprawling city below.

Taking full advantage of its mountainside setting and the 8m drop across the site, the house has been conceived as a response to the duality of its topography: earth and air.

The lower floor is carved out of two mounds of soil excavated from the slope. These represent the “mountains” and are clad in crushed marble whose glistening fragments shine brilliantly in the sun. Within this semi-subterranean zone and its reinforced concrete frame lie the living quarters, concealed and enveloped on three sides by earth in a manner the architect says resembles a “cave”.

The studio level above forms a visual and conceptual contrast. With dynamic form, swooping cantilevers, multi-aspect glazing and broad terrace, it symbolises the “opening”. The architect has likened the movement and lightness of the steel-framed upper deck to birds or a dragon flying over a mountain, rooting this unequivocally contemporary building in Japanese architecture’s long tradition of naturalistic symbolism and mythology.

Various aesthetic gestures unify the two levels. Translucent skins of full-height glazing offer panoramic vistas of the city and mountains deep into interior spaces. The envelope is finished in resplendent white.

It is the selective use of curves that enables this building to convince as a whole, however. Curves are improbably cut into eaves and retaining walls; they intermittently chamfer edges and form openings. They are a constant, subtle reminder of both the profile of a mountain and the movement of air.

The contrast they provide with the angular geometry from which the building’s form is principally derived is also a fitting metaphor for a structure that combines a series of opposites: earth and air, drama and tranquility, nature and construction. The result is a powerfully sensuous and seductive piece of architecture that intuitively appeals to the core human instincts of movement and enclosure and translates them into an evocative visual language of glass, steel and stone.