Page B3.1 . 29 March 2006                     
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Constructing Osaka Art

by Raul A. Barreneche

Until recently, the site of Osaka Japan's National Museum of Contemporary Art, one of three national contemporary art museums in Japan, was at the far edge of the city, on the former site of the 1970 World's Fair. The museum had planned to move from this distant suburb to a central urban location in the middle of Nakanoshima Island, part of a planned cultural arts district that has great potential to activate and energize an integral part of the city.

However, arrangements between the city and the National Museum stipulated that, with the exception of the lobby, the project had to be built underground. Due to the island's high water table, the museum, comprising 145,000 square feet (13,500 square meters) of gallery and support space, had to be designed as a watertight submarine for precious artifacts. Unlike perhaps any other museum in the world, the museum's exhibit spaces are not only underground, but also under water.

The question was how to impart a powerful image and identity to what is an almost entirely submerged building. Added to this challenge were requirements to carefully control the climate of the building and to efficiently organize the museum just as if it were above ground, with changing and permanent exhibits, a conservation department, restaurant, and theater.

The solution was to build an enormous stainless steel sculpture rising like reeds along a riverbank or the stalks of a bamboo grove. The complex, organic composition appears to bend with the wind, sprouting mysteriously from below the ground to draw patrons down into the museum.   >>>

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This article is excerpted from Sections Through a Practice: Cesar Pelli & Associates by Raul A. Barreneche, Joseph Giovannini, and Hiroyuki Suzuki, with permission of the publisher, Hatje Cantz Publishers.

 

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ArchWeek Image

National Museum of Contemporary Art, Osaka, Japan, by architect Cesar Pelli & Associates and structural engineers Tomoki Hashimoto and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Image: Cesar Pelli & Associates

ArchWeek Image

In the factory north of Tokyo, the fabrication of the stainless steel tubing for the entry pavilion occupied entire buildings.
Photo: Jun Mitsui & Associates

 

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