Page D3.3. 25 April 2007                     
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    Kurokawa Art Center

    continued

    Nevertheless, with a total site area of under 323,000 square feet (30,000 square meters), there was a real danger of a building this size overwhelming the site and just adding to the city's chronic overdevelopment. But Kurokawa's new masterpiece manages to avoid these pitfalls through a number of techniques that stem from his philosophy of symbiosis.

    "I created ambiguity of the interior and exterior," Kurokawa says. "For example, the facade itself is 100 percent transparent, but it also completely cuts out the sun's ultraviolet rays. I've also extended the ironwood floor that is inside the building to the area outside the facade. That makes people feel very ambiguous and wonder whether they are inside or outside."

    Made from extremely durable Ulin ironwood imported from Borneo, this floor is designed to give the building an aged and even primitive texture that will exist alongside its obvious modernity. This symbiosis of primitive and modern is further developed by the use of wicker furnishings and a bamboo garden in a courtyard on the top floor, contrasting with such hi-tech features as cleaning robots and light-saving motion sensors.

    Although the many details are fascinating, the real element of genius in this design remains the feature that will have the strongest effect on visitors — the facade. As a perfect expression of the symbiosis of exterior and interior, Kurokawa makes it work in both directions.

    From the outside, its naturally undulating surface seems to react to the trees and the wind, while from the inside, it seems to dance around two large inverted concrete cones, which look like petrified tornadoes and are central to the functional requirements of the building.

    "I designed those simply because they wanted a restaurant and a cafe in the atrium, so I decided to place them above," Kurokawa explains. "To maximize the floor space below I simply reduced the base of each structure, which created the cone shapes."

    It may seem surprising that such a beautiful feature arose merely from juggling space and functional requirements, but this shows the architect's symbiotic approach at its best. Rather than placing form and function into a zero-sum relationship, where more "form" equals less "function" or vice versa, Kurokawa has, in this architectural masterpiece, achieved more of both.

    C. B. Liddell is a Tokyo-based writer who writes for Japan Times, International Herald Tribune, Asahi Shimbun, and the South China Morning Post and is editor of the Tokyo Journal.

     

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    ArchWeek Image

    National Art Center Tokyo, by Kisho Kurokawa, with a fragment of the former military base in the foreground.
    Photo: C.B. Liddell

    ArchWeek Image

    Rain entrance.
    Photo: C.B. Liddell

    ArchWeek Image

    Exhibition hall.
    Photo: C.B. Liddell

    ArchWeek Image

    Exhibition hall.
    Photo: C.B. Liddell

    ArchWeek Image

    Ground floor plan.
    Image: Kisho Kurokawa

    ArchWeek Image

    Third floor plan.
    Image: Kisho Kurokawa

    ArchWeek Image

    Fifth floor plan.
    Image: Kisho Kurokawa

    ArchWeek Image

    Top-floor bamboo garden.
    Photo: C.B. Liddell

    ArchWeek Image

    Exhibition hall under construction.
    Photo: Courtesy Kisho Kurokawa

    ArchWeek Image

    Ironwood floor with holes for ventilation.
    Photo: C.B. Liddell

     

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