No. 558 . 25 April 2012 

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Nikken Sekkei designed the Hoki Museum of realist art, in Chiba, near Tokyo, Japan. Photo with enhancement: Harunori-Noda/ Gankohsha

Hoki Museum by Nikken Sekkei

by C.B. Liddell

When we are astonished by a building, it is often because we don't fully understand it. In such a case, we strive to close the gap between what we see and what we already know of architecture.

As we do this, we may arrive at the truth of the design — or we may simply fill the gap with plausible-sounding explanations that turn out to be wrong. Sometimes, it is only a conversation with the architect who created the building that can perhaps clear things up.

This was my experience with the Hoki Museum, one of the most daring designs for a museum building that I have seen in Japan, and the winner of the 2011 grand prize from the Japan Institute of Architects.

The building, which houses the realist art collection of business tycoon Masao Hoki, essentially consists of a rather long corridor that is folded over on itself, providing a total floor area of 3,722 square meters (40,060 square feet) in a 1,602-square-meter (17,240-square-foot) building footprint on a 3,862-square-meter (41,570-square-foot) site.

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When I first saw the Hoki, shortly before its opening in August 2010, I was struck by the tubular quality of the design. It channels visitors through what is, in effect, a single gently curved linear space, folded onto three levels. This contrasts with the more conventional art museum layout composed of interlinked rooms on each level, which essentially mimics the European "grand house" of the past.

Even though most Japanese museums follow the "grand house" layout, the points of interconnection are often closed off during exhibitions to create a single processional route through the rooms, rather like a maze with no junctions.   >>>



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