Must-See! Top 7 Modern Buildings by the World’s Leading Japanese Architects
There are currently many architects in Japan who are playing active roles in the world stage, and the structures that they have designed are scattered all over Japan. Below are seven of those buildings that you have to see.
- 1. Church of the Light (Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church) (Osaka)
- 2. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (Ishikawa)
- 3. Tokyo National Museum – The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures (Tokyo)
- 4. Nezu Museum (Tokyo)
- 5. Minna no Mori Gifu Media Cosmos (Gifu)
1. Church of the Light (Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church) (Osaka)
This structure is the most important work of Tadao Ando, who is known for his artistic style that incorporates harmony with nature. It is a Christian church that adheres to the principles of Protestantism. The highlight of this church is the chapel, where light comes in from the cross that has been cut on the wall. The floors and the pews used by worshippers are painted black, reinforcing the contrast between light and shadow. This church is only open for tours at designated dates. Reservations are required at least a day ahead.
2. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (Ishikawa)
This building that was designed by SANAA - an architecture firm led by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa - won the Gold Lion award at the International Architectural Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. It was designed based on the concept of an “art museum that looks like a park in the city”. This structure is characterized by the adoption of a circular design, where the front and back are indistinguishable, so visitors can come in from wherever they wish. Furthermore, most of the walls are made of glass, giving the place a bright and expansive atmosphere.
3. Tokyo National Museum – The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures (Tokyo)
This building was designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, who is also called the “master of museums”. Characterized by the space design that uses water surrounding the granite approach, its glass entrance is bright and wide. There is a latticed curtain wall that will make you feel “Japan” inside the modern structure. Stored inside are 300 precious treasures dedicated to the Imperial family from Horyuji Temple in Nara.
Admission fees: General: 620 JPY, College student: 410 JPY
4. Nezu Museum (Tokyo)
Kengo Kuma is an architect whose buildings are inspired by the spirit of “wa” (Japan). He enlists the help of natural materials to make them. He is also involved in the construction of the New National Stadium that will serve as the main venue of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Nezu Museum is also based on his design. It incorporates an impressive large roof resembling the roof of a Japanese-style house. The long approach covered in bamboo and the courtyard facing the glassed-in lobby also pack a punch. Inside, oriental antiquities of Japan are on display.
Admission fee (collections): General: 1,100 JPY, Student: 800 JPY
5. Minna no Mori Gifu Media Cosmos (Gifu)
This is a complex facility that is comprised of a library, exchange center, and other establishments. Its designer, Toyo Ito, aimed to make it into an airy structure with a great breeze, like Japanese houses. Inside the library that has a distinct latticed wooden roof that looks like a mountain ridge, there are globes – upside-down funnel-shaped parasols hanging from the ceiling – and natural light passes through them before diffusing inside the room. The horizontal windows at the top of the globe create a natural flow of air.
6. Oita Prefectural Art Museum (Oita)
The Oita Prefectural Art Museum is a museum with impressive exterior walls that will make you think of bamboo work. Designed by Shigeru Ban, who has won The Pritzker Architecture Prize, this building incorporates a layout that allows people to gather every day. The first floor is enclosed in glass, so whatever is happening inside can be seen from the outside. The front of the museum has a glass door that can fully open and close, and when it is thrown open, it transforms the place into a public space where people can freely come and go. Meanwhile, the two-story atrium is annexed to the museum shop and cafe.
7. Orizuru Tower (Hiroshima)
Adjacent to the A-Bomb Dome, Orizuru Tower is the result of the renovation of an office building. It was completed in 1978, and turned the office building into a complex facility. The renovation design was handled by Hiroshi Sambuichi, who is known for incorporating the sun, air, and other natural elements in his designs. There is an observatory on the rooftop, where you can enjoy the view of the city below while feeling the wind blow directly on your face. The spiral slope leading to the observatory (fee is 1,700 JPY (incl. tax) for adults) is covered in wood, thereby creating a warm feeling. A unique feature of this building is the slide installed on every floor.
Everything on this list is a famous structure that you have to see at least once. Please try to visit these spots to appreciate the beautiful buildings!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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