- Marina Tsuji
A Journey to See the Wonderful Works by the World-Famous Architect Toyo Ito: Five Must-See Projects in Japan
In recent years, there has been an increase in Japanese architects receiving high accolades abroad, leading to a renewed interest in contemporary Japanese architecture. Many famous buildings around the world, including hotels, museums, and skyscrapers, have been by Japanese architects. Toyo Ito, in particular, has designed many buildings in Taiwan, such as the National Taichung Theater, and is highly acclaimed in Taiwan. This article introduces five iconic Ito buildings in Japan that are well worth visiting!
Who is Toyo Ito?
Toyo Ito is a famous Japanese architect who has won numerous prizes including the Pritzker Architecture Prize, often referred to as “architecture's Nobel”, the Grand Prize of Good Design Award from the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization, the Architectural Institute of Japan Prize, and the Royal Gold Medal from The Royal Institute of British Architects. He is noted worldwide for his wonderful designs that incorporate original ideas and state-of-the-art technology yet are still in harmony with the surrounding landscape. He is actively involved in supporting up-and-coming architects and holds "Ito-Juku" seminars on a regular basis.
Sendai Mediatheque in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture is one of Ito's most iconic works. It is a nine-story building (two floors underground and seven above) but has no beams, and instead of regular pillars, it has thirteen vertical tubes of varying shapes and sizes that stretch from the ground to the roof and function as light shafts collecting and dispersing light from the roof. Ceiling heights differ from floor to floor as well, creating a space full of irregularity from a limited number of elements. There are large panes of glass in front that help to blur the boundary between the outside world and the inside of the building, creating a building that is in harmony with its surroundings.
Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture, Imabari (TIMA)
Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture, Imabari (TIMA) is the first Toyo Ito museum in Japan and is located in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture. It consists of two buildings—the Steel Hut, a substantial building made with steel plates, and the Silver Hut, a building with a sense of lightness that is a reproduction of the architect's old residence—that sit side by side on the shore of the beautiful blue Seto Inland Sea. The Steel Hut is a place to experience the world of Toyo Ito, with exhibitions of Ito's past works and initiatives. The Silver Hut has a library, where visitors can see approximately 100 drawings from Ito's past projects, as well as a space for workshops.
Matsumoto Performing Arts Center
Matsumoto Performing Arts Center is an art venue in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture. The entire building has a gentle, curved line giving it a refined, supple impression that Ito is known for. The exterior wall is embedded irregularly with handmade glass, and its alternating, two-colored aluminium casting creates its distinctive "bumpy" look. Gentle curves are also featured in the interior, such as in the large staircase that leads from the entrance hall to the theater park and the chairs in the lobby. The walls of the main hall are also curved so that sounds reverberate throughout the hall.
Tama Art University Library
Tama Art University Library in Hachioji City, Tokyo is also famous as an iconic Toyo Ito work. Its major feature is the exterior wall with arches that create an irregular curve. The arches have 15mm-thick glass windows that curve perfectly in line with the exterior wall. The Arcade Gallery, which cuts across half of the first floor, is used as a venue for communication and information sharing. The second floor has a library space with soft carpeting.
Minna no Mori Gifu Media Cosmos
Minna no Mori Gifu Media Cosmos is a community center in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture. The community hall and gallery on the first floor is an open space with a simple, refined architectural beauty. The library on the second floor is distinguished by an imposing undulating wood ceiling made by craftsmen who carefully layered 2cm planks of Japanese cedar wood to blend together. The large globe hanging from the wood ceiling diffuses sunlight during the day and softens the electric light in the evenings. Under the globe is a space where people can enjoy their own time while feeling the warmth of nature.
This article introduced five highly-recommended spots from among the numerous structures designed by the famous Japanese architect Toyo Ito. Why not visit them on your next visit to Japan to get a sense of Ito's architectural philosophy.
*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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