[Japanese spatial design] Kengo Kuma talks about ASAKUSA CULTURE TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER

[Japanese spatial design] Kengo Kuma talks about ASAKUSA CULTURE TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER


Asakusa Culture Tourist Center is located at a unique site. Asakusa is a place in Tokyo where the oldest culture is preserved and where the flavor of traditional culture is still alive. In its center is Sensouji temple, which has Kaminarimon, the “Thunder Gate”, leading to it. Asakusa Culture Tourist Center is located at the opposite side from this gate. This location thus possesses a unique flavor of old Edo, and I wanted to design a wooden building similar to those that could be found in Edo. I also wanted it to resemble a home with a garden. The building itself needs a degree of massiveness to it. That is why I placed seven Japanese bungalow-type houses, one on top of the other, to create a monolithic Asakusa Culture Tourist Center. As these seven wooden one-storied houses are placed on top of each other, there is space between the roof of each of the houses and the floor of the house that is placed above it. This space between each of the houses is triangular in shape, and we made sure that the space was not wasted by placing the ventilation system and other equipment there. Because each of the roofs are triangular, it was possible to devise high ceilings on each of the floors. In conventional urban buildings, the ceilings between the floors are usually flat, but in the case of Asakusa Culture Tourist Center we were able to escape this accepted norm. Because I envisioned it as a Japanese wooden house, I was also aware of the building’s exterior and used fireproof-coated Japanese cedar. Fireproof coating for wood has just started to be applied in Japan, and it made it possible to use only wood for the whole exterior of this 40-meter-tall building. It is precisely due to the emergence of such fireproofing technologies that devising a building like this one has become possible. There is a small entertainment hall on the fifth floor. We used the inclined space on top of the roof to turn it into a gallery where audiences can sit. This space was thus just the right size for the small entertainment hall. I think one can truly enjoy being at such a midair-theater in the very heart of Tokyo. The upper part of the building is transformed into an open terrace from which one can enjoy the traditional passageway shops leading to Sensouji temple. We thus managed to create a space where one can take pleasure in looking at the Edo flavor-infused lines of shops below while drinking tea or beer.

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