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Japan's Dazzling Contemporary Architecture

We know that Japan has many stunning examples of ancient traditional architecture stemming back thousands of years. As more and more people are starting to experience, it also has a marvelous wealth of fascinating contemporary architecture; modern buildings that are groundbreaking in their style, merging beauty and function to become significant integrated facilities that awe us with the vision of their designer, their welcoming appeal, and educate us about what they hold inside, and what they are surrounded by in a new and brilliant fashion.

The following are a few of Japan's newest and sophisticated novel architectural wonders.

Moerenuma Park, designed by Isamu Noguchi (Sapporo, Hokkaido)

This municipal park, constructed on land used for garbage reclamation, opened in 2005. The master plan was constructed by Isamu Noguchi, a noted Japanese-American artist and landscape architect who became famous worldwide for his sculpture and public works, among other things, and who, unfortunately, passed away after creating the plan for this park.

Made up of a glass pyramid (the biggest symbol of the park) which has a breathtakingly innovative cooling system using stored snow; the Tetra Mound made of stainless steel columns forming a pyramid; a music shell; water and fountain facility, and many open spaces including a beach, man-mound mountain, a free parking lot for 1,500 vehicles, and play and sports grounds, the many elements of the park all fit together to create Noguchi's idea of one unified space.

The park received many awards, including the Good Design Award in 2002, the 11th Sapporo Urban Scenery award, and the Hokkaido Red Brick Architectural Award in 2004. Noguchi himself has won countless awards, and his work is on display all over the world.

Benesse House, designed by Tadao Ando (Naoshima Island, Kagawa)

Off the coast of Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku lies the island of Naoshima which houses a contemporary art museum and hotel. The Benesse House, which brings together contemporary art and accommodations, consists of four facilities - one is the Museum, and the others are hotel facilities entitled Oval, Park and Beach, all created by Ando.

The Benesse House Museum contains artworks, but the art exhibits are not solely relegated to the building itself; they can be found in several outside locations as well. Through the spectacular visual treat of the stunning architecture of the buildings and the breathtaking beauty of the island, one can feel the seemingly effortless blending of interior and exterior though Ando's thoughtful and striking design.

Ando is the 1995 Laureate for the Pritzker Architecture Prize, becoming the third Pritzker Laureate from Japan. He has also won many other Japanese and international awards.

Tokyo Sea Life Park Aquarium, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi (Tokyo)

Tokyo Sea Life Park, capped with a huge breathtaking glass dome, exhibits more than 600 species from around the world, including the shoal of Bluefin Tuna swimming around a ring-shaped aquarium filled with 2,200 tons of water that can be seen from all sides, thanks to Taniguchi's 360 degree designed tank. The park has representations of local and international marine habitats, and one of the largest penguin exhibits in all of Japan, as well as a stunning variety of rare and unusual marine life and sea birds.

Taniguchi has designed many Japanese museums, but his first commission outside of Japan in 1997, the redesigning of New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), brought him worldwide acclaim.

Umeda Sky Building "Floating Garden", designed by Hiroshi Hara (Osaka)

The Umeda Sky Building is the 17th tallest building in Osaka and perhaps the city's most unique structure. Two forty story skyscrapers, each approximately 560 feet tall, are connected at their 39th floors by a wide atrium like "floating garden." Visitors to the rooftop observatory are treated to a panoramic 360 degree view which lets them see all of Osaka.

At the base of the towers is an urban garden with trails and water features, and in the basement one can find a street filled with gourmet delights and a partial reproduction of Osaka in the 1920s.

Hara is also known for designing the Kyoto Station in 1997 as well as Yamato International building in Tokyo, and the Sapporo Dome in Hokkaido.

The National Art Center, Tokyo, designed by Kisho Kurokawa (Tokyo)

This is the largest museum in Japan, with about 45,000 square meters. It consists of 5 stories; 1 below ground and 4 above. The distinct wavy walls make the building look as though it is undulating in a gentle breeze. The museum contains seven huge display rooms, a library, auditorium, restaurant, café and museum shop.

It exhibits only public open exhibits and travelling exhibits, and has no permanent exhibits. All exhibits highlight the latest trends both domestically and abroad.

Kurokawa is the winner of the 2006 Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award, the 2008 Building Contractors Society Award, and 2008 Good Design Award and other international and domestic awards including the Richard Neutra Award, California State Polytechnic University in 1988 and the 48th Art Academy Award, the highest award for artists and architects in Japan in 1992

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, designed by SANAA (Kanazawa, Ishikawa)

Distinctive from other architecture in Kanazawa is this 370 foot large circular building which has no façade or entrance. It is an oddly welcoming and mind-opening feature, as it depicts the architect's desire to not approach art from only a single perspective. Among the museum's public spaces are some permanent exhibits which can be visited free of charge as well as a library, lecture halls, and children's workshops.

SANAA is the architectural office of Kazuyo Sezima and Ryuue Nishizawa, both of whom were 2010 Pritzker Laureates. Among many other awards, SANAA received a Golden Lion for the most significant work in the 9th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in 2004 and the 46th Mainichi Shinbun Arts Award (Architecture Category) in 2005. They also won the Schock Prize in visual arts in 2005, as well.

Miho Museum, designed by I.M. Pei (Shiga)

This joint Japanese American project has a dream-like air about it. This is because it is a mostly subterranean structure, carved out of a rocky mountaintop and surrounded by a forested landscape. While about 80% of the museum in underground, it is far from dark; the roof is a large glass and steel construction, while the exterior and interior walls and floor are made of a warm golden colored stone which glows in the light that enters the building. The surrounding mountains can be seen in a wonderful panoramic view. Called "Shangri-La" by the designer himself, this museum represents his vision of harmony between art, structure, and nature.

Along with seasonal exhibits, there are ancient art pieces found along the Silk Road from Egypt to China which are on permanent display.

I.M Pei was the 1983 Pritzker Laureate. Other accolades include the 1979 AIA Gold Medal, the 1989 Praemium Imperiale for Architecture and the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award from Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. The renovation of the Louvre by I.M. Pei is one of the most impressive architectural commission of the 1980s.


 

For more information about Japan's contemporary architecture, please visit here.

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