On a university campus in Sakado, Saitama-ken, Japan, Studio Sumo has completed the Mizuta Museum of Art. It will show works from a valuable collection of Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodcuts), while showing contemporary works and artistic production from the school and community. The fragile nature of these prints requires a highly controlled and insulated environment. As the building closest to the campus entry, the Museum also acts as a gateway, providing information and displays about campus life.
The building's tight but exposed site, with seventeen existing tress and a nine metre height limit, determined a two story building with a dual programmatic role of museum and orientation center, each requiring direct access to the main campus walk.
To give both floors equal access to the pedestrian route, the building is excavated a half level into the site, with one ramp leading up to the two museum galleries and another leading down to a campus information center. In conjunction with the mechanical space at the entry and an overlook lounge, the space of the ramp creates an environmental buffer, protecting the gallery walls from direct sunlight.
The concept of Ukiyo-e — which translates into "Pictures of the Floating World" as the prints often depicted famous actors, courtesans, or travel scenes meant to lift the viewer from the daily routine of his/her life — was architecturally translated into the floating tectonic of the cast-in-place structure that cradles the galleries over the information spaces. Additionally, the slots of light created by the façade seek to recall the graphic method of depicting rain found in many of the prints.
L-shaped pre-cast concrete pieces line the building ramps and form a continuous vertical and horizontal shelter. These pieces clip onto the roof of the cast-in-place structure. There are 52 different pieces cast from a single mold, one panel every other day for four months. Each is about one metre wide, up to 8,5 metres in along the vertical, up to 3,3 metres overhead along the horizontal, and less than 25 centimetres thick.
The pieces were fabricated in a factory in the prefecture of Ibaraki and trucked about 160 kilometres to the site, just north of Tokyo. Unlike flat pre-cast panels, they were cast on their sides, resulting in two smooth finished surfaces that are exposed. One-foot wide slots of varying lengths were blocked out along the seam lines, some continuing for the vertical to horizontal section of the piece. This creates light slits that animate and aerate the passages, placing the viewer in the space of the print, within the "floating world."
Studio SUMO: Mizuta Museum of Art
Location: Josai University, Sakado, Japan
Team: Sunil Bald + Yolande Daniels (Partners-in-charge), David Huang, Edward Yujoung Kim, Anees Assali, Andrea Leung
Architect-of Record:Obayashi Design Department
Team: Koji Onishi, Project Manager; Nobuki Kobayashi, Project Architect, Setsu Kadota, Yuichiro Nishino
Structural, MEP Engineer : Obayashi Design Department
Contractor: Obayashi Corporation
Built area: 650 mq
Project completion: December 2011