The Kanayama Community Center by Kengo Kuma and Associates Architects is a public space and museum which boasts a unique facade. Modeled after the stone wall that protected Kanayama Castle—a regional landmark and historic site—the community center is a truly dynamic structure in Ota City, Japan.
The large, open entrance helps to neutralize the imposing feeling projected by the detailed, monochrome walls. The geometric pattern on the walls is reminiscent of the Hojo Clan family crest. The clan owned the castle at the height of its prominence in the late 1500s. It is fitting then, that the museum at the Kanayama Community Center by Kengo Kuma Architects will house the Kanayama Castle ruins.
The new Kanayama Museum and Community Center designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates is located in Ota, a little over a hundred kilometres north of Tokyo. The complex takes its cue from the medieval fortress of the same name. The hillock site is dominated by the ruins of Kanayama castle and is a listed archaeological site. The historic monument and remains testify to ancient technical excellence in the multiple-level stone wall defense system, water channelling technology and the importance of Kanayama as a military base. The museum’s architecture deliberately resonates with the archaeological site. In turn the multiple-purpose museum building continually opens up spaces that meld with the Community Center proper, providing opportunities for collective participation in art and craft workshops. The architecture is a blend of function and form mediated by construction materials that both reflect history and dialogue with the contemporary world of preserving, restoring and exhibiting historical artefacts. The two level Museum is partly underground and sits in a natural hollow about 6 m below the surrounding castle remains. The building is arranged around an inner court paved with concrete slabs and intervening gravel sections. Around the whole inner perimeter, full-height glazed french windows open onto the court. The oblique, mosaic-clad wall at the entrance accentuates the visual continuity towards the court. The natural stone external wall is a signature feature of the building, a contemporary take on historic materials. Two sizes of rectangular stone slabs are set so that their corner tips touch. The resultant alternation of solids and voids on a sheet steel supporting frame creates a delicate screen. The dynamic, lightweight character of the design becomes even more evident when the sheet steel structure is replaced by a simple steel grid that allows greater passage of light. The same design is continued inside with the wood fibre and concrete panels of the false ceiling. Here the lay is slightly different with some panels overlapping so that in the exhibition section they turn into 3-D cells giving a greater sense of depth.