Wednesday, September 1, 2010



Sendai, located 300 km north of Tokyo and known as the "City of Trees”, is a city of one million inhabitants. Nearby is the Matsushima Bay, one of Japan’s three most famous natural sceneries, along with the Itsukushima Shrine in the island of Miyajima and Amanohashidate .
Some small temples and a castle are witness of its history, but the reason why Sendai has achieved international renown is because of its Mediateque (2001), the most representative work of the architect Toyo Ito .


The general concept, evident already from the competition entry, was the free public accessibility. Located in an area of 50 x 50 m, the multimedia library should contain several features: library, internet booths, areas for watching DVDs, galleries, cafes, etc.

Sendai Mediatheque is located in front of a grove and surrounded on three sides by streets.

See location on Google Maps

Ito's proposal opted for transparency. Since the plot is located in front of a large grove, it affords broad vistas towards the boulevard, while shape of the trees is used in the design of the structure.

Conceptual sketches and model. Source 2g Magazine

The space and light flow frankly between the different levels of the building.


The design is based on three basic elements:

a) Platforms: there are 7 of them, there are the support where the functions are carried out. They are 80 cm. thick. It is actually a grid of metallic beams welded to two metallic plates, similar to those used in shipbuilding. This metal grill can also be seen on the roof, crowning the composition of the building.

b) Tubes: There are 13 bundles of steel tubular structures covered in glass, resembling a twisted organic structure like a weed. They cross and support the platforms, extending beyond the ceiling.

Freely dispersed in the building, they vary in shape, diameter, inclination and dimension, while providing light to the interior. The larger tube has a vertical circulation that connects the different levels of the library.

Despite its fragile and transparent appearance, these structures provide flexibility, strength and horizontal and vertical stability to the building in an area of high seismic activity and constant typhoons.

c) The skin: it is a transparent membrane that allows fluid visual communication between interior and exterior, and at times the boundary between the two seems to vanish.

However, Ito proposed different facades according to the character of the surrounding environment they face. For example, the main façade, located on the south side facing the boulevard, is a double layer of glass (very useful in the winter months of strong winds ... from experience I can say that the Mediatheque was a refuge Sendai freezing winter), the outer extends slightly and increases the effect of lightness of the building.

The west side facade, which faces another plot, is opaque, coated with a metal frame that reveals the emergency stairs. The north and east facades, which face neighborhood streets, have different finishes on each floor: glass, polycarbonate and aluminum.


The first floor, called Open Plaza, contains the reception, a cafe and a store of books and magazines. It is totally extroverted toward the street.

First Floor level, courtesy of Sendai Mediatheque.

The second level is the children's library, internet and administration. It is a very open space, defined only by the furniture. A very interesting aspect is that the separation between the public reading area and the private administration is simply a translucent curtain, resembling a floating wall.

Second level, courtesy of Sendai Mediatheque.

En el tercer nivel y cuarto nivel (el cuarto es en realidad una mezaninne) se encuentran el área de préstamos de libros y salas de lectura. At the third level and fourth level (the fourth is actually a mezzanine) are the area of loans of books and reading rooms.

In the fifth and sixth floors exhibition galleries are located, used by the citizens of Sendai. Here, mobile rectilinear panels can be accommodated to the needs of the exhibition, in a clear reference to the sliding doors of Japanese architecture .

Fifth and sixth floor level, courtesy of Sendai Mediatheque.

On the seventh floor there is a cinema and conference rooms, which are wrapped in a matte glazed wall (Ito calls it a "membrane") of curvilinear forms, that is located in the middle of space.

Here are also an area for listening tapes and DVDs and areas of assembly. The furniture is also curvilinear and organic.

Seventh level, courtesy of Sendai Mediatheque.

following video shows the extraordinary spatial fluidity to raise the floors by elevator.


The Sendai Mediatheque project received the Royal Gold Medal in 2006 by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and may be celebrated from various aspects: its structural innovation, functional versatility, its symbolic meaning for the residents of Sendai. But perhaps what has made this building is a milestone is that has tried to capture on architecture the ethereal, fluent, multidirectional and virtual nature of the computer world that characterizes our time.



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