Friday, November 16, 2012



In order to celebrate the day of the forests, a commemoration established by the emperor after the destruction of large forest areas during the Second World War, the renowned architect Tadao Ando was commissioned to design a museum complex in the midst of the forest of Mikata-gun, in Hyogo Prefecture. As part of Japan's environmental strategy, the project seeks to promote understanding, awareness and respect for nature.
The building is internationally known as the Museum of Wood (1994). However, the Japanese term Ki no Dendoo (木の殿堂) can be translated more like "Sanctuary Wood" (and boy, it is indeed a sanctuary because to get there it took me a whole pilgrimage).

Beyond its environmental connotations, the museum pays homage to the culture of wood in its various manifestations in the world. It is a space for reflection, more than just a space for the exhibition of objects.

The concept of the volume stands out for its simplicity: set on top of a hill, a truncated cone of 46 m in diameter housing a void cylinder  inside, emerges from the woods like a volcano in the middle of a green sea.

The conical shape is dramatically bisected by a long pedestrian bridge that goes into the forest, ending in a small cubic viewpoint that has been rotated 45 degrees.

The Pritzker Prize laureate has been widely recognized for his work in concrete, but in the Sanctuary Wood Ando demostrates that he is equally skilled in working with wood., in the same way as he previously did in the Japanese Pavilion at the World Expo in Seville.

Japan Pavilion at the Expo in Seville, designed by Tadao Ando, ​​was the closest reference to the museum of wood.
Photos courtesy of Philip Jodidio

The interior is a large exhibition space that unfolds along a spiral ramp, full of long columns of wood, about 18 meters high. The shape of the roof truss inevitably evokes Japanese temples and shrines in Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo
Kasuga Temple in Nara.

However, beyond a mere formal symbolism, Ando uses the complicated roof structure to provide the interior of an interesting game of light and shadow. The light helps to foster that sense of solemnity and respect that a sanctuary inspires.

 "The light sparkles coincide with the proximity of their extinction: the object appears and takes shape in the edge between the luminosity  and the dark", he says.

The game of light and the woodworking are a reference to Japanese traditional architecture.
Photo C. Zeballos

The exhibition contains a number of items related to the craft of wood: stunning  models of historical houses, photographs, a collection of woodworking tools in the world, ancient works in wood, a fully equipped media room and even crafts made by children and adults in the museum workshops.

Also, for the delight of architectural pilgrims, there is an exhibition showing sketches made by the architect during the design of the museum.

Sketch of the museum by Tadao Ando

It is obvious that the purpose of the building is not hosting internationally renowned work, like most museums, but has rather an educational nature and form of community outreach. Artistically, however, the continent is more attractive than the content.

The central crater of 20 m in diameter, animated by the cheerful sound of water flowing from numerous fountains, splashing on a stone base, was conceived as the point where the "sky and water metaphorically meet".

To make evident this union, a concrete bridge crosses the cone, allowing the visitors to feel amid a solemn emptiness, inside and at the same time outside the space, with the sky in their head, the wooden tongue and groove around them, the fountains at their feet and the forests on the horizon.

Attention to detail and simplicity, tradition and modernity, openness and intimacy, nature and artificiality, light and shadow are binomials resolved with sobriety, humility and expertise in this iconic building.



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