Monday, September 13, 2010



One of the newest creations by the award-winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito, the Koenji Za Public Theater, completed in 2009, is an irregular black metal block that appears as an alien in the middle of a suburb in Tokyo. Its design reminded me of Tadao Ando’s / CASA .


Za Koenji is located in the Suginami City, within the metropolitan area of Japan's capital, near Koenji station in a residential area of relatively low density. It is a theater for contemporary performing arts, in charge of the Creative Arts Network (CTN). The theater produces, presents and promotes a series of cultural activities for the community of Suginami.


The steel-coated structure has 6 levels (three of them underground to comply with regulations of height), and acquired a peculiar shape on its roof, similar to a circus tent.

"I tried to create an impression of a closed tent, or cabin, or a play house."
Toyo Ito
Externally, the building takes the form of tent, which is actually a multiple catenary, the product of various geometric operations. The roof is a 12 mm metal sheet, supported on a frame of steel columns and beams of 12 x 25 cm.

Photos courtesy of Iwan Baan

The facade receeds from the profile of the street to create a reception area by way of an atrium and is presided by a marquee, which helps to provide the black mole of pedestrian scale.

At a first glance, this is an awkward  detail, a door leading to nothing, located on the facade. However. it is an entrance for firemen in case of an emergency.

The circular windows around the building that seem to be placed arbitrarily, during daytime hours are not so noticeable due to the visual impact of the black steel.

Photos courtesy of brando Shigeta and nordic nomad
A different experience occurs in the evening, when the light spots acquire a leading role in the facade.

Foto cortesía de Lightdesign Photo courtesy of Lightdesign

This is a relatively small building, which houses two auditoriums for theater performances. The largest of these, with an area of 440 m2 has 230 seats and a large stage.

The other smaller auditorium, called the Civic Hall, has an area of 330 m2, but can accommodate up to 300 spectators, because it has a smaller stage.

Fotos cortesía de Lightdesign Photos courtesy of Lightdesign
Hay además un cuarto para ensayos, de 160 m2, dedicado también a la danza de Awa odori , muy popular en el área de Koeji. There is also a room for testing, 160 m2, also devoted to the dance of Awa odori , very popular in the area of Koeji.

Due to the restrictions of the function both audiences are rational and perfectly inscribed within a box. In contrast, the architect has used his innovative imagination in the development of the surrounding areas to theaters, like the reception hall, stairs, exhibition spaces and a café.

Estos pequeños espacios, recubiertos una envolvente roja con círculos blancos luminosos, adquiere, al igual que el exterior, un carácter escenográfico, evocando a la función que acompañan. These small spaces, wrapped in a red surface with white circles of light, acquires a scenic character, evoking the function that are serving.

Upon entering, the bright circular spot theme appears not only on the walls, but projected on the floor, recalling the effect of a spotlight on the stage.

Photos courtesy of Lightdesign
Photos courtesy of Brandon Shigeta
After passing the reception we found the stairs, reminiscent of those of Art Nouveau style.

The staircase is worked like a colorful ribbon wrapped around a central space of curve geometry and invites visitors to tour the different levels of the building, even the lower ones that are under ground.

The so-called Café Henri Fabre, after the creator of the first seaplane in history, is probably the area where more emphasis is given to the decoration by using these circular lights, which are located both in the walls and the warped ceilings. It also functions as an expansion related to the adjacent auditory.

Additionally, the building has areas of exhibition, containing some samples of pop art.





  1. I'm an architecture student looking for drawings on this building to model in 3d for a class. Any suggestions where to find drawings? Email me at Thanks!

  2. Hi John
    I think you can find them in the latest issue of El Croquis about Toyo Ito.
    Please let me know if you got something.
    Goog luck!

  3. That "humorous door that leads to nothing", I think it's actually an access for firefighters in case of emergency, with that inverted triangle symbol.

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