Monday, November 7, 2011



With the clarity of its modern lines, the strength of its elongated volumes that overlap, resembling a group of stylized snakes, defying gravity with a dramatic cantilever, sensitive, powerful, sophisticated... the recently opened Hoki Museum in Chiba becomes the most important exhibition space for realistic art in Japan.


Masao Hoki, a Japanese tycoon, had a private collection of realistic art, which kept in a vault built beside his house. Twice a year he used to show it to the public, but since more and more visitors come to see the works of art, he realized he had to build a special museum to house the collection. The Hoki Museum was built in two years and was culminated in late 2010.

Photo courtesy Museum Hoki


The museum is located in the town of Toke, in Chiba prefecture, two hours from Tokyo. It is built upon an elongated area located in front of Showa no Mori Park, the largest public space in town.


The museum, designed by architect Tomohiko Yamanashi of the Nikken Sekkei company, is based on the concept of overlapping linear galleries. Another example of linear museum is the Kiasma in Helsinki , by Steven Holl . In the case of Hoki Museum, given the narrowness of the plot, the long curved bars can just accommodate the galleries area, giving the composition a lenticular shape.

This seemingly simple strategy allows to accommodate about 500 m of exhibition space through one upper ground level and two basements, which can be visited sequentially or randomly.

The bars end in large windows, which are embedded deeply in the frame for climate-control purposes and to emphasize the formal character of the galleries as large square-section tubes arranged one above the other.

Externally, the most unique feature of the museum is undoubtedly the steel gallery that extends 30 m beyond the main structure, becoming the world's longest cantilever.

To emphasize even more the feeling of lightness of the floating gallery, the architect made a lateral incision, in the way of the traditional Japanese jimado (narrow, and elongated windows located at the bottom of the wall) that allows natural light to enter indirectly into the space.

Jimado window, exterior.
Jimado window, interior.

Details of cantilever

One detail that caught my attention is the external allegory that accompanies the long volumes of concrete. These "gardens" of metallic rods, that evoke a bamboo grove, are reminiscent in an abstract way of the museum's commitment to its natural environment, and guide the visitor to the entrance of the museum, located laterally in one of the curved volumes.

But unlike other museums, where the beautiful architecture overshadows the works of art that contains, in this case the design seeks to facilitate the visitor's art experience and reduce the barriers between art and viewer. For example, the walls lack the traditional common rail in most museums, and paints subjects through magnetic devices, using the character of steel.

Photo courtesy of Hoki Museum

The interior lighting is achieved through a constellation of LEDs, which are technically and artistically embedded in the ceiling, and aside of having a low energy consumption, the provide a favorable lighting to appreciate the paintings. This is accomplished by alternating white and amber lights.

Photo courtesy of Hoki Museum
Photo courtesy of Hoki Museum

In addition, the floor is specially prepared to reduce the impact on knees and feet of visitors, making the half mile route of this pictorial galleries not be a stressful experience.

Photo courtesy of Hoki Museum

A special stair lead us to the underground galleries. Its steps are transparent and allow to connect virtually and subtly separate spaces, extending the visual experience of space.

Photo courtesy of Hoki Museum

The museum contains more than 150 works from around 40 artists, including 32 paintings and artists Sousuke Morimoto Hiroshi Noda, and Tadahiko as Nakayama.

Floral dress, 2007. Tadahiko Nakayama

Pansies, 2007. Hiroshi Noda.

Coloring, 2001. Sosuke Morimoto

Distant Memories, 2009. Osamu Obi

Portrait of a Woman, 2007. Sosuke Morimoto

No, they are not photographs. Give yourself time to appreciate them one by one, from afar, the quality of light and the pictorial composition, and from near, for the meticulous details.


Hoki Museum is really impressive, both because of the power of its architectural vocabulary as for the beauty of the works that contains, executed by artists of great talent. If you stay a few days in Tokyo, I would recommend you to pay it a visit.
I was lucky enough to meet a nice group of Indonesian architects at the museum. Here, together with Dea Latifah, architecture writer Imelda Akmal and notable architect Andra Matin.

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