riba awards

Oita Prefecture Art Museum





Oita Prefecture Art Museum_PressImage_Hiroyuki_Hirai_2


ARCHITECT: Shigeru Ban Architects

CLIENT: Oita Prefecture Art Museum

AWARDS WON: RiBA Award for International Excellence

The Oita Prefecture Art Museum derives from the concept of an Open Art Museum and takes the Japanese concept of Engawa, the covered outdoor space round the traditional house and uses vertically bi-folding glazed doors that allow the city to permeate the museum and the museum to permeate the city.

This openness to the city and its citizens makes the museum unique in Japan. It was also very much part of the brief that the building should attracts visitors with no particular love for art to step inside and use the cafe and bookshop; thus it becomes a social centre for local people as much as a gallery. 

The openness has a literal manifestation in the opening walls to the street façade. This makes it much more than an expensive gimmick – it invites the city in and is good architecture. At the start the Ministry of Culture said no to the opening windows but finally bowed to the architects’ aim of an open-air museum: since April 2016 the Ministry has allowed the windows to be open and is monitoring it season by season. There is now no separation between art and life. The connection is further extended at times of festivals through the closure of the dual carriageway to link the Museum with the concert hall complex opposite, creating what Ban calls a ‘pedestrian’s paradise’. 

The visually heavy lower half of the façade is inevitable given the need for heavy steel columns needed to support the mechanics of the opening windows and for earthquake resistance. The upper part is much lighter with its local cedar-clad slenderer profile steel lattice. In fact there are three different structural systems used: the upper and lower parts of the front building and the rear administrative and storage block. The earthquake resistance measures in the underground car-park allowing for vertical and horizontal are eerily impressive. 

The double-height atrium lobby is open and flexible, with all furnishings and fixtures designed by Shigeru Ban, giving a sense of quality and consistency of design in all the spaces. The café design is excellent with cardboard tubes used to form all the furniture and the screens. The whole is held together by a timber ceiling using local materials. In the lobby is a box within the glass box, set back to allow for generous circulation space for ever-changing sculpture exhibitions and a shop. Everything is flexible and moveable including the walls of the exhibition spaces, which enclose museum-condition galleries. Or can be rolled back to make one huge exhibition space of the entire double-height atrium. The first floor is a mezzanine containing education rooms, workshops, studios and a restaurant that could be award-winning in its own right.  

The upper galleries on the second floor take the form a series of interconnecting boxes in the style of traditional bamboo work. These house the permanent collections and in one the concrete structure of the roof is beautifully exposed. These galleries encircle a sculpture court open to the air, with a glazed enclosure providing a buffer foyer-cum-gallery. Here the gridshell roof is beautifully expressed, though to comply with building regs, this is a steel lattice again clad in cedar.






Landscape Architects: studio on site

Fire Safety: Akeno Fire Research Institute

Lighting Design: Lighting Planners Associates Inc.

Signage: Communication Design Laboratory


COST: confidential

Date Of Occupation: 10/2014


PHOTOGRAPHER: Hiroyuki Hirai

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