The Architecture of Ibaraki The Architecture of Ibaraki

The Architecture of Ibaraki


2018.03.09

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

The Architecture of Ibaraki
  • Perhaps the best starting point for a tour of Ibaraki’s architecture, Sejima Kazuyo’s work on the Joban Line’s Hitachi Station in Hitachi City seems to sum up a certain esthetic in recent architectural projects in the prefecture: clean modernist lines in steel and glass that stand within but create a contrast with the natural environment. Sejima Kazuyo is a local product, born in nearby Mito City. Her esthetic makes sense in Ibaraki—and especially in Hitachi where the multinational conglomerate of the same name was founded—as it’s known for both hi-tech industry and natural vistas.

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

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    The highlight of Hitachi Station’s design is the Free-corridor which runs like a parapet up to the sea. In the Free-corridor, the hard lines of the design frame a view of the Pacific Ocean. The contrast between the dramatic architecture and the equally dramatic landscape leaves a lasting impression. This is still an exurban commuter railway station, though, and the architect’s stunning lines extend to an unexpectedly beautiful public toilet.

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

    The Watanabe Makoto-founded ADH Architects’ Makabe Denshokan, located in Sakuragawa City, was a collaboration between countless architects and designers, resulting in this sometimes whimsical collection of structures to house a museum, offices, gathering spaces and study areas. The Makabe Denshokan sits within Makabe-cho Preservation District, and its neighbors are hundreds of older structures, including 99 that have been designated national tangible cultural properties.

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

    The buildings at Makabe Denshokan use natural light to unite interior and exterior spaces. Wandering the area’s traditional buildings, one wonders if there is any connection between the skylights and window design of the Makabe Denshokan buildings and the high loft windows of machiya, misegura, and nuriya buildings. Natural light is used to greatest effect in the study area. Despite the dramatic structures, just like at Hitachi Station, room has been left for day-to-day life to thrive.

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

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    Art Tower Mito is a brief walk away—about half an hour if one includes a detour through Kishubori Ryokuchi Park—from Mito Station on JR’s Hitachi-Tokiwa Line. The Isozaki Arata-designed Art Tower Mito is capped by a metal helix that rises 100 meters over a complex that includes a concert hall, theater, and gallery. Again, the same aesthetic of hard lines in steel, glass, and concrete, contrasted with the surrounding area. The building, opened in 1990, was an attempt to create a new paradigm for public buildings in Japan, which were frequently facsimiles of Western structures. Art Tower Mito's central plaza is anchored by a rock suspended on steel cables. The rock is a straw and oxidized red when dry but glows lambent grey when it becomes slick with water from the fountain below it. The rock and water seems to be an overture for the symphony of polished stone, marble and concrete within the entrance hall.

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

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    Mito City’s Tokugawa Museum is a bus ride or a half hour walk away from the Art Tower Mito or Mito Station. Apart from the treasures stored inside the museum and the rare documents in the library, the buildings themselves, ranging from traditional structures to breathtaking modernist designs, are worth the trip across town after a stop by the Art Tower Mito. The angular lines of the modern structures provide an interesting contrast to the Tokugetsu-tei, a tea house in the traditional sukiya style.

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

    The Architecture of Ibaraki

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    Yuki City which can be reached on JR’s Mito Line from Oyama Station (Utsunomiya Line, Tohoku Shinkansen) is home to a stunning example of municipal architecture. Designed by Mikami Architects, set at the north exit of the local JR station, the Yuki City Information and Communication Building is an urbanist’s dream, a sci-fi facade housing a library and other city services, as well as an observatory where staff give impromptu talks on astronomical goings-on.

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