The westernmost island of the Geiyo Islands in Ehime prefecture, Omishima Island might not be where you’d expect a globally renowned architectural museum and research institute to be located. But since when was creativity inspired by the expected?

  • Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    Toyo Ito is one of the world's most innovative and influential architects and a Pritzker Prize winner. When he first visited Omishima in 2004, he was overcome by the mystery and beauty of the island. Drawing on the natural beauty of Omishima, he designed the buildings for a museum dedicated to his work and a school to educate young architects, which are both located on the island. First opened in 2011, today the Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture remains both a globally competitive architectural research institute and one of the most fascinating tourist destinations in Japan.

    Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    Typical of Toyo Ito, the location of the museum was based on the best way to showcase Omishima’s natural beauty and stunning views. The main museum consists of two buildings: the Steel Hut in which Ito’s works are displayed and the Silver Hut, which houses workshops and events. However, slight differences in their location reflect the different characters of the buildings: the Steel Hut is situated on a ridge and the Silver Hut in a valley.

    Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    The unique design of the Steel Hut means that perusing the exhibitions is an unusual experience. The black steel building plays with geometric figures in a centripetal manner. Without a clear sense of ceilings, walls or floors, visitors may feel as if they are in a sphere and are free to browse the exhibitions without being directed to go the ‘right way.’ It’s a testament to the design that this feels natural and not uncomfortable.

    Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    In the garden of the museum, between the Steel Hut and the Silver Hut, miniature models of famous buildings designed by Ito are permanently on display. MIKIMOTO Ginza Building, Tama Art University Library, the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion… they all look stunning on the grass against the backdrop of Omishima’s views. The other exhibitions change with the seasons, but with recurring themes such as the revitalization of rural Japanese communities through art and design.

    Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    As Toyo Ito’s dream was not a shrine to himself, rather a site where everyone can play or learn if they so chose, the workspace, events space, and relaxation areas are very important to the concept of the museum. This is part of Ito’s intention to “ensure that this Architecture Museum contributes to the future growth and prosperity of Imabari.” Omishima was absorbed into the wider city of Imabari when the museum was being designed, and Ito incorporated this new status into his concept.

    Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture

    The overall impression is an architectural museum that perfectly embodies artistic excellence, learning, and fun. Whether you’re an architecture buff or just a layperson looking for an interesting day out, the Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture on Omishima Island is a tourist destination you won’t forget.

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