The devastation from the 2011 earthquake in Japan was massive. While many Japanese buildings are set to withstand such natural disasters with enviable building codes and cleverly-designed ‘swaying’ skyscrapers, the ensuing tsunami caused enormous human and infrastructure losses.
While the human toll will always serve as the greatest loss, now that the dust has settled, both the national and international construction industries are making strong headway into redeveloping lost locations.
The new Australia House gallery and studio, designed by Australian architect Andrew Burns, is a testament to Australian architecture even though it stands on Japanese soil. The site has been tempered by, influenced by and merged with the best of Japanese design influences.
Rebuilt after the original space was destroyed in the aftershocks of the quake, the project was approached with an air of sensitivity, and as such, has received an overwhelmingly positive response since its unveiling at the 5th Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale.
Designed to function in part as a space for Australian architects to stay while in Japan working on architectural collaborations, the space includes both residential and gallery spaces.
Architecturally, the building takes on a triangular form. According to acclaimed Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who chaired the jury that handpicked Burns’ design from over 154 tenders, this design really allowed the initial concept to stand out from the rest for both aesthetic and functional reasons.
“It is difficult to form a triangle. However, that difficulty can create interesting architecture. I find the approach to this house attractive and the different elements well arranged,” says Ando. “The idea of dealing with snow is thoughtful, considering that the site is located in a heavy snowfall region. It would be fantastic if only the triangular roof was visible as the rest of the house is covered in three-metre-high snow.”
This shape has allowed for the incorporation of large windows which maximise indoor/outdoor connectivity. The natural landscape stands as a key feature both inside and out of the building.
“The triangular form creates a long dimension and widening perspective within compact space,” says Burns. “The internal spaces are calibrated to amplify the experience of landscape.”
Learning from the past devastation, new safety measures have also been included in the building’s design.
From destruction comes new forms, and in this, the strength of internationally culminated works is emphasised.