ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “architect

ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL (東京カテドラル聖マリア大聖堂), Tokyo, Japan

After Ueno Park, we still have time to visit another place before our 18:30 dinner reservation back in Shibuya.  West from Ueno, we took the metro to the residential neighborhood of Sekiguchi in Bunkyo District.  We stepped into the peaceful residential streets of Sekiguchi, and used Google Map to find our way to St. Mary’s Cathedral, the seat of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tokyo.  Apart from its religious significance, the cathedral building is also a masterpiece of modernist architecture designed by renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange (丹下健三).  The cathedral was completed in 1964, about the same time as Kenzo Tange’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium for the 1964 Olympics.

01The peaceful residential streets of Sekiguchi led us toward’s St. Mary’s Cathedral.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACladded with stainless steel, Kenzo Tange’s St. Mary’s Cathedral replaces its Gothic and wooden predecessor that was destroyed during the Second World War.

03Kenzo Tange’s version of the cathedral was much simpler than a traditional Gothic church.  The essence of the building is expressed through the combination of geometry, lines, shades, and reflections.

04On a plan in the form of a cross, Kenzo Tange extruded eight hyperbolic parabolas upwards to form this unique piece of architecture.

05When seen from above, the cathedral and its skylights would appear exactly in the shape of the cross.

06Reaching 61.68m, the bell tower is separated from the main church building.

07The interior of St. Mary’s Cathedral should be a huge surprise for any first time visitors.  The concrete structural shell is fully exposed, providing a minimalist interior where light and shades play the role to create a spiritual atmosphere.

08Benches inside St. Mary’s Cathedral face toward the main altar, behind which stands the tall window extending all the way to the ceiling, then runs across the ceiling to the opposite end of the building.

09The spiral stair behind the seating is a neat feature that goes up the largest organ in Japan.

11The large organ was manufactured by Italian company Mascioni.  We were lucky to experience its beautiful sound when staff were practicing the organ when we were there.

12After a fantastic architectural treat at St. Mary’s Cathedral, we made a short walk in the neighborhood to Zoshigaya Metro Station (雑司が谷駅) for the Fukutoshin Metro back to Shibuya.

13On our way, we passed through the peaceful residential neighborhood of Mejirodai (目白台).

14The afternoon sunlight of the early summer day was brilliant.  The half-hour walk was pleasant and we hardly saw other tourists along the way.


NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WESTERN ART (国立西洋美術館), Ueno Park (上野公園), Tokyo, Japan

Completed in 1959, the National Museum of Western Art is the only building in the Far East designed by modernist architectural maestro Le Corbusier.  In 2016, the museum building has been inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage along with 16 other Le Corbusier’s works such as Villa Savoye, Unite d’habitation Marseille, Notre-Dame-Haut de Ronchamp, Chandigarh Capitol Complex, etc.  We came for the modernist architecture, although many paintings and sculptures on display by world renowned artists were quite interesting too.

01Precast concrete panels were used as the main cladding material for the museum.

02We were greeted at the front entrance by Émile-Antoine Bourdelle’s Hercules the archer.  Bourdelle was an influential French sculptor in late 19th and early 20th century.

03The Thinker at Tokyo National Museum of Western Art was made after the death of Auguste Rodin.

04The lobby atrium of the museum was a pleasant surprise.  The high volume of the space and the trunk-like columns drew our attention to the unique skylight above.

06A skylight consisted of multiple triangles provides an interesting design feature to the space, and also magnificent indirect lighting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn architectural model provides a sectional view of the atrium and shows the exterior form of the skylight feature.

05At one side of the atrium, a zigzag ramp led all visitors to the main exhibition on the upper level.

08On the upper deck, we could get a clear view of the lobby atrium with its statues.

09Again, the concept of bringing indirect sunlight into the interior was the clear intent from Le Corbusier.  The glazing bulkhead above the paintings provided the main source of ambient light.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe collection of the museum ranges from Renaissance to the modern ages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe glazing feature brings in indirect sunlight, but it also creates a long bulkhead along one side of the exhibition hall.

12Some of the paintings and statues were interesting, but our focus was always on the architecture itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the museum courtyard, we could see the various facade cladding materials used at different periods of expansion.

14At the forecourt, another zigzag ramp supposedly leads visitors to the lower courtyard.  Now the entire area, including the exterior ramp, is closed off.

15After the National Museum of Western Art, we thought we had enough dosage of art and history for the day.  We were quite tired due to the red-eye flight.  We decided to check out another piece of architectural gem in Tokyo, Kenzo Tange’s St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sekiguchi.


SENSOJI (浅草寺) & SKYTREE, Tokyo (東京), Japan

On the last day in Tokyo, we decided to pay a visit to Tokyo’s oldest and most popular Buddhist temple, the Sensoji (金龍山浅草寺) and Kengo Kuma (隈 研吾)’s Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center right across the street from the iconic Kaminarimon (雷門).  Sensoji was definitely the busiest attraction we visited in Tokyo.  Everywhere in the temple ground was filled with people, from the souvenir shop lined Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り) to the Kannondo Main Hall.

After the temple and Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, we had a little bit of time left before heading to the airport.  We took the metro to check out the nearby Skytree, the tallest structure in Japan.  We didn’t go up to the observation deck of the tower, but instead wandered around at the shopping area and the outdoor terrace, where a group of tourists crowded in a small Calbee shop picking the colourful packs of special edition potato chips.

Soon enough, we returned to Shinjuku and boarded an Narita Express to the airport.

1Designed by Kengo Kuma (隈 研吾), the eight storey Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center is an architectural gem across the street from the Sensoji.  With exhibition and activity spaces stacked vertically, each floor of the building has a distinct function.

2The ground floor is dedicated to an introduction of the district of Asakusa.

3Glass railing and exposed timber joists wrap around a central atrium.

4On the roof terrace of Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, there are information signage on the railing associated with the view.

5At two metro stops to the east, the 634m Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) stands out at the background, while the wavy golden feature of the Asahi Beer Hall dominates the foreground.  Designed by famous designer Philippe Starck, the golden feature is meant to represent the burning heart of Asahi beer.

6To the north, the view from Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center is dominated by the Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り), the procession route of Sensoji.

7Across the street, the iconic Kaminarimon (雷門) or “Thunder Gate” marks the start of Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り).

8Standing 11.7m tal, with its enormous lantern and statues at both sides, Kaminarimon (雷門) is very popular with tourists and locals.

9Lined with souvenir and snack stores at both sides, the 250m Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り) is always packed with visitors.

10The Hozōmon (宝蔵門) of Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺) features three large lanterns, with the 3.75m tall chochin (提灯) hang in the middle.

11A cute white akita dog rests at the courtyard in front of Hozōmon (宝蔵門).

12The prominent Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) can be seen from Sensoji.

13Many visitors would gather close to the big incense burner in the central courtyard and cover themselves with the smoke, due to a traditional belief that the smoke can improve their thinking and make them smarter.

DSC_3221The entrance of the Kannondo Main Hall is also decorated with a huge red lantern.

14With 30 million of visitors per year, the Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺) is one of the most visited religious site in the world.

15Traditional lanterns on the pavement waiting to be hung.

16The five-storey pagoda is also another main feature at Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺).

17At the main ground of Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺), there are a row of food vendors selling all kinds of Japanese snacks.

18Near Sensō-ji, the famous Azumabashi (吾妻橋) is a popular spot to photograph the Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) and Asahi Beer Hall.

19At the base of Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー), a series of outdoor terraces provide a pleasant approach to the tower.

20Designed by Nikken Sekkei, the 634m Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) is the second tallest structure in the world just behind Burj Khalifa (830m).


FOLK ART MUSEUM, Xiangshan Campus (象山中心校區), China Academy of Art (中國美術學院), Hangzhou, China

Before we left the Xiangshan campus, we dropped by the new Folk Art Museum.  Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the Folk Art Museum is the latest addition to the campus.  Similar to Wang Shu, Kengo Kuma’s work has long been considered as a contemporary representation of the essence of traditional architecture.  Last year when we were In Tokyo, we visited Kengo Kuma’s Suntory Museum of Art and Nezu Museum, and immediately fell in love with Kengo Kuma’s clever interplay of light and shadow, magnificent treatment of transitional spaces between interior and exterior, poetic arrangement of circulation spaces and contemporary interpretation of traditional Japanese architecture.

The Folk Art Museum at Xiangshan sits against a hill like a series of overlapping parallelograms.  Aligned with Kengo Kuma’s principle “to recover the place”, the spirit of the sloped landscape is carefully maintained with the cascade arrangement and ramp circulation of the building.  Old roof tiles are extensively used as roofing and also an outer screen outside the glass walls of the building.  The tiles serve the purpose as shading device by casting a myriad of floating shadows in the interior.  Their existence provokes a poetic atmosphere made of light and shadow.  Before our trip, we were delighted to find out that the Folk Art Museum would be ready to open its doors two days before our visit.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at its door, all we could see was an empty building with several installation workers inside the building.  All we could do was walk around the building and ascend to the accessible roof via a long flight of exterior stair that penetrates the museum in the middle.

After our visit to Xiangshan, we took the public bus back to Downtown Hangzhou.  We returned to the hotel to pick up our bags, took a taxi to the airport bus station, and hopped onto the bus for Hangzhou International Airport.  When we get off, the yellowish afternoon sun and a banner promoting a new direct flight from Hangzhou to Copenhagen greeted our arrival at the airport.  It wasn’t too busy in the airport concourse and we had plenty of time after checking into the waiting zone, reviewing our photographs in the cameras while waiting for our Dragon Air flight back to Hong Kong.  This concludes our 5-day visit to Anhui and Hangzhou.
1The pathway that leads up to the museum entrance and entrance forecourt.

2After we walked up the stair to the upper part, we reached a platform and a secondary entrance of the museum, and a stair that leads further up to the roof.

3Upper platform of the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA peek into the museum interior from the upper platform.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur reflection on the glass wall of the museum beyond the screen of tiles.

4Dark tiles are clipped with tiny hangers onto the diamond shaped wire system.

5Space between the outer screen of tiles and the inner layer of glass windows.

7Second stair that leads to the upper roof.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView from the upper roof down to the Xiangshan campus and beyond.

8Layers of sloped tiled roofs produce the unique minimalist form that resembles undulating terrain of natural landscape.

11Sometimes, the tiles seem like floating in mid air.

12We were forbidden to visit the museum interior, we had no choice but to return back down to the main campus after a walk around the Folk Art Museum.

DSC_3762It was late afternoon when we arrived at Hangzhou Airport for our flight home to Hong Kong.

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China


XIANGSHAN CAMPUS (象山中心校區), China Academy of Art (中國美術學院), Hangzhou, China

The bus ride from Huangshan to Hangzhou took about 4 hours.  By the time we checked into our hotel near West Lake in Hangzhou it was already dinner time.  After a good night of rest for our legs, in the morning we decided to visit the Xiangshan Campus (象山中心校區) of China Academy of Art (中國美術學院) in the outskirt of Hangzhou.  We grabbed a Chinese pork bun and walked to the waterfront promenade by West Lake.  We stood by the waterlilies and finished our simple breakfast.  Soon we walked over to the nearby bus stop and took a local bus heading to the direction of Xiangshan.  The entire bus journey took a little over half a hour.  Contemporary architecture was the reason for our visit to Xiangshan, and was our only major activity planned for our brief stay in Hangzhou.

Wang Shu (王澍), dean of the School of Architecture at China Academy of Art, is one of the most well known Chinese architects.  In 1997, he and his wife Lu Wenyu (陸文宇) found their firm Amateur Architecture Studio.  The couple had been teaching at the School of Architecture at China Academy of Art ever since 2000.  Based in Hangzhou, their works represent a unique critical regionalism, deriving their own architectural character with contemporary reinterpretation of local heritage.  Their most famous works include the Ningbo Museum (2008), and Xiangshan Campus of China Academy of Art near Hangzhou (2007).  After receiving a number of international awards for their effort on redefining contemporary Chinese architecture, in 2012 Wang Shu was rewarded with the Pritzker Prize, which considered to be the highest award in the international architectural industry.

In 1928, China Academy of Art was founded in Hangzhou.  It is the oldest and most famous art school in China.  Today the academy has two campuses in Hangzhou, one right by West Lake at city centre, and a newer one in Xiangshan, at the southwest outskirt of the city.  Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu began the design of Xiangshan Campus in 2002. Many buildings, including a library, a gallery, 6 school buildings, 2 studio buildings, 2 bridges, etc., were completed in 2004. The campus continued to expand until today, and has undoubtedly become one of the most influential projects of Amateur Architecture Studio. The campus presents a good example of Wang and Lu’s design ideology of capturing the spirit of the place and reinventing the Chinese architectural traditions into contemporary uses. Many buildings at Xiangshan were actually built in traditional construction methods, despite the use of modern materials such as glass and metal. Old roof tiles were salvaged from all over the province of Zhejiang and reused at Xiangshan as shading device and wall cladding.

We spent about three hours wandering around the campus, visited about half a dozen of buildings before heading back to the city.

1Reclaimed material is always a major component in Wang’s and Lu’s projects.  At Xiangshan, reclaimed roof tiles and wood panels can be seen all over.

2Courtyards, a essential component in traditional Chinese architecture, also have a vital role at Xiangshan as much of student life happen in these enclosed open spaces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA peek into the sculpture hall.

4 Footbridges connect many buildings in Xiangshan.  This is one of the interestingly designed pedestrian bridge that crosses a small canal, and has been temporarily turned into an open air exhibition space for students’ art pieces.

5Old roof tiles from all over the province are reused here as horizontal shading device.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe library complex is consisted of two buildings with contrasting facade treatment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARamp is a major design element in the campus.  In some cases, the upper levels can be accessible for scooters and bikes.

8Despite the overall brutal finishes and craftsmanship, Wang’s and Lu’s design concepts have successfully created interesting architecture out of traditional Chinese architecture and Modernist design approaches.

9In a number of the buildings, exterior circulation has become a main facade feature.  Though in some cases, the circulation route would be in conflict with window openings.

10Depending on the slope, some of the exterior circulation route are actually steps.

11The wood and stone guesthouse and restaurant building is a recent addition to the campus.

12The interplay of walls cladded with different stones is covered by a large roof.  With a natural touch, the underside of the roof is dominated by the heavy use of timber trusses and bamboo mats.

13There is a water pond in front of the School of Architecture area, encompassing three major buildings with distinct architectural treatments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASimilar to the Ningbo Museum, reclaimed bricks and tiles are used to clad outer walls.

15Like traditional Chinese architecture, tranquil courtyards give another dimension to the buildings in Xiangshan, where the boundary between exterior and interior remains loose.

16Irregular opening on concrete walls represents another design approach, framing unique views for users in the buildings.

17Reclaimed wood panels serve well as a backdrop for sculpture display.

18Distinct brise-soleil of the two School of Architecture buildings: concrete vertical fins and masonry cross openings, create a coherent atmosphere for the exterior forecourt where the flanking contrasting textures complement each other.

19Entrance to one of the School of Architecture building: Bricks are used to form a perforated skin. The word “TOMORROW” is highlighted on the wall surface by filling in the wall openings with glass bottles, like a pin art effect.

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China