ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Nikken Sekkei

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).


Our last day in Guangzhou was dedicated to the contemporary architecture at Zhujiang New Town again.  The night before, we had a brief visit of the area to check out Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House, Rocco’s Guangdong Museum, and Nikken Sekkei’s Central Library illuminated with dramatic lights.  The next day we returned to check out the interior of these buildings.

The first stop we made was Guangzhou Opera House.  We joined a 1.5 hour guided tour that took us into the a number of the major spaces in the complex, from the main auditorium to practice rooms.  While the interior spaces of the Opera House were visually impressive, the uncounted design and construction deficiencies and traces of poor maintenance were all difficult to ignore.  Nevertheless, Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House still stood out as the most unique architecture we saw in Guangzhou.

Not far from the Opera House stood the new Guangzhou Library designed by Japanese design firm Nikken Sekkei.  Completed in 2013, Guangzhou Library is a neatly detailed and designed public building.  Once got in, we were immediately overwhelmed by the large and airy atrium and the glassy link bridges overhead.  We wandered in the library briefly before moving over to the Guangdong Provincial Museum.  Opened in 2010, Rocco Design Architects’ museum building is a mega-scale Chinese treasure box.  Similar to the library, the main atrium space of the museum offered a pleasant surprise for us.  A single footbridge high up overhead created a dramatic visual impact.  To our disappointment, we then discovered that it was blocked off from public access as soon as we reached the bridge.  The permanent collection of the museum presented the rich heritage of various regions in Guangdong.

It was late afternoon by the time we left Guangdong Museum.  We rushed to the Guangzhou East Station for our direct intercity train back to Hong Kong.  Overall our three-day trip was a pleasant introduction to the heritage of Guangdong Province.  Seeing the photogenic diaolous in Kaiping County was especially interesting for us.  Perhaps one day we would return to Kaiping at a different season, such as early spring when yellow mustard flowers blanketed the fields under the shadow of the century-old watchtowers.

01From the metro station, we made a short walk underground before ascending to the ground level.  At almost 600m, the Canton Tower played well as an urban icon for us to orient ourselves.

02Approaching Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House and the reflective pool.

03The triangular ceiling coffers and curved concrete walls reminded me of Hadid’s other projects,

04The ceiling motif did remind me of Hadid’s Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany.

05Bronze statue at a stair landing that led to the underground parking level.

06The magnificent main auditorium of Guangzhou Opera House.

07Cool light troughs filled up the walls and ceiling of the music practice room.

08The wavy ceiling and wall treatment of the dance studio was another highlight of our guided tour.

09Interior circulation space in the Opera House on the upper levels.

10During daytime, the building structure and facade details could be closely examined by visitors.

11Overall view of the Opera House.

12Atrium of the smaller concert hall in the Opera House complex.

13Approaching the Guangzhou Manmade Library.

14Central atrium of the Guangzhou Library.

15Rocco’s Guangdong Museum resembled an enlarged Chinese treasure box.

16The museum atrium was a remarkable design.

17New kinds of materials were used in the museum project.  The overall experience of the space was centred at the flying bridge high above.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisitors leaving the Guangdong Museum, with Hadad’s Opera House at the back.

19The entrance path of the museum provided a nice urban playground.

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All posts on 2015 Kaping and Guangzhou

1) TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China
2) QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China
3) DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China
4) VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China
5) JINJIANGLI (錦江里村) VILLAGE, Kaiping, China
6) ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China
7) SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China

ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China

Other than Kaiping diaolous, another reason for our 3-day excursion from Hong Kong was to check out Guangzhou’s contemporary architecture.  After arriving in Guangzhou by long distance bus, we took the city’s metro to Shamian Island (沙面島) to check in at our hotel and had a Cantonese meal.  Before calling it a day, we rushed out again to explore the new central business district to see its flamboyant buildings at night.  Soon we arrived at Zhujiang New Town Metro Station and walked towards the Opera House.

In a distance, the Guangzhou Tower on the south side of Pearl River aligned perfectly with the strip of public plaza that marked the central axis of Zhujiang New Town (珠江新城), the new central business district of Guangzhou.  Along both sides of the axis, new commercial towers lined up like soldiers queuing from afar all the way to the Pearl River.  Before reaching the river, three public buildings stood out, the Guangzhou Library designed by Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei, Guangdong Provincial Museum by Rocco Design Architects, and Guangzhou Opera House by Zaha Hadid.

01Reaching Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House from its back.

02A ramp flanked by stone walls of the opera house expressed a sense of urban fluidity.

03The craftsmanship and the maintenance of the stone cladding were far from ideal.

04Similar to many other cities around the world, The Phantom of the Opera has become a popular musical with lots of sold out shows.

05Main hall of Guangzhou Opera House with Guangzhou IFC at the rear.

06The upper plaza of the Opera House has become a hotspot for photos.

07The Guangzhou Library by Nikken Sekkei was another interesting building in the area.

08Cool facade treatment expressed horizontality and layering.

09Rocco’s Guangzhou Museum presented a sense of mystery.

10The semi-outdoor stadium on an island in the Pearl River.

12Guangzhou Tower with colouful lighting effect.

13Guangzhou IFC and the axial plaza.

14Visitors enjoyed themselves on the floor feature lighting.

* * *

All posts on 2015 Kaping and Guangzhou

1) TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China
2) QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China
3) DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China
4) VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China
5) JINJIANGLI (錦江里村) VILLAGE, Kaiping, China
6) ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China
7) SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China