Japan’s Sayama cemetery isn’t just a place to rest the dead—the hallowed grounds also welcome the living with two gorgeous timber structures: a large lakeside cemetery community hall and a forest chapel. Designed by Japanese architecture firm Hiroshi Nakamura, the elegant community hall is a quiet sanctuary nestled in the forested hills of Saitama and is topped with a circular wood-framed canopy that fans out like a wide-brimmed hat. A tranquil reflecting pool surrounds the building and gives it the appearance of floating in the landscape.
The Sayama Lakeside Cemetery Community Hall embraces sweeping views of the forested landscape while still maintaining a sense of enclosure and privacy. The building extends out into the landscape with 1.35-meter-long eaves that provide shade and are illuminated by moving reflections of water from the lake. A large slanted opening punctuates the roof to frame an elevated grove of deciduous trees that grow up and through the building, while allowing dappled light to enter the building.
The interior is organized around a reinforced-concrete core that houses the service-related rooms. The visitor lounge and dining rooms are located around the core and overlook views of the reflecting pool as well as the Sayama hills and forests. “Inside, visitors feel enveloped in the gentle warmth of wood beams, close enough to touch,” write the architects. “Lifting their head to follow the lines of the beams, they see the sky beyond tree-filtered sunlight. While absorbed in Sayama’s beautiful natural surroundings, they remember the deceased. In this space, the wood frame is always intimately near, guiding people in their behavior or, to the contrary, responding to it.”
Images via Hiroshi Nakamura