This Kengo Kuma design is definitely among the most unusual university buildings we have ever seen. Avoiding conventional approaches to an impersonal structure with stiff materials such as metal, concrete, or stone, KKAA designed the new 68,000 square meter research facility for Hongo Campus of Kuma’s alma mater Tokyo University. A soft and supple membrane that floats above the ground, KKAA’s Daiwa Ubiquitous Computing Research Building challenges existing solid campus structures and contrasts the busy capital of Japan with a light structure suggestively clad with thousands of thin cedar strips.
The 61-year-old Tokyo based Japanese architect Kengo Kuma is famous for his layered architecture and for the studies on complex wooden patterns. His research however goes far beyond simple ornamentation. It appears to be fundamental for such notions as order, scale, proportion, balance, complexity and beauty that link tangible architecture to the intangible cultural values of the society.
The eye-catching façade of the steel-framed Daiwa Ubiquitous Computing Research Center is clad with thin wooden planks resembling fish scales. The building’s three-story elevation evokes also omikuji (strips of paper predicting the future at Shinto shrines in Japan) that provide a dynamic and irregular image while being a traditional Japanese pattern composed of the succession of waves. The overall image of Kuma’s building therefore emerges as a vibrant and dynamic structure.
This dynamic effect is further increased by spacious cuts at the ground level. This opening frames lush greenery on the back of the building, and generates an organic flow of light, wind and people. The cave-like space functions as a small covered piazza that gathers people together, offering a great place to eat, chat or even to have a nap or read a book.
To make things even more intriguing, Daiwa Ubiquitous Computing Research Building was designed with a traditional Japanese mud wall, a highly innovative structure that uses advanced technology to measure such environmental condition as temperature, humidity, wind speed, radiation, and many other ecological factors. These data read by the Kuma’s intelligent building are uploaded to a network and can be used for a variety of purposes in the so-called “Internet of Things.”
Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat