Not only does the Teshima Art Museum's form emulate a bead of water—the element is one of the building's primary subject matters. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Ryue Nishizawa and artist Rei Naito, the museum is a meditation on nature, space, and the element of water. The design isn't exactly a museum, but a massive 60-meter spanned shelter developed to create a pure experience. The interior is lit by large openings in the roof which illuminate the sole installation; a subtle mix of water and objects. Taken as a whole, the project creates a beautiful installation that requires the full attention of all the senses to fully appreciate.
The recently finished museum is a part of the Benesse Art Site program, which gave us the Inujima Art Project as well as several other modern art spaces on the south-eastern Japanese islands. The project aimed to create more than a building to showcase art installations — it aimed to create an immersive environment where the building and the art become inseparable.
At a mere 25mm thick, the roof has no beams or columns to support it over its 40 by 60 meter span. Like a soap bubble the brilliant engineering allows for a self-supporting structure that belies its mass. The stark white walls and floor further the dimensional shift, allowing light and sound to take over.
The seasons obviously have a great influence on the experience — as light changes and water comes and goes, the museum becomes a mirror of the natural elements surrounding it. Two large openings allow the building to breathe and take advantage of natural light. The floor features Rei Naito’s installation Matrix — a play of objects with rainwater and dew collected through the roof.
The approach to the museum takes a winding path through the hillside, which slowly reveals the unique form. A ticket office is built into the hillside and small shop is housed in another bulbous concrete canopy.
Lead Photo © Iwan Baan
Photos © Npboru Morikawa