The Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Ariake, Koto-ku, Tokyo Japan was designed for dual uses to provide for both a significant short-term competition and ongoing events. The architectural design, presented by Nikken Sekkei and Shimizu Corporation, relies heavily on natural materials for both a sustainable finish and a reflection of the area’s history. 

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A long, lit-up structure on the bank of a lake.

Dubbed, “A Wooden Vessel Floating in the Bay Area,” the Ariake Gymnastics Centre was equipped with a layout meant to house a temporary international sports competition in response to a request by the client, The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. After the event, the spectator stands were made removable for easy conversion into a permanent exhibition hall.

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A wood overhang near an entrance that looks out over the city landscape.

Nearly every surface is constructed from wood — a nod to the district that previously housed a log pond. Timber is used extensively throughout the building, including the roof frame structure, facade, spectator seats and exterior walls. Lightweight, durable and fireproof steel was used for the framing. The finished building looks like a floating wooden vessel from across the waterway. 

A view of a sports court from the top of an arena of wood bleachers.

The wood also caters to the acoustic and thermal needs of the arena and serves to achieve a light overall site impact in an area that may have poor soil conditions. Glued laminate timber has a high capacity for heat, making it fire resistant. The overall simple design honors the essence of traditional Japanese architecture. 

A basketball court with wood bleachers and ceiling.

The Ariake Gymnastics Centre is located along a canal, allowing for an expansive public space. Although surrounded by nearby residential condominiums, the arena puts a focus on a low design rather than competing with the height of other buildings in the vicinity. 

A sideview of a set of wood stairs.

Developers also emphasized taking advantage of outdoor space, with expansive boardwalks along the water’s edge. The entryway is kept outside the building instead of being included in the interior space. This allows for a smaller footprint from building materials as well as physical space. 

+ Nikken Sekkei Ltd.

Via ArchDaily

Images via Nikken Sekkei Ltd.