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Architecture | Topics | Magazine 7+8/2012

Individual Twist - Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

The Nebuta Museum in the northern Japanese port city of Aomori is wrapped in a very unusual curtain of red steel ribbons. The architects developed the façade of the building entirely without the help of CAD programmes. Instead, a 1:50 paper model ¬of the 748 ribbons formed the basis of the final individually twisted steel design.

Architects:
molo design, Vancouver, Stephanie Forsythe, Todd MacAllen
Frank La Rivière Architects, Tokyo, Frank La Rivière
d/dt Arch, Tokyo, Yasuo Nakata
Location: Yasukata 1-1-1, J–030-0803 Aomori

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

Image: Frank La Rivière, Tokyo

The building encircled by shimmering, red, twisted steel ribbons contains an exhibition hall, a theatre, rehearsal rooms and a restaurant. The cultural centre is dedicated to the Nebuta Matsuri Festival, one of the largest festivals in Japan. Nebuta are floats of hand-made, brightly coloured paper figures of warriors, animals and demons, which are illuminated from the inside and paraded through the city during the festival.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

Photo: Frank La Rivière, Tokyo

The façade of the building was developed without using CAD programmes.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

A paper model was used for experimental determination of the individual curvature of each steel ribbon.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

An effect of the variation in curvature is that some parts of the façade¬ look closed, while others seem transparent, permitting a visual connection between interior and exterior.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

The model was used to explore various alternatives with regard to light direction, sightlines and external appearance.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

Light distribution was studied using sketches...

...and models.


A film documents how diverse design parameters were checked on the model:



Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

West elevation of model.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

Façade sequence from north to east (with main entrance) and south to west.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

Every single ribbon was shaped individually using a specially developed machine.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

Image: Frank La Rivière, Tokyo

The tops of the individual steel ribbons are all arranged parallel to the edge of the roof, while opening up at different angles towards the ground, depending on the incidence of sunlight in the course of the day. Between these fixed points, the ribbons are twisted around their own axes, with some of these creating openings by an additional sideways bend. The overall design looks like it could have been the work of the wind, which gives the structure an additional lightness. The suspended steel ribbons are 12 metres high, 30 centimetres wide and nine millimetres thick. Flexible fixation at three further points allows for thermal expansion effects and bending through wind loads.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

The tops of the individual steel ribbons are aligned parallel to the roof edge.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

Flexible fixation of the ribbons in the central region allows adaptation to changes caused by thermal expansion and bending due to wind forces.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

The ribbons go all the way to the ground where they are fixed invisibly.

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

The façade screen creates a perimeter space, which is representative of a traditional Japanese 'engawa' (veranda or terrace surrounding a house). Image: Frank La Rivière, Tokyo

Museum and Cultural Centre in Aomori

Stepping into the unknown: the circumferential space acts as a threshold between the contemporary world of the city and the world of stories and myths of Nebuta. Image: Stephanie Forsythe / molo design

Von Peter Popp
17.07.2012

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