Flashback: Sendai Mediatheque / Toyo Ito

© Nacasa & Partners Inc

With the intentions of designing a transparent cultural media center that is supported by a unique system to allow complete visibility and transparency to the surrounding community, the Sendai Mediatheque by Toyo Ito is revolutionary in it’s engineering and aesthetic.

Six steel-ribbed slabs slabs, each 15-3/4″ thick, appear to float from the street, supported by only thirteen vertical steel lattice columns that stretch from ground plane to the roof. This striking visual quality that is one of the most identifiable characteristics of the project is comprable to large trees in a forest, and function as light shafts as well as storage for all of the utilities, networks and systems.

More on the Sendai Mediatheque by after the break.

© Toyo Ito

Each plan is free form, as the structural column lattices are independent of the facade and fluctuate in diameter as they stretch from floor to floor. The simplest intentions of focusing on plates (floors), tubes (columns), and skin (facade/exterior walls) allows for a poetic and visually intriguing design, as well as a complex system of activities and informational systems.

© Flickr- username: yisris

The four largest tubes are situated at the corners of the plates, which serve as the principle means of support and bracing. Five of the nine smaller tubes are straight and contain elevators, while the other four are more crooked and carry the ducts and wires.

Upon approaching the Sendai Mediatheque, the public is led into a continuation of the surrounding city into the double height hall of the main entrance through large panes of glass. This open square includes a cafe, retail shop, and community space that is capable of supporting film screenings and other events.

© Flickr- username: yisris

Another aspect unique to this building is the involvement of many designers, as the interior of each level incorporated another person. Kazuyo Sejima designed the ground floor, placing the administrative offices behind a translucent screen. The Shimin Library found on the second and third levels include a browsing lounge complete with internet access and specially designed furniture by K.T. Architecture.

© Archienvironment

The gallery space of the fourth and fifth levels contain a flexible exhibition space with moveable walls, and also a more static space with fixed walls and a rest area with seating designed by Karim Rashid. Ross Lovegrove took charge of the sixth level, adding a 180 seat cinema and green and white furniture fitting to the audio-visual multimedia library.

© Flickr- username: yisris

The tree-like nature of the metal columns of the Mediatheque are continuous with the natural surroundings of the area, as the design is found on a street lined with trees. The building changes along with the seasons, it’s openness reflective of the summer green and also the streets during winter.

Architect: Toyo Ito
Location: Sendai-shi,
Project Year: 2001
References: Toyo Ito, Ron Witte, Rob Gregory
Photographs: RIBA, Archienvironment, Toyo Ito, Flickr- username: Yisris

Cite: Sveiven, Megan. "Flashback: Sendai Mediatheque / Toyo Ito" 17 Mar 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=118627>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    I didn’t know this building at all. The irregular tubes are a great attraction and even more when you realize they are the support and brace of the building.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    This is where the modern manifesto meets the organic thinking. You can see all of the 5 point to a new architecture according to the modern movement, just with a twist of organic shaping.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Does anyone know how well it stood up to the earthquake?

    From some of the videos I have seen of Japan most buildings seem to have resisted the quake pretty well and so is a testament to all those who work in the Japanese construction industry. They have save many lives today.

    I can only offer my deepest sympathy’s to any one who is in or knows someone in japan.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down -6

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      Maybe someone need to return to freshman English to learn what “visually poetic” means.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Only freshman architecture students would describe a space as being visually poetic? Im confused.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    I am despirately trying to get a hold of these structural plans. Does anyone know how I may contact the Structural Engineers who collaborated with Toyo Ito on this project?

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Author of this article needs to back to the third grade and learn the difference between it’s and its. And the editor needs a slap on the wrist.

Share your thoughts