Our principle for the design of art schools was that the architecture must lift up the students’ spirits. Nowadays, we see lots of dry, dispiriting school buildings perhaps because there were requests for the buildings that are easy for maintenance. In order to counter such tendency, the new building for Kyoto University of Art and Design must have shown something new.
However, the project turned out to be extremely difficult. The first challenge was its site, which was almost a cliff. To build a big-scale building in this environment seemed technically impossible. The architecture came into being with the idea from our structural engineer, Mr Norihide Imamura, that the 67-strong earth anchors would link the cliff and the building. The second task was that since this new building stands at the core of all activities in the campus, it had to be a place to smoothen the flow of various logistics in and around. Rather than designing a new solid object, which is a commonly-observed method in such project, our concept was that the architecture itself could be made flexible to play different roles, such as a bridge, slope or a hole. Same approach was applied for the façade of the building.
Our neighboring building, Ningenkan, was a massive stone-clad building. If we had repeated the same pattern for Shiseikan, the impact of our neighbor’s colonnade would have been ruined. So while avoiding colonnades, we attempted to preserve the force and coarseness of the stone. Triple-stacking of pure granite (25cm×60cm×4.5m) at the south and was an unprecedented detail, but responded well to the colonnade of Ningenkan, and the stone pillars to the west, with the passages in between, became visually effective as the view from Shirakawa-Dori, strong enough to be the symbol of the university yet delicate as if it could naturally fuse into its landscape, which is designated as a scenic preservation area. Students tend to vacillate between opting for ‘heaviness’ or ‘lightness’ in architecture. We wanted to encourage them by taking the third way.
In this way, we abandoned the style of ‘wholeness’ of classical architecture by proposing a design that thoroughly ‘compromises’ with our neighboring environment.