- Chief Project Architect / Lead Designer: Higashino Tomonobu
- Partner Architect: Ogawa Fumiya
- Project & Construction Manager: Shirouzu Kohta
- Jr Architect / Cg Designer: Marshall Kentaro Karagianis
- Client: Domaine Kurodasho
- Structure Engineer: Takeshi Fukunaga
- Mep Engineer: Yoshiyuki Sata
- Lighting Designer: Shingo Ishidou
- City: Nishiwaki
- Country: Japan
Text description provided by the architects. Domaine is a French word meaning territory or compartment particularly in the historic Burgundy region, world-renowned for its fine wineries, and refers to producers who grow, harvest, ferment, and bottle the wine produced in their own vineyards. In contrast, in Japanese saké production, there has historically been a division of labor between "rice cultivation" and “rice brewing.” It is said that this is due to the development of the class system during the Edo period in which Japanese society was divided into four main groups: the samurai, the farmers and peasants, the artisans, and the merchants. Subsequently, to achieve the goal of creating a product that truly exudes the “terroir” and “vintage” of the Domaine, we inaugurated the construction of rice brewing facilities in 2018, a development that accorded us the means with which to use the rice grown on our own adjacent rice paddies to produce saké.
Construction of a total of eight buildings, including those for agriculture, rice drying, rice milling, brewing, and refrigeration, as well as a seminar building, was carried out in three stages and completed in 2023. With the coalescence of cultivation and brewing, the rural landscape of the Domaine, complete with a saké brewery, appeared in Kurodasho. The property runs along the road for 500 meters and has an elevation difference of approximately 8 meters. On the north side of the site, four buildings, consisting of two brewery buildings, a refrigerator building, and a seminar building, are laid out in a square configuration with an open courtyard in the center.
Initially, a plan was undertaken for a huge factory-type structure with all the processes placed under one large roof. However, a careful re-evaluation of the operation that was investigated during this initial phase revealed that traditional saké brewing facilities commonly incorporated an open square in front of the facility. These open squares provided a sensible locale where the various kinds of brewing processes could be carried out in a comprehensive manner, including the washing of rice by hand, fermentation, sterilization after heating, washing, and drying of large saké brewing utensils, bottle storage as well as rest areas for the brewers.
At Domaine Kurodasho, the open square concept has been adopted to facilitate movement back and forth between each of the brewery buildings through the square unimpeded, with the result that a spatial configuration exists culminating in an open and modern architectural style in which the inside and outside are integrated into one, a design and spatial configuration that radiates the idiosyncrasies of a brewery, not a factory. This plan of elegant simplicity featured the adoption of a design in which the brewery facility was divided into two large buildings with the 50m x 12m open square situated in the center between the two buildings allowing for most of the processes to be completed on the ground in the square itself. All eight of the structures incorporate a steel-framed design with both natural wood and plywood utilized as much as possible for the exterior walls and finishing, a feature that also allows for the buildings to be maintained by the brewers themselves.
By prioritizing the Seminar House as a facility where visitors can physically experience the Domaine, an approach incorporating the topography of the land is established with the main floor set at 4 meters above the ground and the large open space of the building running north to south. A panoramic view of the vast rice field landscape is seen when facing north, while the brewers' coming and going as they perform their duties in the square unfolds when looking south. It is a place where one can visually experience the Domaine of agriculture and brewery so envisioned by the Director.
In the rice milling area and the drying control area, the rice grown on the Domaine is first dried, then the chaff and other debris are eliminated, and the bran is subsequently removed in a polishing process that sees the grains transformed into lustrous white rice. Since large machines for rice processing are installed in the center of the rice milling and drying control buildings, architectural dimensions have naturally been determined by the need to cover them architecturally. Both interior spaces, thus, encompass large open areas with ceiling heights of some 8 meters.
Similarly, to provide ease of access for transport trucks to pull alongside under the eaves where loading and offloading can be facilitated smoothly, the external outlines of the buildings have been determined in accordance with these needs, The same aesthetically attractive wood boarding and black-hued materials utilized for the brewing buildings have been adopted here as well, bringing a sense of unity throughout the facility.