LocationSaitama, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
Structure DesignOve Arup & Partners Ltd.
ContractorMatsui Kensetsu K.K.
Textile coordinateYoko Ando
Text description provided by the architects. This cemetery is located in the lush forests of the Sayama hills. The community hall stands midway on a slope above a city. The site enjoys excellent views, but we sought not to open the building fully to its scenery nor, for that matter, to entirely close it. Rather, we wanted to create a space that, while open, would have a degree of closure. To this end, we gathered the service-related rooms in a central, reinforced-concrete core and arranged the visitor lounge and dining rooms around the core on a circular plan open to the exterior.
Surrounding the building with a tranquil reflecting pool, resonant with nearby Lake Sayama, we located the parking and other miscellaneous functions out of view. Finally, erecting a delicate ring of slender, solid steel pillars and beams, we placed a wood roof frame, as if floating, above it. The roof, with an eave height of 1.35m, is like a wide brimmed hat.
As a result, the building offers two different landscape views, depending on the user's posture (sitting or standing). For people standing, it is an introspective space for gazing on nature indirectly, in the reflections of sky and greenery in the pool, and in the pool reflections striking the ceiling. The large roof beams, descending to the exterior pool, induce visitors to move toward the windows. There, a leather-upholstered bench is built into the wall under the window, and the visitors, in response to the lowness of the ceiling, unconsciously lower themselves onto the bench.
The building thus tells visitors, “Sit and rest a while before you leave.” The moment they sit, the Sayama hills and forests come into view, under the eaves, and the city appears in the distance. Outside, the community of the living presents a contrast with the quiet forest, where the deceased rest. Winds play on the green reflections in the pool. Inside, visitors feel enveloped in the gentle warmth of wood beams, close enough to touch.
Lifting their head to follow the lines of the beams, they see the sky beyond tree-filtered sunlight. While absorbed in Sayama`s beautiful natural surroundings, they remember the deceased. In this space, the wood frame is always intimately near, guiding people in their behavior or, to the contrary, responding to it. The rooftop above the office is a space for trees, surrounded by high side windows that allow light and breeze into the guest spaces below.
The rooftop deciduous trees serve as a natural curtain. Growing thick with leaves in summer, they change the bright sun to soft filtered light. In winter, they allow rays of warm sunlight deep into the interior.
The ring of windows is slightly inclined, with its highest point above the reception and waiting room. Besides imparting rhythm to the interior, the incline of the windows has an effect of guiding people deeper into the building. It also enables passive air-conditioning by means of natural gravity ventilation, cool air is drawn in from the reflecting pool while warm air is expelled through the windows at their highest point.