Kengo Kuma uses materials to connect with the local context and the users of his projects. The textures and elementary forms of constructive systems, materials, and products, are exhibited and used in favor of the architectural concept, giving value to the functions that will be carried out in each building.
From showcases made with ceramic tiles to the sifted light created by expanded metal panels, passing through an ethereal polyester coating, Kuma understands the material as an essential component that can make a difference in architecture from the design stages. Next, we present 21 projects where Kengo Kuma masterfully uses construction materials.
Precast Concrete as a Brutal Façade
Located along the waterfront in the city of Dundee, Scotland, this museum appears as a petrified ship. Kuma has created a façade composed of multiple horizontal layers of precast concrete, delivering an interesting play of light and shadow from a distance, and a delicate texture when approaching.
Ceramic Roof Tiles as Shelves
In this shoe store, the architect takes advantage of the elementary form of the ceramic pieces to create all the elements that the space needs to work: walls, shelves, the staff counter, and the customers' bench. Each piece is simple, but its sum is complex and attractive.
Fabric as Light Ceilings and Walls
Contrasting with a dramatic wooden screen on its facade, also used unexpectedly, the restaurant located on the first floor of the hotel is configured spatially through the use of the fabric. Long white veils are spread over the space, defining light walls and hiding the technical installations on the roof.
Wooden Grid as Showcase
In this museum, the architect replicates the system of Cidori, an old Japanese toy, at the necessary scale to become the support for the works of art that will be exhibited inside. The resulting structure consists of a grid of 50cm square.
Recycled Materials as a Translucent Facade
The house is inspired by the "Chise," the traditional housing of the Ainu. It is a wooden frame made of Japanese larch with a membrane material of polyester fluorocarbon coating. The inner part is covered with removable glass-fiber-cloth membrane. Between the two membranes, a polyester insulator recycled from PET bottles is inserted that penetrates the light.
Glass Panels as an Animated Lattice
Several tempered and laminated glass panels, with an enameled surface treatment, create an exo-structure that envelops the museum, creating movement and identity to the building.
Wooden Boards as a Playground
Wooden boards have been cut, glued, and treated to build a beautiful and smooth topography for the community center playroom and nursery. Also, the ceiling in wooden planks with varied spacings folds and becomes the façade to merge into the neighboring townscape of small houses.
Zinc and Laminated Veneer Lumber as Brise Soleil
In this project in Paris, Kuma has designed a succession of vertical elements that define the rhythm of its façade towards the interior patio. This solar control system is composed of Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) panels coated in zinc, and supported by a steel structure.
Milled Wood as a Lattice Ceiling
According to Kuma, "we selected fir trees grown near the site and milled them to a width of 30mm, piling them up like twigs, in order to produce a transitional scale between the large forest and small architecture. This is also a medium through which humans can be integrated into the forest. The little twigs disperse the light filtering through the skylight, repeating the effect of komorebi or ‘rays of light’ often experienced in the forest."
Ceramic Tiles as a Wall Screen
In this case, the outer wall is covered with a screen of tiles hung up by stainless wires, controlling the volume of sunlight coming into the rooms inside. Old tiles for both the screen and the roof came from local houses. Their sizes are all different, and that helps the architecture merge into the ground naturally.
Raw Oak Wooden Boards as Cladding
"Wooden boards of natural oak envelop the building creating an irregular rhythm both in the façade and in the roof. The intention was to keep the natural and rough aspect of the oak, so we decided to keep the bark as well as to not add any treatments to highlight the natural aspect of the wood," says Kuma about the design.
Expanded Metal Panels with Paper Pulp as a Light Filter
By blending expanded metal panels and Japanese paper pulp, the white screens give the space a soft, natural-lit atmosphere. During the process, the mesh sheet is soaked in a starchy liquid made from kozo (mulberry) and sunset hibiscus. Various levels of transparency were achieved by controlling and adjusting the thickness of the solution and its way of drying.
Wooden Beams as a Louver
A series of wooden beams are subtly connected through their smaller edges to visually "extend" and generate louvers, applied on the glazed façade. "Wooden louvers not only create a gentle rhythm to the streets, but also take in forestry sunbeam inside the building."
Aluminum Tiles as a 5th Façade
Jodo Shu Ichigyo-in Temple is much seen from above. As such, the roof becomes an important part of façade. In it extruded half-cylinder aluminum ‘tiles’ create a unique texture for the building.
Stone and Steel as a Building Envelope
In this project, Kuma reinterprets the local stone wall through a steel structure containing stones of regular sections and a homogeneous texture. This system surrounds the entire building and works to help control solar radiation on its most exposed facades.
Steel Mesh as Green Eaves
Looking to lighten and abstract the eaves of the building, the architect has designed a corrugated stainless steel mesh of 5 mm, anchored to allow the growth of vegetation on it.
Fabric as an Organic Wallcovering
In this interior project, triaxially folded, thermally treated fabric was used. By maintaining the softness of the fabric and strength of shape-memory texture, the material allows generating an organic and ethereal environment.
Straw on a Curtain Wall
Kuma seeks again to connect with local history by using straw as a material, making modules of 2000x980mm. "Normally in thatched roofing, thatch is fixed vertically against the foundation, in which its cut ends face towards outside." In this building, however, the bunch of thatch is bound horizontally to the foundation, with which the cut end will not be exposed to rainfall and will last long," says the project description.
Tiles as a 'Façade of Particles'
Local tiles have been hung by wires to make them float in the air, creating a "facade of particles." This system reduces the natural weight of the material, seeking to merge the building with the nature that surrounds it, and allows controlled passage of sunlight.
Aluminum Panels as Vertical Planters
As the architects comment, this building includes "a living façade made of aluminum die-cast panels that act as vertical planters. The slightly slanted panels are made of monoblock casting and give an organic appearance, as the cast comes from decayed styrene foam."
Aluminum Grating Panels as a Mosaic Façade
According to the architect, "with 850 panels of aluminum grating that have different sizes and patterns and are combined as mosaic, we tried to translate the humane and unsorted atmosphere of this vibrant district alongside the canal into the architectural vocabulary. Normally, multipurpose buildings in big cities are treated unfavorably. However, with the application of the industrial material as the particle, we succeeded in giving a fresh expression of 'noise' to the building."
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on May 30, 2019.