Naoshima Hall

by | 13. Mar 2017

Project | Public/ leisure

A magnificent, floating roof forms the defining feature of Naoshima Hall. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects

By Jennifer McMaster

The remote island of Naoshima lies in the Kagawa Prefecture, in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. It is known to many for its impressive collection of art and architecture – as a part of the Benesse Art Site, it is home to works by Tadao Ando, James Turrell and Ryue Nishizawa. Yet Naoshima is also home to its own architectural traditions, which can be seen across the island’s villages and valleys.

The Naoshima Hall project, by Hiroshi Sambuichi, places a beautifully nuanced building in Honmura, an old castle town on the island’s eastern edge. It is at once a work of art, an astonishing piece of architecture, and a symbol of Sambuichi’s research into this island’s many ‘flows’.


Naoshima Hall is located within the old castle town of Honmura, and draws heavily from the town’s architectural history. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects

Naoshima Hall is a project grounded in local history and knowledge. As Hiroshi Sambuichi explains, the project is chiefly influenced by ‘the wisdom of the local way of life, which comprises an intimacy with nature in an unbroken succession since distant medieval times.’

To better understand the island, Sambuichi spent two and a half years studying its sun, wind and water patterns. During this time, he also noticed how the local architecture responds to these phenomena – through subtle gestures in siting, orientation and planning.


In its design, orientation and siting, Naoshima Hall contains many lessons on posterity. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects

Much of this research translates into Naoshima Hall. The project, which measures around 1000 square metres, is made up of a large multipurpose hall, a smaller community center, and a moss garden, which is bordered by a pond. The hall’s interior is an open-plan space, with a stage for practicing bunraku puppetry. These functions are intended to serve both local residents and tourists who pass through the town.

On approach, the defining feature of Naoshima Hall is its roof, an impressive form made from hinoki, or Japanese cypress. This roof maintains a traditional hipped profile, and hovers above a long, low berm. Off to the side, the community center adopts an equally elegant form, rising in vertical tiers towards the sky.


The community center, which sits alongside Naoshima Hall, adopts a complimentary roof form. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects

These elements also serve a climatic purpose. All of these gestures appear in Naoshima’s building vernacular and were observed, and appropriated, by Sambuichi. The berm, for example, provides thermal mass to the hall’s interior, and helps regulate seasonal temperatures. The crisp, triangular opening in the hall’s roof is similarly pragmatic – it allows the prevailing north-south breeze to flow through the roof and, when opened, draws inner air up from below.


A long, low berm provides thermal mass to the hall’s interior. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects


Screens slide back to frame a view of the garden and a floating platform. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects

Moving inside, Naoshima Hall continues to balance traditional architectural thinking with impeccable contemporary craftsmanship. The space is kept flexible, allowing it to accommodate anything from performance to a sports game.  Meanwhile, a floating timber platform, which juts out into the water, can be appropriated as a tea ceremony venue or theatre stage.


The interior materials are natural and calm, and feel like ‘a part of the earth’. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects

The hall space is lined with soil walls and both earth and hinoki floors, while the sweeping ceiling is covered in white stucco. These natural materials ensure that Sambuichi’s architecture remains ‘a part of the Earth.’

A similar sense of tactility continues in the community center, where the soaring roof is supported by a gable-ridge beam. Below this lie several functions, including a kitchen, two tatami rooms and a small bathroom. Handmade washi paper screens divide the spaces, and are crafted with a care rarely seen outside of Japan.


Handmade washi paper screens separate the spaces within the community center. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects


The spaces throughout the project are warm, welcoming and intimate. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects

Naoshima Hall is the cornerstone of a broader research project that Sambuichi is undertaking. Titled The Naoshima Plan, it aims to communicate the island’s material history, and subtle natural patterns, to the next generation. According to Sambuichi, ‘The Naoshima Plan is an attempt to show the moving materials – like water and air – of the entire island, manifested in individual buildings, and to make people once again recognize their beauty and importance.’

It is rare to find a building as meticulously crafted, and thoughtfully configured, as Sambuichi’s latest creation. For this, and for its lessons on posterity, Naoshima Hall is a truly remarkable piece of architecture.

In April, Sambuichi will host an exhibition of their work at the Danish Architecture Centre. See more here


Naoshima Hall at night. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects



Site Plan. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects



Building sections. Naoshima Hall, Hiroshi Sambuichi © 2017 Sambuichi Architects



CITYNaoshima Island
ARCHITECTSambuichi Architects