Suntory Museum Of Art

by | 26. Jul 2012

Cultural | Project

Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka


A Japanese-style room is a comfortable space where people are able to relax on tatamis that are laid on the floor, and among the Japanese traditions, is the most relaxing and relieving environment.

In the background lies the phenomenon of the transforming of the city indoors. Communication and transportation technology has destroyed the distance that had existed among objects, and has transfigured the entire city into a massive “indoor” house.

Inside large houses there are numerous corridors and dining rooms, yet there is no relaxing Japanese-style room where time passes slowly, and generates conversation among familiar people, and among people and objects. I drew the plan for the Suntory Museum of Art hoping to become the quiet Japanese-style room in a clamorous urban environment, .
The people of the 20th century wanted a museum that was an exaggerated “urban monument”, now the people of the 21st century are looking for a peaceful Japanese-style room.

I felt the Japanese-style room building should not be a pretentious bluff but constructed using human-friendly materials cherished in our daily lives, white porcelain kind to the skin, paulownia which maintains humidity, and white oak used for barrels.

A light adjusting device hinted from the design of the traditional Japanese window “Muso-Koshi” has been placed on the frontage facing the greenery of the park. This device softens the scenery and light falling into the Japanese-style room. Japanese people have used these kinds of devices to appreciate the four seasons and the passing of time.

Surrounded by beautiful art, gentle materials and soft light, time passes slowly.

/Kengo Kuma

Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka


The exterior of the building is covered with vertical louvers made of white ceramic panels, giving the building a transparent feeling.

Because ceramic panels are rather weak they are usually thickened, or cast into concrete for enhanced strength, making them appear heavy and dull…a far cry from the delicate imagery of a tea bowl.

The development of a new method of reinforcing thin ceramic panels with aluminum extrusion made it possible to use extra-fine edges in the details.

Our idea was to realize within a massive urban architecture an imagery so fragile that it may break if not handled wholeheartedly.
/Kengo Kuma

Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka


The interior finishes are wood and traditional “washi” (Japanese paper) which create a natural warmth while admitting a soft light.


Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka


Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka



Photo: arcspace


The galleries are kept simple using few materials not to obstruct the view. The lighting, controlled from above and below, replicates traditional Japanese lighting where the light entering over the “shoji” screen and from the “andon” (paper enclosed oil light) circulates around the floor.


Photo: arcspace



Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka


The exhibition spaces on the third and fourth floor use movable partitions, Japanese “fusuma” (sliding doors) and “shoji” (paper screen sliding panels), to seal off adjacent exhibition rooms, making the spaces flexible.

Two sliding “muso goshi” lattices in the 9.3 meter tall third floor gallery makes it possible to totally shade the space or open it to the green areas in the surrounding park.


Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka



Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka

The top floor lounge, reserved for premium members, has a roof terrace with magnificent views of the city.


Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka



Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace


The small 7.5 square meter 4.5 mat “Genchoan” tea-room, established when the Suntory Museum was founded, has been brought to the new location from Akasaka Mitsuke. A 13.2 square meter 8 mat room and a chair-style room, as well as a Japanese-style terrace, are available for special events.


Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka



Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka


The gift shop and café are located by the entrance on the first floor.


Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka



Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka


The Suntory Museum of Art was founded in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo in 1961 and moved to it’s previous Akasaka-Misuke location in 1975.

The Suntory Art Museum, together with the The National Art Center and the the Mori Art Museum, form the “Art Triangle Roppongi,” establishing Roppongi as one of Tokyo’s major cultural centers.


Drawings courtesy Kengo Kuma & AssociatesFirst Floor Plan


Drawings courtesy Kengo Kuma & AssociatesThird Floor Plan



Drawings courtesy Kengo Kuma & Associates


Drawings courtesy Kengo Kuma & Associates Section



ARCHITECTKengo Kuma & Associates
Nikken Sekkei