Kohtei is an art pavilion built by artist Kohei Nawa and architects Yoshitaka Lee and Yuichi Kodai from Nawa’s Kyoto-based creative studio Sandwich in Shinshoji Zen Museum and Gardens within the campus of Tenshinzan Shinshoji temple in Fukuyama-city, Hiroshima, Japan.
The temple was commissioned by a shipbuilding company as a tribute to workers who lost their lives at sea or as a result of industrial accidents.
Kohtei offers the visitors an opportunity to contemplate spirit of Zen by looking at its landscape/gardens and being subjected to a meditation like experience through its art installation.
The approach from a seamless and minimal footbridge, provides the visitor with a breathtaking first impression. Kohtei’s distinctive form was inspired from the roots of temple’s establishment which led to create a building that resembles the motif of a ship. It is “an architecture that floats on waves surrounded by mountains” and is themed to work with three fundamental materials “Wood”,“Stone” and “Water”.
“The ship-shaped building, covered with wood shingles that uses the traditional Kokera roofing technique floats above the stony landscape,” says Kohei Nawa. “Walking through the ocean of stones, full of materiality, one goes up the gently sloping walkway to reach the entrance of the building. Upon entering the interior, a quietly rippling ocean with glimmers unfolds in the darkness.”
The body of the pavilion is entirely covered with Sawara wood (Japanese cypress) that seems to hover above the landscape creating underneath a piloti space. The woodwork on the roof was laid using Kokera-buki, a traditional roofing technique that is available in Japan for thousands of years.
The stone landscape represents the ocean in which the ship smoothly floats. The rugged stone has a high content of iron that rusts over the time. It was brought from nearby quarries unrefined and in its original state just as the dynamite blasted it off the face of the cliff, where each stone varies in size and shape, and its sharp edges provide a strong effect of contrasting light and shadow to the surrounding landscape. The path guides the visitors through the landscape, garden and building providing them with one seamless experience, allowing them to perceive the building in its multiple aspects.
The path gradually leads the visitors into the interior of the vessel-like roof through a small entrance where one finds an installation spreading in the darkness. The installation represents the immensity of the ocean and visitors can experience meditation while observing the shimmering lights reflected on the quietly rippling water waves. The darkness together with the faint sound of the room, curiously sharpens the visitor’s vision and auditory senses.
all images © Nobutada Omote