Architect Junya Ishigami has recently completed KAIT Plaza, a minimalist, column-free pavilion at the Kanagawa Institute of Technology in Japan. The poject follows on the architect’s previous work for the university, the Workshop building, which completed in 2008. Addressing the question of how to create truly multi-tasking spaces, Ishigami explores versatility in terms of spatial experience rather than function. Seeking to create a ‘room’ for the students to sit and relax, the architect started without a prescribed function or form in mind. Instead, he tried to imagine the different ways the structure could be used.
The result is a low volume that feels closely connected to the ground, its roofline rising and falling with the terrain’s topographical curves. Inside, a bright, white interior, as crisp and cloud-like as the exterior, is equally ‘hilly’, lit by 59 square openings of varied sizes on the roof. Areas underneath these openings are well lit up while other areas can maintain appropriate dimness as the lowered ceiling filters the entering light. On a global scale, this aspect is equivalent to the light and shadow emerging from the play between clouds and sun during cloudy days. The spatial un-evenness of light’s shades changes according to time and weather. The openings are not covered by glass, and wind and rain can enter the interior. On rainy days, raindrops falling through the openings look like rain pillars, creating a hazy scenery. You can feel the sound of rain in the room, and see the rain in front of you, so the natural changes perceived by the body become the architectural scenery.
To support the plaza, 83 piles and 54 ground anchors were used as part of the project’s reinforced concrete foundations. The structure is described as being similar to that of a suspension bridge. the maximum span is approximately 90 meters (295 ft) and the ceiling height changes by about 30 cm (1 ft) due to the heat shrinkage of the iron plate. However, despite the scale and complexity of the construction, the project also has a human scale. The ceiling height is comparable to that of a house, while the thickness of the roof canopy has a similar scale to domestic furniture.
To reduce the burden on the four walls, additional reinforcement has been included in the outer circumference of the roof. Meanwhile, the floor has been covered with permeable asphalt used for paving roads. This surface instantly absorbs water and allows it to flow under the plaza, keeping the floor dry and able to be sat on comfortably. additionally, the asphalt can be pressure washed to completely remove oil and paint.
The project stems from junya ishigami’s desire to achieve a close relationship between the human body and its environment. In contrast to many other architecture projects, which focus on the standing state of a human — and require furniture such as chairs and beds to connect the body to its environment — the starting point of the plaza’s development was the seated position. Occupants are invited to take off their shoes and sit freely on the floor, or lie down on one of the gentle slopes. In this way, the body and the environment are directly related as part of an integrated landscape.