Launch Slideshow

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Mizuta Museum of Art

Mizuta Museum of Art

  • The Mizuta Museum of Art houses a collection of Ukiyo-e prints. The Japanese term translates as pictures of the floating world, and it provided the central theme for Studio SUMOs design: Gallery volumes appear to float within a concrete wrapper.

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    The Mizuta Museum of Art houses a collection of Ukiyo-e prints. The Japanese term translates as pictures of the floating world, and it provided the central theme for Studio SUMOs design: Gallery volumes appear to float within a concrete wrapper.

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    Daici Ano

    The Mizuta Museum of Art houses a collection of Ukiyo-e prints. The Japanese term translates as “pictures of the floating world,” and it provided the central theme for Studio SUMO’s design: Gallery volumes appear to float within a concrete wrapper.

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  • On the north end of the building, the delicacy of the Ukiyo-e prints being displayed within prevented the use of glass. Here, wood panels, covered with trellises that will host climbing vines, contrast with the concrete.

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    On the north end of the building, the delicacy of the Ukiyo-e prints being displayed within prevented the use of glass. Here, wood panels, covered with trellises that will host climbing vines, contrast with the concrete.

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    On the north end of the building, the delicacy of the Ukiyo-e prints being displayed within prevented the use of glass. Here, wood panels, covered with trellises that will host climbing vines, contrast with the concrete.

  • East facade showing cuts through the concrete panels.

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    East facade showing cuts through the concrete panels.

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    Koichi Torimura

    East façade showing cuts through the concrete panels.

  • Exterior at night.

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    Exterior at night.

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    Koichi Torimura

    Exterior at night.

  • The lower level of the two-story museum is sunk halfway below grade. A glass-enclosed information center (which can also host lectures and some exhibitions) is surrounded by a terrace accessed by stairs.

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    The lower level of the two-story museum is sunk halfway below grade. A glass-enclosed information center (which can also host lectures and some exhibitions) is surrounded by a terrace accessed by stairs.

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    Daici Ano

    The lower level of the two-story museum is sunk halfway below grade. A glass-enclosed information center (which can also host lectures and some exhibitions) is surrounded by a terrace accessed by stairs.

  •  The main circulation for the museum is a series of ramps) that are contained within the wrapper but not isolated from the elements.

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    The main circulation for the museum is a series of ramps) that are contained within the wrapper but not isolated from the elements.

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    Daici Ano

    The main circulation for the museum is a series of ramps that are contained within the wrapper but not isolated from the elements.

  • The glazed wall of the lower-level multipurpose space offers views out to the beginning of the museums ramp system.

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    The glazed wall of the lower-level multipurpose space offers views out to the beginning of the museums ramp system.

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    Daici Ano

    The glazed wall of the lower-level multipurpose space offers views out to the beginning of the museum’s ramp system.

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  • Internal stairs enclosed by wood-clad walls provide alternative circulation to the gallery reception area, which offers access into the galleries.

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    Internal stairs enclosed by wood-clad walls provide alternative circulation to the gallery reception area, which offers access into the galleries.

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    Daici Ano

    Internal stairs enclosed by wood-clad walls provide alternative circulation to the gallery reception area, which offers access into the galleries.

  • View from inside the lower-level information center.

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    View from inside the lower-level information center.

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    Koichi Torimura

    View from inside the lower-level information center.

  • Pieces from the university's collection of Ukiyo-e prints are rotated from off-site storage and into carefully-crafted display cases in one the musem's galleries. With black-stained wood floors, and black-painted walls and ceiling, the focus in the room is placed squarely on these "pictures of the floating world."

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp170D%2Etmp_tcm20-1275420.jpg

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    Pieces from the university's collection of Ukiyo-e prints are rotated from off-site storage and into carefully-crafted display cases in one the musem's galleries. With black-stained wood floors, and black-painted walls and ceiling, the focus in the room is placed squarely on these "pictures of the floating world."

    600

    Koichi Torimura

    Pieces from the university's collection of Ukiyo-e prints are rotated from off-site storage and into carefully crafted display cases in one the musem's galleries. With black-stained wood floors, and black-painted walls and ceiling, the focus in the room is placed squarely on these "pictures of the floating world."

  • One of two galleries on the upper level is used for the display of paintings and other works that can withstand exposure to more standard light levels.

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    One of two galleries on the upper level is used for the display of paintings and other works that can withstand exposure to more standard light levels.

    600

    Koichi Torimura

    One of two galleries on the upper level is used for the display of paintings and other works that can withstand exposure to more standard light levels.

Two program requirements are combined in one neat container at Josai University, a private institution in Japan’s Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo. The school wanted an appealing, environmentally optimal home for an exceptional collection of Japanese art assembled by its founder, Mikio Mizuta. And since the best-available site on the built-up campus was right at its public entrance, the project took on a second key role as a university gateway.

The constricted site, its 30-foot height limit, and the desire to save most of its existing trees dictated the overall building form: a shoe-box-like shape two stories high and about 100 feet long. But the resulting structure is anything but a simple square.

The building’s initial impression is of boxes within a box—of its galleries hovering inside a somewhat larger container. This composition, says partner Sunil Bald, AIA, of New York–based Studio SUMO, “is an allusion to the floating world,” a reference to the museum’s collection of Ukiyo-e (literally “pictures of the floating world”), a genre of paintings and woodblock prints. A series of ramps, sheltered but not fully enclosed, occupy the space between the galleries and the outer container.

These ramps, dimensioned for moving freight as well as visitors, lead to destinations on several levels. The lower floor, sunken a half level into the ground, houses various backup facilities and, most visibly, a glass-walled information center that doubles as a lecture hall and additional exhibition space. The upper part of the structure is occupied by two galleries, their floor levels 1 meter apart.

The long flanks of the outer container are composed of 52 concrete elements, each 4 feet wide and ranging from 28 to 21.5 feet high, bending 90 degrees at the top to span the 11-foot-wide ramps. Slits along the vertical joints provide daylight and ventilation for the spaces within. Besides sheltering the ramps, the concrete helps protect the galleries against solar heat gain and climate extremes.

Fabricating the concrete elements posed some unusual challenges. They had to be cast on edge, with forms that could be altered a bit for each unique piece; their vertical surfaces are not quite rectangular, but angled slightly to follow the slope of the ramps.

Visitors can reach the two upper-level galleries by following the ramps halfway up the building to the gallery-reception area. To one side of this lobby is a gallery designed to accommodate the museum’s prized Ukiyo-e prints and other treasures, which because of their fragility are rotated here from off-site storage; only a fraction of the collection is on view at one time. A few steps up on the other side, a second gallery exhibits less-vulnerable works such as 20th-century paintings. One can exit directly to the top of the ramp sequence from there.

Special attention was given to the care of the woodcuts and other antiquities in the first gallery. The architects visited many other museums that exhibited such art and distilled what they observed, designing the cases to exacting environmental standards. In accordance with Japanese tradition, the cases allow for the display of works either vertically or horizontally. And the soft, even case lighting is made more effective by minimal ambient light levels in the windowless space.

Today, it is unusual for American architects to carry out work in Japan. While many U.S. firms had projects there to the 1990s, such commissions have become quite rare. Significantly, this is not the first building on the Josai campus by Studio SUMO (whose name is not, as one might assume, of Japanese origin, but a compound of the names of the two founding principals: Bald and Yolande Daniels, Assoc. AIA, known to some by the nickname “Momo”). The firm designed Josai’s 75,000-square-foot School of Management, which was completed in 2006. That sleek but no-nonsense facility became a university asset. And, as this museum, it was designed with Obayashi’s contractors and design department.

Now the museum is another object of pride for the school, and one that is shared with and appreciated by the surrounding community. And ranging as they do from glass-encased to dimly lit, the galleries offer a variety of spaces for the art—Ukiyo-e prints or otherwise—to float, while the world stays grounded.


Project Credits

Project Mizuta Museum of Art, Sakado, Japan
Client Josai International University
Design Architect Studio SUMO, New York—Sunil Bald, AIA, Yolande Daniels, Assoc. AIA (partners-in-charge); David Huang, Edward Yujoung Kim, Anees Assali, Andrea Leung (project team)
Landscape Design Studio SUMO
Architect of Record Obayashi Design Department, Osaka, Japan—Koji Onishi (project manager); Nobuki Kobayashi (project architect); Setsu Kadota, Yuichiro Nishino (project team)
Structural Engineer Obayashi Design Department
M/E/P Engineer Obayashi Design Department
Contractor Obayashi Corp.
Size 7,000 square feet

Materials and Sources

Ceiling Black-painted acoustic board (galleries)
Exterior Cladding Precast concrete panels
Floors Tile (lobby and common spaces); Black-stained wood (galleries)
Walls Board-formed concrete (stairs); Painted or fabric-covered gypsum board (galleries)