A letter from Toyo Ito, Honorary Curator of the Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture, Imabari:
June 28, 2011--Mr. Atsuo Tokoro first visited my office in 2004 together with Mr. Koji Hasegawa of Gallery Hasegawa. He had come to ask me to design an annex for the Tokoro Museum, which he had donated to the island of Omishima. This was before Omishima had become part of Imabari City.
I had never been to Omishima before. When I first set foot on the island with Mr. Tokoro and Mr. Hasegawa, I was immediately overwhelmed by its beauty, as well as a mysterious power I felt there. It seemed to be a power hidden in the land itself, one that hinted at the presence of spirits in the earth.
The first step in our design process was the selection of a site. This proved to be easier said than done. From the top of a slope covered with mandarin orange trees, the view of the island-dotted Seto Inland Sea was spectacular — but there was virtually no flat land on which to erect a building.
While the design went through various permutations, the town of Omishima merged with the city of Imabari. This was also a period during which I spoke with Mr. Tokoro and Mr. Hasegawa about my dreams concerning the future of architecture. When I told them that I wanted to open a school for educating young architects, the two of them immediately said, “Why don’t you build it here?”
Imabari happens to be the hometown of the great architect Kenzo Tange. This fact alone made me extremely hesitant to see an architecture museum in my name built in the same city, but the warm encouragement of Mayor Kan and the citizens of Imabari gave me the courage to undertake this project.
They also graciously allowed me to rebuild the Silver Hut in Omishima. This structure had received the Architectural Institute of Japan Award when it was originally built as my residence in Nakano, Tokyo, in 1984.
In this way the Steel Hut, a pavilion for exhibitions constructed with a donation from Mr. Tokoro to Imabari City, and the Silver Hut, serving as a space for workshops and research, came to stand side by side on a promontory overlooking the glorious Seto Inland Sea.
To Mr. Tokoro, Mr. Hasegawa, Mayor Kan, the Imabari City Council, and the citizens of Imabari, I wish to express my deepest gratitude for making this possible. I pledge to do all I can to ensure that this Architecture Museum contributes to the future growth and prosperity of Imabari.
--Courtesy Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture
Read ARCHITECT Magazine's complete coverage of Toyo Ito's 2013 Pritzker Prize: