The Chichu Art Museum, which literally means “art museum in the earth” is a unique modern art museum located on the art island of Noshima in Japan. The museum, home to over five distinctive art galleries was designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando. It was constructed in 2004 as a site rethinking the relationship between nature and the people, which is now a major tourist attraction.
The museum, built underground to avoid disrupting the natural beautiful view of the Seto Inland sea. Despite the positioning of the building, the museum is designed in such a manner that it facilitates the distinctive use of natural light for the illumination of the artworks that change the appearance and the milieu of the space during the different viewing times throughout the day and along the seasons of the year. The museum designed by Tadao Ando itself is a work of art.
Style and concept
The brutalist-style approach was taken by Tadao Ando for the Chichu Art Museum. Usage of concrete was done to create clean lines and built-in decorations. The simple approach to the details such as the empty areas of the museum has been considered in terms of the experience of the person moving through space.
Strong forms and unique materials are used underground. This passionate attempt to create a space where the visitors experience the work purely despite being underground where they are completely cut off from the outside world, making their perceptions sensitive, concentrating solely on the artwork, is a bold concept.
Plan and section
Tadao Ando designed the floor plan, formed of galleries formed around two courtyards, one equilateral triangle, and a square plan linked by open-air passageways. It closely resembles a narrative structure that works on the micro as well as macro level. The structure was built using Tadao Ando’s signature materials. There are no exterior walls except the entrance. All the structures are built beneath the hill with various sections exposing natural light. It is difficult to anticipate the structure as under or overground.
The thoughtful planning eliminates the feeling of being underground or any sense of claustrophobia that can affect the experience of the space. Axes and directions do not exist underground.
Material used and impact
The material used for the design of the Chichu art museum by Tadao Ando is reduced to the minimum. The material solely used is concrete along with the other main materials steel, glass, and wood. The walls are made up of smooth concrete. Despite concrete being a heavy and solid material, these walls which are massive as well as unadorned create a sense of weightlessness.
The concrete used is vibrant, which is impressive as concrete is known to be raw and aggressive material. The low gloss coating is provided to this concrete creating a radiant, airy effect, which when connected to the blue sky eliminates the disturbance creating a state of pure zen.
The museum unifies architecture and the natural environment. The art, each of its significance of how we perceive and interact with our surroundings. The space is ideal Tadao Ando design as it takes into account eastern and western concepts, which result in the building of an institution that reverberates with its visitors, regardless of their backgrounds and cultures.
Entering the museum, the simplicity of walls and the mixture of natural and dark shadows guide throughout the space. Between every gallery, there is an intermediary space consisting of skylights, wall opening, and courtyards which bring the outside world inside. The courtyard exposes the natural ground covered with grass and jagged rocks. The pathway is designed in such a manner that it shifts the visitor’s attention to the natural elements. The cutouts in-ground allow the flow of natural light exposing clean geometric shapes.
Each artist has their space which is designed to enhance as well as harmonize the experience of the artworks. Tadao Ando integrated architecture with nature, allowing the organic structure to tune in with its natural surroundings.
The light energy running through the diagonal and sharp edges of the concrete creates a sense of motion and velocity. The concrete which stands still seemingly powerless is powerful in its own ways.
While walking through the concrete walls, the shadows and lighting transform the space to being exposed and mysterious at the same time. This obstruction is beneficial in a museum as it shifts one’s senses of placement and shifts into a spatial experience.
Built almost entirely underground, the museum is a perfect balance contracting the qualities of being both non-monumental but highly architectural at the same time. Usage of common and mundane material for decades and still being relevant is a highly commendable act committed by Tadao Ando, proving his work.
The Chichu Art museum will also be magical because of the consideration of nature in this project. The level of consideration of nature is a remarkable accomplishment. The museum when seen by a bird’s eye view looks like a graphic design poster that sits on uneven terrain.