In April 2016, the region of Kumamoto was struck by a devastating earthquake resulting in numerous buildings collapsing and catching on fire. Government officials estimated more than 8050 houses being destroyed, and more than 24,000 buildings being brought to serious damage (Goda, 2016). The rebuilding of the city and JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building were one of the consequent actions that followed post the effects of this destructive earthquake.

JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet1
JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building view_©SS Co., Ltd.

April 2021 (NIKKEN SEKKEI LTD, (n.d.)) marked the highly anticipated opening of the JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building by Nikken Sekkei, a symbol of recovery and rebuilding after mass tragedy for the people of Japan. The Kumamoto Station aimed at bringing vitality to the urban landscape around it. Along with this Station Building, ‘Amu Plaza Kumamoto’ and the hotel ‘The Blossom Kumamoto’, were also debuted (NIKKEN SEKKEI LTD, (n.d.)). JR Kyushu’s goal was to build a city where people wish to live, work and visit. This is centred around the Kumamoto Railway Station Building. The JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building by Nikken Sekkei was built on a site area of 19,945.97㎡. It boasts 1 basement and 12 floors above ground, structurally cast in steel reinforced concrete, reaching a height of 55.561m (NIKKEN SEKKEI LTD, (n.d.)). The floors from 1 to 8 are reserved for the ‘Amu Plaza Kumamoto’. The Plaza has restaurants, retail establishments, a wedding venue, and a multiplex-mimicked theatre on the eighth floor. (Archello (n.d.))

JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet2
Entrance View_©httpsdarcawards.comportfoliojr-kumamoto-station-building-japan

By dynamically altering the massive volumes of the main functions and the roof facing the plaza, the facade of the building mimicked the stacked, box-like layout of the Kumamoto Castle estate.

As guests approach the Nikken Sekkei-designed station building, a sizable roof protrudes out onto the plaza to provide shade from the direct sun. Above this roof structure is the 15 x 30-metre Ohyane Terrace.

It is an aerial plaza with a mist distribution system, pop-up tents, and an event space that is perfect for kids to play and unwind. Here, a portion of the famed Kato Shrine, which honours local hero Kiyomasa Kato, has been partially rebuilt, giving the community a grounding connection. 

JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet3
Sectional Representation of the Building_©httpswww.fashion-press.netnewsgallery621481182475

Biophilia 

The JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building is an example of biophilic design, which tries to increase human pleasure and productivity by incorporating nature into the architecture of the environment. Nikken Sekkei designed the “Boken no Mori” (“Adventure Garden”), a sizable indoor multi-story garden of water and vegetation that rises to the seventh floor, and serves as the focal point of the building. (Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, 2022)

The idea behind this project is the geography of the ASO Region. By designing a landscape that represents “Kumamoto, the Land of water” and captures the essence of the distinctive nature of the ASO region, the aim was to bring this type of nature to the people in the urban centre. The placement of the waterscapes gives the impression that it connects the upper and lower floors of the structure. A water basin with the design of a cluster of natural springs from the ASO region can be found on the ninth floor, where the water flow starts. There are three waterfalls that flow through glass and stone walls from the eighth level to the first floor. These waterfalls eventually combine to form a 10 m high waterfall, resulting in a picturesque setting that acts as the façade of the commercial buildings. From the third level to the bottom floor, the water descends in the form of a 10 m by 10 m cascading waterfall. Minami-Nabegataki Oguni’s Falls served as inspiration. Additionally, Nikken Sekkei designed many water-viewing elements scattered across the station plaza outside the structure, and the theme of water features continues into the town.

Biophilia is designed in a way that accurately depicts the surroundings of their own country (Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, 2022). While in nature, plants are free to grow and prosper wherever they choose, in this building’s vertical gardens, plants have to be meticulously chosen and arranged for the best possible growing environment. Nikken Sekkei worked on focused daylight simulations to determine the ideal locations for each kind of plant to best replicate their natural habitat. The thirty-meter stone wall receives abundant natural light, and in this well-lit location, the vegetation appears to have grown organically on the rock surface. In order to use this natural light most efficiently, it was essential to find the optimal growing environment by programming each of the plants to be placed in the right location according to the indoor environment. 

JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet4
Central Atrium from 3rd Floor_©HarunoriNoda-13
JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet5
Waterfall from third floor to ground floor_©SS Co., Ltd.

Through the use of plants and wall materials that absorb sound, the sound of the waterfall creates a setting that guests may enjoy in comfort. The airflow generated by the waterfall moves throughout the garden. An analysis shows that the wind is close to that of the natural world, with both regularity and sudden changes. Through the aforementioned design tools utilised by Nikken Sekkei, the visitors are gaining a rich experience while seeing, feeling, and even smelling Kumomoto.

JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet6
Vertical Green Walls_©SS Co., Ltd.

Since there aren’t many large-scale indoor multi-floor gardens in existence to use as precedents, Nikken Sekkei put together a broad team for the project that included experts in temperature/humidity, sound, light, landscape, and computer simulation. The resulting project was realised with a design unique to Kumamoto. (Archello (n.d.))

Materials (Archello (n.d.))

Nikken Sekkei is said to have used the following building materials. 

  1. Colour Concrete – Colored concrete can be seen used on the exterior facade as well as the interior. 
  2. ECP (extruded cement panel)
  3. ALC (autoclaved lightweight concrete)
  4. Mirror and Aluminium panels
  5. Wood (cedar) panels – Wooden panels can be observed as cladding material on the walls and ceilings. 
  6. Stone Wall Cladding – Stone wall claddings can be seen incorporated with the green wall while complementing it gracefully.
JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet7
Wood Claddings_©httpsdarcawards.comportfoliojr-kumamoto-station-building-japan
JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet8
Entrance view showing commercial spaces_©SS Co., Ltd.

Lighting Design

The station building is built as a characteristic glass box. Consequently, the lighting design was intended to look like a lantern, to enliven the space and stand as a symbol of hope for reconstruction, post the 2016 earthquakes. This lantern concept is centred around 2 main lighting features (Darc Awards, (n.d.)). The ceilings of each floor are treated with louvred wood. These wooden panels house indirect lighting, which is the first lighting feature. Lights from the horizontally laminated curtain wall sash gently bring out the warmth of the wood and the outline of the building’s rectangular form. The second lighting feature can be seen as it lights up the multi-storey garden. As this garden was to be enjoyed while strolling through it, the lighting design was intricately placed to identify and avoid glare. The angles of each lighting fixture were defined on-site to ensure that there would be no harsh lights visible from any angle.

The lightning mechanisms in the garden help influence and aestheticise the area. In the daytime, the sunlight is complemented with ‘grow lights’ as it helps create a feeling of the experience of a stroll through a forest. The system at night is well-suited to the atmosphere of the night – helping showcase the vegetation and wooden ceiling. After the building has closed for the night, a pale blue light glows in the darkness of the building as if lit by the moon. (Darc Awards, (n.d.))

Night Lighting_©httpsdarcawards.comportfoliojr-kumamoto-station-building-japan

REFERENCE LIST

Goda, K. et al. (2016) The 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes: Cascading Geological Hazards and compounding risks, Frontiers. Frontiers. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbuil.2016.00019/full.

JR Kumamoto Station building, Japan (no date) darc awards. Available at: https://darcawards.com/portfolio/jr-kumamoto-station-building-japan/.

Kumamoto Station Building: Nikken Sekkei Ltd (no date) Archello. Available at: https://archello.com/project/kumamoto-station-building.

JR Kumamoto Railway Station Building opens “a multi-floor indoor garden of water and greenery” distills Kumamoto’s natural essence: News: News (no date) NIKKEN SEKKEI LTD. Available at: https://www.nikken.co.jp/en/news/news/2021_07_14.html.

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation (2022) The (green) walls become the world. Global Design Leaders Share Insights on the future of biophilia by Justin R. Wolf, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Available at: https://franklloydwright.org/the-green-walls-become-the-world-global-design-leaders-share-insights-on-the-future-of-biophilia-by-justin-r-wolf/.

Author

She is an Architect, currently residing in a small island nation. Her primary interests lie in sustainability and social justice. On her days off, you may find her traveling (or at least planning travels), spending time with animals or scuba diving to the depths of the ocean.

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