Nikken Sekkei, a more than a century-old architectural practice based out of Tokyo, ranks as the second-largest architectural practice in the world. The idea of integrating the experience in the field has been their approach. They have significantly supported initiating an environment response approach in the construction field. Many of their projects have stood as an example to inspire and educate the frontiers in the field. As their work ensures providing the user with a unique spatial experience, they also focus that the design ensures the creation of beautiful urban skylines, lifting spirits within the spaces along with unexpected pockets of nature across the structure-all nestled within every project. 

From going through the archive of their works and contribution- it is evident to see their incorporated roles in a wide spread of projects that include Architectural Design, Interior Design, Urban design and planning, Landscape design, Structural Engineering, Civil Engineering, computational design & BIM, Sustainability and resilience, solution. It is to mention that his works are not just about architecture and creativity but also about other values, which include social, environmental, and climatic perspectives that make his practice more humane and meaningful.

Amongst his vast project exposure that includes huge skyscrapers, widespread museums, theaters, gymnasiums, offices, mixed-use and commercial architecture, the “Toho Gakuen School of Music” brings something more in terms of expressing the idea of space-making, understanding, and approaching the natural elements that make the project what it is.

Toho Gakuen School of Music by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet1
Porus idea of volumetric composition connecting interiors to the outdoor _©Harunori Noda

Introduction to the project

This project reflects the architect’s understanding of the user needs and the brief, which has helped develop the school’s holistic ideology and functionality. The site is located in a typical suburb of Tokyo; the school stood out in its unconventional design to defy the whole expectations of what a music school could be. This school ensures to respond to its suburban surroundings as the design breaks its facade into a series of punctured volumes that scale down its volume externally.

The design for such a typology comes with specific functional requirements, including soundproofing to not disturb different classes taken in other practice rooms. The client requested not just to isolate different practice rooms yet let the students visually connect the operatic energy from their fellow mates practicing on various instruments and music across the school.

Toho Gakuen School of Music by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet2
Inventing transitional spaces to create accidental memories _©Harunori Noda


With these inputs, the architect realized that a conventional double-loaded corridor with stacked blocks of volumes would not continue to serve and create an integrated experience. He thus came up with the concept of ‘PORUS’ as a system of approach. The volumes were not just linearly stacked but integrated staking with separation, creating a more “village” of music experience with corridors and spaces between the rooms acting as vistas through the building, internally connecting the outdoor area. Further, these individual cell-like volumes were treated with glass, enabling a visual connection between different lesson rooms. The technical side of this concept was also to ensure the sound spilling, where one can hear a mixture of music from each class from the corridor, while inside the rooms, it remains silent.

Toho Gakuen School of Music by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet3
schematic illustrations on the architectural incorporation _©Harunori Noda


The deep plan is articulated into space, making pockets with courtyards and windows, which play a significant role in an ample campus space on the ground floor, creating timeless storytelling with music and views filled. The courtyard helps to light up the space naturally, and the windows are placed sensibly, creating a frame that connects to a glimpse of the surrounding outdoors. All of this adds an invaluable character to the concept.

The majority of the practice rooms are hosted on the first floor and separated from each other to create acoustic separation with a glazed window that overlooks the courtyards and other vistas, thus creating a visual connection from inside to outdoor areas within the campus. Stacking these volumes on different levels of the floor creates a sense of articulated transitions and accidental connections through the corridors and gathering lobbies, letting one peek into the music in the other room and enjoy the visual act altogether. The basement hosts larges practice halls and rooms for huge percussion instruments.


The choice of the materials adopted for the project naturally holds acoustic properties- concrete, with its natural character, creates acoustic insulation. Walls with timber cladding sourced locally are well known for treating sound spillage along with noise absorption panels hung high up, which lines up the ceiling altogether and efficiently provides noise cancellation.

Toho Gakuen School of Music by Nikken Sekkei - Sheet4
Monolithic use of materials creating minimalistic ambience _©Harunori Noda


It is also mentioned that this project has been designed using Building Information Modeling (BIM), which has proved to take up and resolve multiple demands of execution and implementation simultaneously.

BIM is an uptrend and demanding technology in the architecture field. It has elevated design development into another dimension making it more efficient and productive to work on the details and extract its necessary implementation details simultaneously in a virtual 3d model.

Here in this project, the appropriate volumes were zoned based on the respective instruments and the space required; BIM helped to arrange and stack these volumes like building blocks to understand their relationship to each other and as well accurately calculate the area, volumes, and other complicated measurements involved in developing the BOQ. Similarly, as we know, the design demanded understanding the role of natural light and ventilation as a pivotal design element; BIM helped develop simulations that support the light and ventilation design with the real-time case and constraint.

Regarding structure solving, the BIM has shown excellent compatibility in developing complex plans and simulations with different levels and pilotis along with the light and ventilation flow. BIM has aided in developing classrooms that satisfy the user with the right ambience with natural light and an environment holistically to help nurture the future grads from the school.

BIM simulations to calculate the natural lighting _©Nikken


  1. Articles

Aguilar, C. (2015) Tohogakuen School of Music / Nikken Sekkei, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: (Accessed: November 27, 2022). 

The toho gakuen school of music by Nikken Sekkei (no date) The Toho Gakuen School of Music by Nikken Sekkei | The Strength of Architecture | From 1998. Available at: (Accessed: November 27, 2022). 

Design using building information modeling: Meeting multiple demands simultaneously: Computational Design & BIM: Expertise (no date) NIKKEN SEKKEI LTD. Available at: (Accessed: November 27, 2022). 

  1. Images/visual mediums

(no date) tohogakuen-school-of-music-nikken-sekkei. Harunori Noda. Available at: (Accessed: November 27, 2022). 

(no date) Nikken. Available at: (Accessed: November 27, 2022). 

escuela-de-musica-tohogakuen-nikken-sekkei (no date) Archdaily. Harunori Noda. Available at: (Accessed: November 27, 2022). 

p4iusj0000001ibm-img (no date) nikken. Available at: 

computational_design_bim (no date) nikken. Available at: 


Krishna Priya Parthasarathy is a persistent human and an architect, who is keen on unlearning her self-intuited perspectives of architecture, philosophy, and life. She believes that words said, holds much more patience and power in creating a thinking that can transform into a dialogue and a dialogue into a change, which she wishes to bring within the readers and the dwellers. She truly believes that rethinking is the best thing one can kindle to engage in thought-provoking ideas.