As this is a gymnasium of a high school affiliated with a leading private university in Japan, its design concept flows from how it should be portrayed as an educational facility.

Facility name: Waseda University Honjo Senior High School Gymnasium
Location: Honjo, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
Main use: Gymnasium
Client: Waseda University
Site area: approx. 63,000 square meters
Total floor area: approx. 4,466 square meters
Number of floors: three floors above ground, one penthouse floor
Maximum height: 18.55m
Main structure: Reinforced concrete/part steel
Construction period: July 2018 – February 2020
Construction: TODA CORPORATION

WASEDA HONJO Senior High School Gymnasyum By Nikken Sekkei Ltd - Sheet4
©Nikken Sekkei Ltd

Generally speaking, gym windows are covered with blackout curtains when competitions are held. With this project, however, the aim was to create a gym allowing indirect natural light suitable for indoor exercises and blocking strong direct sunlight to afford a feel for the outside environment.

To achieve this goal, four structural “tubes” were designed around the perimeter of the arena. These tubes have an important role to play in the operation of the facility, as they house air conditioning, lighting, and sound equipment. Access is possible through hatches built into the walls. The outermost tube is the most spacious, and functions as a corridor, an indoor running track, and as a passageway for indirect light to pass through to the arena.

WASEDA HONJO Senior High School Gymnasyum By Nikken Sekkei Ltd - Sheet5
©Nikken Sekkei Ltd

With small and large holes bored into the walls of the arena at strategic locations, natural daylight that penetrates to the arena core is pale and dim, akin to a midnight sun. This orientation obviates the need for blackout curtains.

The facility’s interior and exterior were both finished in fair-faced concrete. Ornamentation was kept to minimum to clarify the composition of the building. The structural layout is akin to a temple; the intent of the spatial configuration was to create a place where users can learn the “essence” of things.

WASEDA HONJO Senior High School Gymnasyum By Nikken Sekkei Ltd - Sheet6
©Nikken Sekkei Ltd

The building is completely devoid of added color or paint, both inside and out; “primitive” grey concrete is its only signature. Rather, it might be more correct to say that one does not “feel” its color in the traditional sense. Instead, the space allows a sensitivity for light, materials, and a grasp of more a natural essence. This pursuit of “simple beauty” is divorced from secular worldly trends.

The gymnasium is designed to be an extension of the everyday; as students ascend the floors, their experience becomes gradually more extraordinary. However, the design intent is not that the everyday is “inverted” into the extraordinary, but rather into a more common, “everyday” experience. When designing this gymnasium, our thoughts were on the idea of architectural expression that can be modern, but also “universal” in the sense that it can belong to any era.

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