Riken Yamamoto, born in Beijing, China is a Japanese architect. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Nihon University in 1968 and his master’s degree from the University of Arts, Tokyo in 1971. He founded the Yamamoto & Field Shop Co., Ltd in 1973. He pursued a teaching career as a Professor at the Kogakuin University Department of Architecture from 2002 to 2007. He attended as a Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture of the Yokohama National University and at the Nihon University, respectively. He has also been serving as the President of the Nagoya Zokei University of Art & Design since 2018.

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Riken Yamamoto_©misfitsarchitecture.com

Works | Riken Yamamoto

Riken Yamamoto’s earliest projects greatly influenced his subsequent works. Yamakawa Villa (1977) was his first project, designed to have a large terrace space and small windows. A gable roof was used as that was the only form Yamamoto could think of.

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Yamakawa Villa_©tumblr.com

Studio Steps (1978) used to be an atelier, a private workshop of an artist and a sculptor. The space was reconstructed to allow for the structure to have a private, invisible living space below ground and a public concert space above ground. Riken Yamamoto quotes in his book, “A house always has a place that is open to the outside world.” 

Both of the above buildings follow Yamamoto’s principle about how a building should allow its occupants to engage with the external world.

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Studio Steps_©riken-yamamoto.co.jp

Riken Yamamoto’s own house, Gazebo (1986), allows him to experience everyday local community life. Rotunda (1987) and Hamlet (1988) explore different roof forms. The Hamlet is an “archetypal house for how people who choose to live together might dwell”. It creates shared spaces for a multi-generational family while also granting them privacy.

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Riken Yamamoto: Ideology and Philosophy - Sheet5

Hotakubo Housing (1991) explores the concept of creating a community between 100 different families through architectural spaces. It does so by creating a central courtyard that can only be accessed through the building units, creating a private gathering space for the community.

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Hotakubo Housing_©japan-photo.de

The Saitama Prefectural University (1999) treats that entire building space as a society. The university specialised in nursing and welfare and aimed to create mutual spaces of cooperation. This was made possible by creating a single volume and a framework of open spaces.

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Saitama Prefectural University_©wikimedia.org

The Future University, Hakodate (2000) has two departments where the students and researchers work together. There is a glass partition between the collaborative working space and the laboratories that allows transparency. 

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Future University_©wikimedia.org

The Future University Research Building (2005) is an extension designed by the same architect. The main characteristic of the research building is a ‘lattice wall,’ which is a truss frame of flat bars set with cast glass or steel panels. The lattice wall is both the structure that supports the whole building and a partition wall system whose proportion of open area can be freely arranged. 

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Future University Research Building_©riken-yamamoto.co.jp

The Yokohama Public Housing (2000) is public housing for senior citizens. The project required low-cost, low-rise, and high-density building units. The project does so with its clustered organisation. There is ample open space and terraces and services are easily available.

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Yokohama Public Housing_©riken-yamamoto.co.jp

The Hiroshima Fire Station (2000) was created with a transparent louvred glass facade to expose the inner workings of the department. All interior spaces have been designed around a central atrium and they have been divided internally with glass partitions as well.

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Hiroshima Fire Station_©wikimedia.org

The Tokyo Weld Technical Centre (2001) is a research and development centre. The first floor has been allocated for loading and laboratory work while the second floor acts as the research area. The third floor juts out from the first two to allow trucks to park underneath it.

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Tokyo Weld Technical Centre_©commarts.com

The Yokosuka Museum of Art (2007) is an outstanding example of how Riken Yamamoto has achieved a balance between the interior and exterior. The museum faces the sea to the north and is surrounded by mountains on other sides. Most of the museum is underground to let the structure sit in harmony with the landscape. The double skin of the roof and wall, consisting of glass plate outside and iron board inside, covers the area for exhibition and collection and is a system to control sunlight.

Yokosuka Museum of Art_©wikimedia.org

The Fussa City Hall (2008) consists of twin towers that conform to the natural topography of the area. The pillars and beams of the outer skin structure become thinner on the upper parts of the tower, helping the building to look light and soft towards the sky. The factory-made, precast concrete is used for the slab and outer skin structure. Pre-cast concrete is a high-performance material, it is earthquake resistant and suits speedy constructions. The greenery on the roof also makes the structure energy efficient.

Fussa City Hall_©wikimedia.org

The Namics Techno Core (2008) seems to be floating due to its lack of outer pillars as the structure has been supported on inverted cone-like columns. There is a green roof over some of the rooms which help decrease the air conditioning load. 

Namics Techno Core_©e-architect.com

Pangyo Housing (2010) is a creative and environmentally-friendly low-rise multi-generational housing project. The building units have again been formed into clusters with each cluster having a communal deck to inspire a sense of community.

Pangyo Housing_©world-architects.com

The Tianjin Library (2012) is a grand library housing 5 million books. It is a five-storied building that has mezzanine floors on each level, giving it 10 sub-floors. The entrance hall extends the entire north-south length. The entire structure has been supported on wall beams in a grid organisation, with bookshelves being incorporated into the walls themselves. Every reading space has been made as diverse as possible to allow the users to experience a wide variety as they move through the library.

Tianjin Library_©riken-yamamoto.co.jp
Interior View of Tianjin Library_©riken-yamamoto.co.jp
Interior View of Tianjin Library_©riken-yamamoto.co.jp

The Seoul Gangnam Housing (2014) is a housing initiative for low-income people. It is a housing prototype that allows for individual privacy as much as community interaction. It takes into consideration the declining birth rate of Japan and predicts the housing demands of the future.

Seoul Gangnam Housing_©riken-yamamoto.co.jp
Seoul Gangnam Housing_©riken-yamamoto.co.jp

The Circle in Zurich (2020) is an airport complex building – a business centre, hotel, shopping mall, and entertainment centre, all in one. It was a competition win that is the most recent and acclaimed project by Riken Yamamoto. The structure fulfils the design brief and incorporates “Swissness, Surprise, and Connections to the World” in its design.

The Circle, Zurich_©designbloom.com
The Circle, Zurich_©designbloom.com

Riken Yamamoto also bagged the win for the design of the Taoyuan Museum of Art (2023). The museum consists of two buildings connected by a corridor. These buildings have an inclined green roof to create continuity with the environment. The museum has permanent collections in the “cubes”, the “hill” acts as a connection space, providing a place for activities and the pavilions on the hill allow for an outdoor display of artwork.

Taoyuan Museum of Art_©riken-yamamoto.co.jp

Ideology and Philosophy

Riken Yamamoto believes in the concept of transparency, in need for the space to reflect its functionality. The principle of integrating buildings into the landscape of the surroundings and attaining harmony with the environment is also emphasised upon. He claims that the distribution of spaces determines the character of the building, which in turn reveal the relation of the building with the exterior. Yamamoto’s notion is that buildings should enhance their social contexts and work to facilitate community.

References: Riken Yamamoto

  1. Yamamoto, R. (2012). Riken Yamamoto. Japan: Toto.
  2. MCH. Riken Yamamoto. [online]. Available at: https://www.mchmaster.com/faculty/riken-yamamoto/
  3. Riken Yamamoto. Riken Yamamoto Official Web. [online]. Available at: http://riken-yamamoto.co.jp/index.html?lng=_Eng
  4. Wikipedia. Riken Yamamoto. [online]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riken_Yamamoto
  5. Misfits Architecture. Architecture Misfit #40: Riken Yamamoto. [online]. Available at: https://misfitsarchitecture.com/2021/02/07/architecture-misfit-40-riken-yamamoto/
  6. Design Boom (2018). riken yamamoto & field shop: sloped rooftop park for taoyuan museum of art in taiwan. [online]. Available at: https://www.designboom.com/tag/riken-yamamoto-and-field-shop/
  7. T-ADS. (2021). Riken Yamamoto 1: T-ADS/Four Facets of Contemporary Japanese Architecture/City. [Youtube video]. Available at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcvmEQlrnhk
  8. wocomoCULTURE. (2020). Tokyo: Architecture and Landscape|Visions for Megacities. [Youtube video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRexyLK9RYs

Kanak Holani is a first year architecture student who can usually be found reading novels and trying her hand at various crafts. She is passionate about history, culture and climate and how it all ties in with architecture.