Forest Observatory Kyushu, Kirishima Open Air Museum Building, Project, Photo, Design Images

Forest Observatory Japan

Kirishima Open Air Museum Building, Japan design by Rintala Eggertsson Architects

26 Feb 2009

Forest Observatory

Location: Kirishima Open Air Museum, Kyushu Island, Japan

Date built: 2004

Design: Rintala Eggertsson Architects

The southernmost main island of Japan, Kyushu, has subtropical rainforests. The terrain is volcanic, the most visible indication of which is the constantly smouldering Sakurajima volcano. On the island is the Kirishima outdoor museum, with a permanent exhibition also including sculptures and spatial art works located in the rainforest. I was invited to design a new work for the museum area, with the only condition being that the work should last for at least three hundred years.

Forest Observatory Japan Forest Observatory Forest Observatory Kyushu Kirishima Open Air Museum Building

As I stepped into the rainforest of the site for the first time, I instinctively started to mind my step and listen to the sounds around me: strange birds in the trees and animals moving in the bushes. The visibility was limited to few metres around me and things taking place further away could only be heard. The mist floating in the forest only intensified this acoustic experience. I stayed in one place for a long time and it started to feel that if I waited patiently and quietly the sources of the sounds might slowly emerge and reveal themselves.

The observation station I designed is a simple spatial instrument that helps visitors listen to and sense the surrounding nature more keenly. The walls surrounding the pavilion catch sounds from different directions while the courtyard is a more protected space acoustically for meetings and conversation.
The walls and benches are made of 5-cm-thick, white in-situ concrete, painted and coated for weather resistance. A paved path, surfaced with white gravel, leads to the courtyard.

Concrete was pumped into the wooden shuttering through the forest using a 70-metre-long hose. The workmanship is outstanding: the surface of the concrete resembles paper and the edges are crisp. This reinforces the impression of the abstract, immaterial nature of the walls in contrast to the lush vitality of the nature around it. Light, shade and natural forms play the leading role.
The whole idea of the work is based on the saying that sometimes a whisper is a more efficient way to be heard than shouting.

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Kirishima Open Air Museum Forest Observatory – Building Information

Architect: Sami Rintala
Client: Kirishima Open Air Museum, Kuyshu Island, Japan
Address: 220, Koba 6340, Kurino-cho, Aira-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
899-6201 Japan
Producer/ Curator: Art Front Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Project Architect in Japan: Architect Office Himalaya, Tokyo, Japan
Construction Time: Jan-Mar 2004, opened Apr 2004
Materials: Concrete casted on site, white marble gravel from river bottom
Size: Diameter 9500 mm, hight varies 2800-3200 mm.
Constructors: Local Kuyshu companies acting under Kyushu Kagoshima Prefecture Government.

Forest Observatory Forest Observatory
photos: Park Wan Soon

Remarks: The client ordered an outdoor architectural installation. The only requirement was that the work should last 300 years.
The level of local concrete craftsmanship was very high, resulting to neural, paper-like surfaces and very sharp edges.
No trees were cut during constructing the Forest Observatory. The concrete was conducted to the site with help of a 70 m long hose.

Photos: Sami Rintala in Rognan 8 Sep 2006

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