The small island Naoshima has become home to architecture by two Pritzker Prize* winning architecture firms. Tadao Ando has numerous buildings dotted over the island while visitors at the main port are greeted by a ferry terminal designed by SANAA.
SANAA works are in stark contrast to Ando’s grey concrete sculptures. SANAA buildings seem to consist of lightness, space and free circulation. The ferry terminal at Naoshima is a fine exhibit of these traits. SANAA is also very good at designing deceptively simple buildings, the terminal is so light and easy to navigate for visitors that I doubt many would wonder at its clever engineering. The ferry terminal consists of one large flat roof, a grid of thin columns with glass boxes of different shapes and sizes seemingly scattered underneath the roof. The glass boxes contain the functional necessities needed for the terminal such as office, cafe and shop.
The team of engineers and designers have created on a windy coast, a building which seems to have no solid structure. The supporting columns seem too thin to be of any structural use. Walls of mirrored glass must also surely be hiding structural supports?
The effect of these columns and the use of glass and mirrors as materials creates a building which seems to invite the spectacular scenery of its location inside. Circulation seems very free within the building and despite its openness, it provides shelter for those departing or leaving the island.
*The Pritzker Architecture Prize is awarded annually to honour “…a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.”
Since its beginning in 1979, five architects (six really, as SANAA consists of a pair) have been honored with the prize.
1987 Kenzo Tange
1993 Fumihiko Maki
1995 Tadao Ando
2010 Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA)
2013 Toyo Ito
Fittingly, another Japanese architect has been honored this year and I feel lucky to be in the right country to visit his works.