art, contest, decoration, minimalist

Teshima art museum

Teshima Art Museum

An architecture report from Teshima Island by Raymund Ryan

The enigmatic emergence of a museum that is in principle “empty”: a true sensory experience created by Ryue Nishizawa and Rei Naito

The blob is not only a recent phenomenon; the contiguously curving building is not merely the result of parametric manipulation on the computer. Twentieth-century modernism was imbued with many wantonly non-orthogonal forms, from Kiesler’s theoretical Endless House to Niemeyer’s sensuous concrete gestures in Brazil and other sunny climes. Such proposals blur the quantifiable, fuse the in-between, and appeal to our emotions. The Teshima Art Museum may not automatically reveal the authorship of its architect Ryue Nishizawa. It certainly seems unconventional when first discerned amid the stepped green fields of Teshima, an island in Japan’s Inland Sea. The museum billows upward as a white, bulbous and irregular excrescence. This note of irregularity – its gently shifting morphology – marks the structure as being somehow different from any generic shell or strictly rational building. The first-time visitor may also be surprised by how big or, more correctly, how extensive the project is – it stretches over 60 metres along its longer axis. As you move across the landscape, adjusting to changes in elevation, the building appears to change volume, inflating and deflating like some seamless dirigible. And then you notice an aperture puncturing this smooth carapace, a dark circular opening like the blowhole of a static beast. It’s a strange thing this Teshima Art Museum. There’s no immediately obvious point of entry. The use of exposed concrete suggests an industrial facility amid the bucolic if highly tailored nature of the island; yet the concrete also assumes a mysteriously soft shape (what could be inside?) and is unusually white (the absence of colour or the blending of all colours?) surrounded here by the verdant fields and a stand of trees towards the Inland Sea. You next notice a second and smaller blobular pavilion – a shop and cafe. You spot a dainty ribbon of raised concrete path. Then you discover a ticket office tucked into a hillside slope. This latter location is the starting point for a rather wonderful promenade.

Section Architecture
Author Raymund Ryan
Photography Iwan Baan
Published 09 Dec 2010
Keywords Nishizawa
Location Teshima Island


The complex is also equipped with a pavilion that contains a museum shop and a cafe as well as a ticket office hidden in the hillside. A gently winding pathway sweeps past the entrance, before continuing its journey into the surrounding landscape.

The concrete path loops away from the architecture into the trees, offering glimpses of sea and snatches of sound from the water below – the put-put of a distant boat – before circling back to the enigmatic white concrete shell. It’s unlikely that visitors come here entirely unprepared, without expecting some sensory, cultural or artistic experience. The Teshima project follows on from Tadao Ando’s halfdozen buildings on Naoshima, an adjacent island where Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima built the skeletal and orthogonal ferry terminal. Sejima is also inserting several jewel-like pavilions into the village fabric of Inujima, a second neighbouring island. All exist thanks to the patronage of the Naoshima Fukutake Art Museum Foundation.

The Teshima Art Museum catches its visitors off guard. It calls itself a museum, but its exhibition space is very far from the traditional view of architecture for museums, with their masses of jumbled objects and works of art. In fact, on Teshima Island visitors are left alone to contemplate an experience with nature made of light, water and air.

So you find yourself on a comparatively remote Japanese island, enjoying the village life and ocean air, trying to understand the entirety and indeed the full purpose of this unapologetically contemporary and unusual structure. You continue along the narrow concrete path, dipping slightly, to discover the Teshima Art Museum re-emerging between the trees, its low white curve holed now by a second dark oculus sinking towards the ground plane. Then you observe a protrusion morphing out from the main body of the building as a stretched, contiguous surface. This limb is cropped close to the footpath to permit access, through a tunnellike entrance, into the belly of the mysterious beast. If the building is unorthodox, its name is also strange, perhaps even disingenuous. The Teshima Art Museum is almost completely empty, devoid of contents. Its interior is fluid, a concrete membrane carpeting the ground and wrapping up from shadowy edges to span as a low unobstructed dome overhead. Neither columns nor beams interrupt the organic singularity of the total volume. Similarly there is none of the clutter normally associated with museums.

“It’s a strange thing this Teshima Art Museum. There’s no immediately obvious point of entry.”

Nishizawa designed the Teshima Art Museum in association with the artist Rei Naito, cognisant of her methodologies and of her interests in natural phenomena of water, light and air. A decade ago, Naito reworked a traditional house on Naoshima, incising a linear void beneath opaque clay walls and placing an inscrutable ring of smooth stone to hover, it appears, above the earthen floor. On Teshima her work is even more immaterial – there is, essentially, nothing. In the 20th century, architects and engineers such as Félix Candela in Mexico and Heinz Isler in Switzerland determined the design of concrete shells through pragmatic research. Like those masters, Nishizawa has striven for optimal thinness (his concrete structure is in total 250 millimetres thick) and to allow such thinness to be legible without the visual intrusion of beams, in particular edge beams about exposed openings. However, Nishizawa is also thinking metaphorically. He likens the shape of the gallery to a drop of water, a blob complete with a small protrusion (the entryway) suggesting that it has only just landed or become solid. For now Naito’s installation is for the collection of rainwater, allowing nature into this novel structure through the two large, unglazed openings. The water simply ponds or coagulates on the concrete floor. From the interior, you experience the outside in slightly strange ways. Through one oculus, you see foliage moving in the breeze. Up above, you see the sky as a disk: blue, grey, white, black. You may well have hiked a considerable distance to come to these islands, having heard of the famous architects and the famous artists, only to be re-presented with – and be surprisingly inspired by – the elements that surround us all. Nishizawa’s building evokes a faith in the ability of architecture to make the world seem somewhat strange yet simultaneously a little bit better. Raymund Ryan Testo alternativo Immagine

Opened last October, the Teshima Art Museum is the latest step in an enlightened plan that the Naoshima Fukutake Art Museum Foundation and the Corporation Benesse have been developing since 1989.
Ryue Nishizawa has laid out a mysterious white structure on the ground that is reminiscent of the shape of a water droplet. The concrete enclosure is lit by two openings and seems to inflate and deflate like a living organism. It is a shell that flows out into nature with a free span of 60 metres. The 25-cm-thick slab is free of columns or visible beams.
The plan calls for the introduction of contemporary architecture to the islands of the Inland Sea as a strategy to use cultural tourism to counter the region’s economic and demographic decline. After beginning with Tadao Ando, the architect of the Chichu Art Museum, the Lee Ufan Museum, the Art House Project and the Benesse House Museum on Naoshima, the project has also seen the involment of Kazuyo Sejima and Hiroshi Sambuichi on Inujima, and Ohtake Shinro on Naoshima.
Ryue Nishizawa and Rei Naito have worked together to create a space that stretches out horizontally, reaching a maximum height of 4.5 m. In this pavilion, art, architecture and landscape generate a single entity. It is a membrane set down on the grass, an aqueous form that has solidified in a corner of Teshima Island.

Ryue Nishizawa

‘teshima art museum’ by ryue nishizawa and rei naito on teshima island
photo © noboru morikawa photos

‘Teshima art museum’ by tokyo-based architect Ryue Nishizawa and japanese artist Rei Naito recently welcomed visitors of the 2010 setouchi international art festival held on seven islandsin the takamatsu port area, japan. hugging a hilly site on the island of teshima, the museum resembles a droplet of water caught in the middle of gliding across the land. Overlooking the inland sea to the north, the collaborative project was designed to interact with its wooded surrounding, pushing the tangible boundary between architecture and nature. Two large elliptical openings define and orient the space while letting the interior collect pieces of the elements: pools of water accumulate on the floor and freely shift and migrate according to the breeze’s direction; the sounds from the sea and foliage reverberate through the open space while the ambiance is in constant change according to the sun’s position and time of day.

collected rain water inside the museum
image courtesy lllabo

at 25 cm thick, the white concrete pod shell is devoid of any pillars or visible structural aid. The gallery space is not a result of encapsulation but a careful negotiation between the earth and the sky. visitors are encouraged to freely walk around the 40 by 60 meter museum and connect with the present phenomena.

large cut-out
photo © noboru morikawa photos

a part of rei naito’s work entitled ‘matrix’
photo © noboru morikawa photos

photo © noboru morikawa photos

a meandering path around the site take visitors around mt. myojin, a small bluff between the museum and the sea. the form and presence of the structure seemingly fluctuates with the observer’s vantage point, much like a dynamic drop of water traveling across a surface.

outside promenade art museum in context

image courtesy office of ryue nishizawa

made possible by the patronage of the naoshima fukutake art museum foundation, the teshima art museum will continue to operate after the festival, hosting activities involving art, architecture, food, the environment, and other creative intersections.

the museum adjacent to the nearby rice terraces
photo © noboru morikawa photos

site plan
image courtesy office of ryue nishizawa

contextual site plan
image courtesy naoshima fukutake art museum foundation

image courtesy office of ryue nishizawa

image courtesy office of ryue nishizawa

a model of the teshima art museum as seen at the 2012 venice architecture biennale
images © designboom

image © designboom

about Ryue Nishizawa:
born in 1966, nishizawa joined kazuyo sejima & associates in 1990,
established SANAA with her in 1995, and established his own practice
in 1997. along with sejima, he was awarded the pritzker architecture prize
in 2010. significant works include, ‘honmura lounge and archive’ (2005, naoshima),
‘moriyama house’ (2005, tokyo), and the ‘towada art center’ (2008, aomori).

about Rei Naito:
born in hiroshima in 1961, naito’s major exhibitions and projects include
‘being given’ (2001, kinza, art house project, benesse art site naoshima),
‘un luogo sulla terra’ (1997, japanese pavilion, 47th venice biennale),
‘tout anial est dans le monde comme de l’eau a interieur de l’eau’
(2009, museum of modern art, kamakura).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s