This Tokyo Art University Library by Japanese architect Toyo Ito is organised with arches arranged along curved lines (photos by Iwan Baan).

Tama Art University Library technical information

  • Architects: Toyo Ito & Associates Architects
  • Location: Hachioji City, Tokyo, Japan
  • Architect in Charge: Toyo Ito
  • Photographs: © Iwan Baan
  • Design team: Toyo Ito, Takeo Higashi, Hideyuki Nakayama, Yoshitaka Ihara
  • Associate Architect: Kajima Design
  • Structural engineers: Sasaki Structural Consultants
  • Interaction design: Workshop for Architecture and Urbanism
  • Furniture design: Fujie Kazuko Atelier

The new library is a place where everyone can discover their style of “interacting” with books and film media as if they were walking through a forest or in a cave.

– Toyo Ito

Article from Toyo Ito & Associates Architects

This is a library for an Art university located in the suburbs of Tokyo. Passing through the main entrance gate, the site lies behind a front garden with small and large trees, and stretches up a gentle slope.


© Iwan Baan

The existing cafeteria was the sole place in the university shared by both students and staff members across all disciplines, so the first impetus for our design was to question how an institution as specialised as a library could provide an open commonality for all.

Our first idea was for a wide open gallery on the ground level that would serve as an active thoroughfare for people crossing the campus, even without intending to go to the library.

To let the flows and views of these people freely penetrate the building, we began to think of a structure of randomly placed arches which would create the sensation as if the sloping floor and the front garden’s scenery were continuing within the building.

Toyo Ito Tama Art University library

© Iwan Baan

The characteristic arches are made out of steel plates covered with concrete. In plan these arches are arranged along curved lines which cross at several points. With these intersections, we were able to keep the arches extremely slender at the bottom and still support the heavy live loads of the floor above. The spans of the arches vary from 1.8 to 16 metres, but the width is kept uniformly at 200mm.

The intersections of the rows of arches help to articulate softly separated zones within this one space. Shelves and study desks of various shapes, glass partitions that function as bulletin boards, etc., give these zones a sense of both individual character and visual as well as spatial continuity.

On the sloped ground level, a movie-browser like a bar counter and a large glass table for the latest issues of magazines invite students to spend their time waiting for the bus in the library.

Toyo Ito Tama Art University ibrary

© Iwan Baan

Climbing the stairs to the second floor, one finds large art books on low bookshelves crossing under the arches. Between these shelves are study desks of various sizes. A large table with a state-of-art copy machine allows users to do professional editing work.

The spatial diversity one experiences when walking through the arches different in span and height changes seamlessly from a cloister-like space filled with natural light, to the impression of a tunnel that cannot be penetrated visually.

The new library is a place where everyone can discover their style of “interacting” with books and film media as if they were walking through a forest or in a cave; a new place of arcade-like spaces where soft mutual relations form by simply passing through; a focal centre where a new sense of creativity begins to spread throughout the art university’s campus.

Tama Art University Library Gallery

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Cite this article: "Toyo Ito / Tama Art University Library," in ArchEyes, January 2, 2016,