Tomochi Forestry Hall | © Makoto Yoshida

Unveiled in 2004, the Tomochi Forestry Hall is a creation of renowned Japanese Architect Taira Nishizawa, situated in the quaint town of Tomochi. This architectural marvel extensively utilizes local cedar, a tribute to the town’s rich forestry heritage. Primarily serving as a gymnasium, the hall embodies simplicity and elegance in its design: a two-story glass-encased rectangle perched gracefully on a leveled base amidst a rugged mountainous backdrop.

Tomochi Forestry Hall Technical Information

I’m always thinking about the natural environment. That is the big rival for architects. There are so many different varieties or types of environment in the natural world, but in comparison, within architecture there isn’t sufficient variety. We should create different types of space in our buildings.

– Taira Nishizawa1

Tomochi Forestry Hall Photographs

© DimDesign
Tomochi Forestry Hall / Taira Nishizawa
© Makoto Yoshida
© DimDesign
© DimDesign
© DimDesign

The Innovative Fusion of Architecture and Nature

The genesis of the Tomochi Forestry Hall can be traced back to the Kumamoto Artpolis program, a visionary initiative introduced in 1988 by Morihiro Hosokawa, the then-governor of Kumamoto Prefecture. This groundbreaking program aimed to meld cutting-edge architecture with active community involvement, catalyzing a series of remarkable projects that have since become landmarks in the architectural identity of the Kumamoto region.

Nestled in the lush, undulating landscape of Kumamoto Prefecture, the hall stands as a symbol of the locale’s deep-rooted forestry heritage, making extensive use of local cedar. The building’s design, an embodiment of an irregular chrysalis wrapped in glass, presents an avant-garde interpretation of architectural form.

The structure, an intricate blend of galvanized steel and laminated cedar, is arranged in a diagonal lattice that mimics an inverted basket, creating an immersive experience. Inside, the timber members converge overhead, shaping the interior space, while the external view frames the scenic mountain vistas.

The structural planning, spearheaded by Arup, embraced the philosophy of transforming complexity into simplicity and rationality. The framework utilizes intersecting steel and timber grids at 45° angles, resulting in a hybrid structure of both strength and elegance. The roof, supported by steel beams and laminated timber trusses, forms a lattice wall that efficiently disperses forces while minimizing the size of the structural members.

In a departure from conventional practices, steel was chosen over concrete for the foundation due to the superstructure’s relative lightness. Steel floor beams connect directly to tubular steel piles, forming a foundation that is not only environmentally friendly but also advantageous in terms of cost and construction efficiency. This innovative use of steel, coupled with its potential for reuse, underscores the project’s commitment to sustainable and eco-conscious design principles.

Tomochi Forestry Hall Gallery and Plans

Tomochi Forestry Hall / Taira Nishizawa
Floor Plan and Section | © Taira Nishizawa

Tomochi Forestry Hall Image Gallery

About Taira Nishizawa

Taira Nishizawa is a Japanese architect born in 1964 and based in Tokyo. He is the elder brother of Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA). The work of Taira Nishizawa embodies his empirical vision and his rigorous search for materials and proportions. Nishizawa studied at Tokyo Tech within the laboratory of Kazunari Sakamoto, establishing Taira Nishizawa Architects in 1993. Since opening his Tokyo studio, Taira Nishizawa has established himself as a leading figure among his generation of Japanese architects.

Nishizawa’s work, which ranges from small houses to large sports facilities and makes particular use of innovative timber structures, has attracted numerous awards, including the prestigious Japan Institute of Architects Young Architect of the Year Award in 2005 and the Architectural Review Emerging Architecture Award. A practitioner, academic, and critic, Nishizawa teaches at several universities in Tokyo and has lectured and exhibited internationally. His work has been the subject of two monographs: Taira Nishizawa 1994-2004 and Taira Nishizawa: Wooden Works 2004-2010.

  1. Structure: Arup