National Museum of Art
Soaring titanium coated steel tubes, resembling the wings of a butterfly, rise from the lobby to become a sculptural icon on the Osaka skyline.
Due to the constraints imposed by the site, the building had to
be built entirely underground. Making a virtue of the constraints
the architects designed the museums icon, the steel and glass of
the skylight roof, out of the only elements that were available
The roof seems to rise up from grade level, curving and tilting
through the site, to become a glass-enclosed entrance lobby.
Titanium-coated stainless steel tubes, woven together, not only
support the glass of the skylight/ lobby but also surround it,
penetrate it and rise freely above it, as high as 170 feet, to
create a sculptural landmark.
Two floors of gallery space and a third floor of public amenities are all housed within a building, constructed like a three-hull submarine, placed below the flood level of the surrounding rivers.
Responding to the need for a watertight underground museum the
bulk of the building is encased in a three-layered, concrete wall
that is almost ten feet thick. The sheer weight of the structure
resists the buoyancy of the watery soil, while enabling the
building to provide the necessary temperature and humidity controls
at greatly reduced operating expense.
Although the gallery space is entirely underground, the interior
layout allows natural light to flow throughout the exhibition
floors. The design of the steel-and-glass skylight/lobby also
creates a complex and constantly changing play of shadows within
the public areas of the building.
The museum opened with an installation from its permanent
collection and with the temporary loan exhibition Marcel Duchamp
and 20th Century Art, on view from November 3 through December 19,
Built on behalf of the National Government, the new museum building occupies a difficult but highly important site. Nakano Island, between the Tosabori and Dojima rivers, is currently being developed as a new cultural and business gateway to Osaka, the bustling city that has been called the Chicago of Japan.
A recently built Science Museum is immediately adjacent to the site, and the Nakanoshima Mitsui office building, also designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates, is located nearby. The relocation of the National Museum of Art to this site from the outskirts of Osaka is a key element of these redevelopment efforts.
Facts about National Museum of Art
Last updated: December 17, 2012
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