Inujima Art House Project
Kazuyo Sejima & Associates
By Lise Laurberg
On the small island of Inujima in the Seto Inland Sea, Kazuyo Sejima & Associates have designed a spectacular series of installations among the traditional houses of a declining village. A walk through Inujima Art House Project lets you experience some of the finest traits of contemporary Japanese architecture.
2010 saw the inauguration of the Setouchi
Triennale, covering a number of small islands in the Seto Inland
Sea. For the festival, Kazuyo Sejima & Associates (one half of
the renowned architectural office SANAA) designed a permanent
installation on the island of Inujima, once a busy place for the
copper refining industry. When the industry shut down, the
population declined drastically. In 2010 only 56 people inhabited
the island, with most of them being more than 70 years old. In
2008, the former industrial complex was transformed into the
Inujima Seirensho Art Museum, introducing the island as a
destination for art and architecture lovers.
The Double Experience
Inujima Art House Project consists of a series of small pavilions, creating a promenade through the existing village. In connection to the Setouchi Triennale 2013, additional pavilions will be added to the project, functioning as galleries to exhibit changing works of art. The materials used are chosen to reflect the surrounding village in a combination of shiny or transparent surfaces, such as aluminum and acrylic, and in the use of traditional and second hand building materials from the site. This makes the pavilions of Inujima Art House Project seem familiar to the village, yet very odd at the same time - and this double experience permeates all parts of the project.
When you arrive at the island, you can follow
the coastline going west to pass a small basin with fishing boats
and eventually see an ordinary blue public bench. The original
bench is accompanied by three new Rabbit Chairs, designed by SANAA,
giving you a first hint of the double character that is crucial to
the experience of Inujima Art House Project.
Putting the Village on Display
Follow the path and you will reach the first
pavilion, I-Art House, sitting behind a messy flower garden. The
building materials of I-Art House are similar to the ordinary
houses of the island, but the large glass panels of the façade
betray the pavilion as something unmistakably different. The panels
reflect the surroundings, and once you enter the pavilion, they set
a frame around the neighboring houses and put them on display as a
part of the installation.
You pass a number of houses and gardens, and as
you look out for the next pavilion between them, you seem to become
extra aware of the details and materials of the village. And thus,
even the everyday village becomes a part of the Inujima Art House
A Well-Choreographed Experience
Further up the hill, you reach the Nakanotani
Gazebo, a perforated aluminum roof supported by slender pillars.
Seen from the outside, the roof reflects the sky above and seems to
dissolve into the surroundings.
As you continue past a Shinto Graveyard, you
suddenly catch a glimpse of the curved acrylic façade of S-Art
House. Together with the taller traditional house on the other side
of the street, the long, transparent pavilion creates a narrow
passage, and the contrast in tactile qualities on either side could
not be more dramatic. The soft and dark closed, wooden surface is
reflected in the hard acrylic construction, which follows the
curved façade of the original house and becomes a negative of it in
both shape and material.
Creating New Attractions
With very simple and poetic means, the pavilions
of Kazuyo Sejima & Associates' Inujima Art House Project put
the traditional village, a piece of Japan's cultural heritage, on
display. As a part of a comprehensive strategy in the Seto Inland
Sea, Inujima Art House Project suggests how art and architecture
can be used to create new attractions and change the character of
rural and postindustrial areas in decline.
Facts about Inujima Art House Project
Last updated: September 22, 2014
Claremont, California, USA