Inujima Art House Project
Kazuyo Sejima & Associates

June 17, 2013 /

Inujima, Higashi-ku, Okayama, Japan

Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace

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.

Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace

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.

Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace

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 Project.

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.

Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace

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.

Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace

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.

Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace

Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace

Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace

Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace

Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace


Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace

Inujima Art House Project. Photo by arcspace

Facts about Inujima Art House Project

Setouchi Triennale 2013

Last updated: September 22, 2014

See also

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