Za Koenji Public Theatre Toyo Ito & Associates
Black box meets tent-made-rigid. The facade and volume of the Za Koenji Public Theatre, located in Suginami, Tokyo, Japan, are unabashedly singular and dualistic. Designed by Toyo Ito (who was recently named the 2013 Pritzker Prize Laureate) & Associates, the Theatre offers pointed summits which exist in elevation as well as on the theatre’s roof, drawing a set of circumstances where the walls blend with the irregular roof without truly doing so- there is no chamfering or blended cuts. And throughout the building’s exterior and interior, portholes give light in and out- whether artificial or natural- adding a second element that offers counterpoint to the pointed tent-arches, while softening the dominance of the lacquered black walls against their light-coloured neighbors. One detracting quality is the building’s colour and its addition to the urban heat island effect of the city. The theatre literally is a black-box theatre. But in a time of climate change and increasing global temperatures- one that sees cities around the world turning from black-top roofs in favour of green and white roofs- it must be asked, if the allusion is worth the cost?
The Theatre offers two main halls and a third hall which is primarily dedicated to ‘Koenji Awa Odori’, Japan’s largest dance festival, but also has uses as an independent rehearsal/workshop space and for hiring out to amateur companies. The Main Auditorium has capacity for 230 persons and is a flat space setup, allowing a multitude of different staging and seating arrangements. The Civic Hall has conventional fixed, raked-seating for 250-300 people and offers a conventional theatre setup for dance and drama performances, concerts, conferences and lectures. To round out the performance venues of the Theatre, the Cafe Henri Fabre offers a comfortable location for relaxation and informal lectures, readings and childrens
In addition to offering locations for performance, the Za Koenji Theatre possesses archive facilities with published plays, scripts and other assorted media relating to contemporary Japanese drama and theatre.
By Matt Davis
Courtesy of Toyo Ito & Associates- Photographer Iwan Baan