This is a library for an art university located in the suburbs of Tokyo. Passing through the main entrance gate, the site lies behind a front garden with small and large trees, and stretches up a gentle slope.The existing cafeteria was the sole place in the university shared by both students and staff members across all disciplines, so the first impetus for our design was to question how an institution as specialized as a library could provide an open commonality for all.

Courtesy of Toyo Ito & Associates Architects – Photographs : Rasmus Hjortshoj,Ishiguro Photographic Institute,Tomio Ohashi

Our first idea was for a wide open gallery on the ground level that would serve as an active thoroughfare for people crossing the campus, even without intending to go to the library. To let the flows and views of these people freely penetrate the building, we began to think of a structure of randomly placed arches which would create the sensation as if the sloping floor and the front garden’s scenery were continuing within the building.

Courtesy of Toyo Ito & Associates Architects – Photographs : Rasmus Hjortshoj,Ishiguro Photographic Institute,Tomio Ohashi

The characteristic arches are made out of steel plates covered with concrete. In plan these arches are arranged along curved lines which cross at several points. With these intersections, we were able to keep the arches extremely slender at the bottom and still support the heavy live loads of the floor above. The spans of the arches vary from 1.8 to 16 metres, but the width is kept uniformly at 200mm.

Courtesy of Toyo Ito & Associates Architects – Photographs : Rasmus Hjortshoj,Ishiguro Photographic Institute,Tomio Ohashi

The intersections of the rows of arches help to articulate softly separated zones within this one space. Shelves and study desks of various shapes, glass partitions that function as bulletin boards, etc., give these zones a sense of both individual character and visual as well as spatial continuity.

Courtesy of Toyo Ito & Associates Architects – Detail

On the sloped ground level, a movie-browser like a bar counter and a large glass table for the latest issues of magazines invite students to spend their time waiting for the bus in the library. Climbing the stairs to the second floor, one finds large art books on low bookshelves crossing under the arches. Between these shelves are study desks of various sizes. A large table with a state-of-art copy machine allows users to do professional editing work.

Courtesy of Toyo Ito & Associates Architects – Photographs : Rasmus Hjortshoj,Ishiguro Photographic Institute,Tomio Ohashi

The spatial diversity one experiences when walking through the arches different in span and height changes seamlessly from a cloister-like space filled with natural light, to the impression of a tunnel that cannot be penetrated visually.

Courtesy of Toyo Ito & Associates Architects – Photographs : Rasmus Hjortshoj,Ishiguro Photographic Institute,Tomio Ohashi

The new library is a place where everyone can discover their style of “interacting” with books and film media as if they were walking through a forest or in a cave; a new place of arcade-like spaces where soft mutual relations form by simply passing through; a focal centre where a new sense of creativity begins to spread throughout the art university’s campus.

Courtesy of Toyo Ito & Associates Architects – Photographs : Rasmus Hjortshoj,Ishiguro Photographic Institute,Tomio Ohashi

Project Info :

Architects : Toyo Ito & Associates Architects
Client : Tama Art University
Site Area : 159,184.87m2
Building Area : 2,224.59m2
Total Floor Area : 5,639.46m2
Associate Architect : Kajima Design
Furniture design : Fujie Kazuko Atelier
Supervisor : Toyo Ito & Associates Architects
Project Location : Hachioji City, Tokyo, Japan
Curtain design and fabricator : Nuno Corporation
Structural engineers : Sasaki Structural Consultants
Campus Planning : Tama Art University Campus Project Team
Interaction design : Workshop for Architecture and Urbanism
Design team : Toyo Ito, Takeo Higashi, Hideyuki Nakayama, Yoshitaka Ihara
Photographs : Rasmus Hjortshoj, Ishiguro Photographic Institute, Tomio Ohashi

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