21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art



Circular in form, the building has no front or back, leaving it free to be explored from all directions.

Af Kirsten Kiser

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is located in the center of Kanazawa, one of the nation’s historical centers, on the north coast of Japan. The building contains community gathering spaces, a library, lecture hall, children’s workshop, and museum spaces.

The variously proportioned rooms placed inside the circular building — a model based on a chain of islands or an urban space — represent the effects of decentralization and poly-centrism in remote regions.

A walk inside along the curved glass of the exterior facade smoothly unfolds a 360-degree panorama of the site.

Four fully glazed internal courtyards, each unique in character, provide ample daylight to the center and a fluid border between public zone and museum zone.

The exhibition area is fragmented into numerous galleries embedded in the circulation space; this approach offers flexibility for the museum routing and, at the same time, specificity to the gallery spaces.

The circulation spaces are also used as additional exhibition areas.

The scattered location of the galleries provide transparency with views from the periphery into the center, and vistas through the entire depth of the building. The transparent corridors encourage “coexistence”, where individuals remain autonomous while sharing personal space with others.

Gallery spaces are of various proportions and light conditions — from bright daylight through glass ceilings (with a black-out possibility) to spaces with no natural light source. Their heights range from 4 to 12 meters.

A design that allows the visitor to decide on their route through the museum, combined with flexible gallery rooms that can adapt to every type of media, guarantee the trans-border diversity of the programs held in the space. The intention behind all these elements is to stimulate the visitor’s emerging awareness.

For moments of rest there is a row of SANAA-designed “Rabbit” chairs indoors, and a circle of SANAA-designed “Drop” chairs outside.

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