The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures
The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures, one of the museum buildings in the Tokyo National Museum complex, is surrounded by nature and cultural assets.
Af Kirsten Kiser
The Horyuji collection was donated to the Imperial Household by the temple in 1878, and the approximately 300 cultural artifacts became national property after WWII.
The old gallery building that once occupied the site served mainly to preserve the works in storage. The new gallery building, which opened in 1999, was required not only to preserve the works but also to permit viewing of exhibited works by the general public.
Out of a desire to respect both the sublime works to be displayed and the natural setting, I made it my goal in designing the new Gallery of Horyuji Treasures to create on the site an environment of a kind that has become all too rare in present-day Tokyo, that is, an environment characterized by tranquility, order and dignity.
— Yoshio Taniguchi
These two contradictory requirements — permanent preservation and public exhibition — were met by providing two contrasting spaces in the building: a dark central portion enclosed by a stone wall, and a brightly lit outer portion wrapped in glass. The louvers are composed of solid steel structural members and extruded aluminum mullions. The Gallery received an architectural award of merit for its cheery man-made pond coupled with its quiet atmosphere.
A thick wall of concrete and stone prevents any outdoor light from entering the galleries and the storage spaces where the works are permanently preserved. The entrance hall also serves as a buffer zone to protect the exhibition and storage spaces. Visitors can relax in peaceful spaces integrated with the outdoors.
The research room and curatorial rooms, which require a pleasant environment, are situated on the top floor. Here, natural light enters through a courtyard open to the sky, and a large window affords a panoramic view of the woods of Ueno.
Taniguchi’s extremely refined and elegant building is the product of a global stream of development that has its roots in the work of Le Corbusier and the pure, cubic forms of “International Style” Modernism. The building’s most uniquely Japanese quality is the astonishing accuracy and attention to detail that has been achieved in its construction. Note, for example, how the joints in the lobby wall panels align perfectly with joints in the flooring.
— Andrew Barrie