Hirozakari Sake Brewery

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Tyrant Kunihiko Matsuba + N-LLC transformed a former sake brewery site into an event facility to promote cultural and art events, including the Nakanojo Biennale.

Project description:

Our plan is to reconstruct the former Hirozakari Sake Brewery site owned by Nakanojo-machi, Gunma Prefecture, as an event facility (first period of this year). As the owner of Shima springs, Nakanojo-machi has recently been taking an active part in promoting cultural and art events, including the Nakanojo Biennale. The former Hirozakari Sake Brewery site has been used as the center for these events. For this plan, we created designs for the construction of facilities to store and exhibit eleven bird-hunting drums, which are designated by Gunma Prefecture as important tangible folk cultural properties, along with designs for the renovation of the existing warehouse and washroom.

In order to use the former sake brewery site as an event facility, Nakanojo-machi purchased the land and buildings of the brewery in 2007. However, as the existing buildings were very dilapidated, it was difficult to use all the buildings in their original state. So, we decided to demolish these buildings, except for the office building (steel structure), the storage room (stone structure) and the warehouse (wooden structure), which are well maintained and also have attractive features as architectural spaces. After the demolition, we created a public space, including a storage/exhibition room and a garden, at the former brewery site. We also planned to make positive use of the spaces between buildings that were created through the sequences of demolition and construction, and we used those spaces for approaches to the buildings and open-air exhibition spaces.

Architectural methods aimed at creating an entirely different world from the atmosphere within the former sake brewery until now were inconsistent with our design policy. At the same time, however, methods that only used the atmosphere of the existing buildings to create neatly organized structures felt completely uninteresting. So, we decided to apply various methods depending on the use and location of individual buildings, in accordance with a loosely formulated design policy of slightly distorting the current space.

By its nature, the newly constructed storage/exhibition room does not have any openings on its exterior walls other than those required for the transportation of drums. Instead of creating openings, we built a tunnel-like passage that runs through the building so that visitors can experience the interior space. This passage is lined on both sides with double-strength glass panels (maximum height: 4.5 m) that are supported by upper and lower frames. The two glass screens formed by these panels are not perfectly parallel with each other but are slightly tilted so that they appear to expand into the square and the watercourse outside. Due to this design, these glass screens repeatedly reflect each other, and the multi-layered images created inside the passage have a strong visual impact. The exterior appearance of the building covered with aluminum-zinc alloy-coated steel plates reminds us of boarded walls. Despite its modern style with no eaves or gables, the building creates a traditional Japanese atmosphere that matches the old warehouse, and other existing buildings.

We renovated the old warehouse into an exhibition room. However, unlike ordinary exhibition rooms, the concrete floor of the room is slightly tilted (1.8o). Deprived of a level floor, which is taken for granted in our world, the exhibition room is designed to inspire artists to produce and exhibit art works in creative ways. We hope that the room will serve the purposes of those artists that use it in ways far beyond our imagination.

The washroom, which is located at the bottom of an old smoke stack, is equipped with a stainless steel mirror panel that measures 6 m in width by 2 m in height. A visitor sitting on the toilet will see his or her own body reflected in the mirror. The upper half of the mirror panel is bent with a curvature of r = 5 m; consequently, the mirror presents a distorted image of the visitor’s upper torso. Since it is already planned for artists to draw paintings at the bottom of the old smoke stack, we hope they will be able to use the nature of the mirror panel so as to create a washroom that provides surprise and pleasure to visitors.

The outside area is covered with as much lawn as much as possible. However, we also took great care to clear the way for the transportation of drums and to promote the growth of healthy grass. Covering the ground with lawn not only helps create a pleasant environment, but also prevents heat radiation from the ground and minimizes temperature increases around the warehouse. Fifty maintenance-free LED lights are embedded in the ground along the watercourse. When the sun sets, these lights starts to blink on and off in pale colors, creating a beautiful nightscape.

In plans for the second period and later, we will continue renovation by using different methods for each building, based on our infinitesimally-close-to-zero policy of slightly distorting the space. Overall, we hope to create something that looks disconnected at first, but upon closer inspection turns out to be like a patchwork, composed of independent pieces that are integrated into an organized whole in accordance with a consistent policy.

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