The AJ Writing Prize 2014: Entry
It is a bright autumn day in Japan. This time, the blue sky is kind enough giving the stage to the sun. And there, next to the quiet street, among the greens, sunken in the earth, the concrete walls are gleaming, sunbathing.
We eagerly jump straight to the entrance walls, saying hello to the exposed concrete. Raw yet smooth. Loud yet serene. Then a simple opening let us through, and the experience of Cichu Art Museum has begun.
Narrow and dark alley lead us to the end where we see a bright wall. Wondering why there is not many of our friend in the dark alley, we realize that this is an underground space. We are entering into a cut through the hill by this concrete alley. Cold, pale yet smooth concrete surfaces on the sides and on the top. Raw and dull concrete floor where those people’s steps are being echoed.
Not a long one, the alley ends with a bright wall which apparently is a void, a rectangular atrium open up to the blue sky. We are greeted by 4 meter high concrete walls enclosing the void. Wait, there is something different! The floor! It’s green. It’s a tall green grass floor. Together, the blue sky and the green grass dance together giving a welcoming surprise to peoples. Meanwhile, the silent concrete walls are standing still complementing the dance scene. Again, the raw smooth exposed concrete walls join perfectly at every corner, perpendicularly plane to plane. My friends, a lot of them, jump all over the void happily, adding drama to the already surprising scene.
Lingering with the drama in this space we suddenly realize this is just an opening teaser. “Come on people, let’s move on to find out what other beauty the architect provide us to see!” People start moving ascending flight of stairs that goes at the four sides of the concrete wall. Those flight of stairs are nicely concealed by parapet with the same concrete finishes. In a full circle, the steps flow the people to a warm room, enclosed inside as a foyer where the museum staffs greet the people. The clear glasses, the woods and again the concrete walls have silent dialogue letting people register their visits or looking at some souvenirs.
Passing through the clear glass, the way out leading to the galleries, we find ourselves in another narrow corridor only this time it is open to the sky with concrete wall on both sides standing 3 meter high. Sliding on the concrete wall surface we are experiencing another space drama we suddenly realize: One side of the wall is slightly slanting towards the centre pressing the corridor space, agitating peoples’ mind even before they reach the galleries’ experiences.
The slanted corridor ends abruptly to a dark concrete wall which leads people to turn into a short alley. Apparently, it’s not an alley. It’s a terrace open up to a triangle concrete void next to it. Another surprising atrium going down three stories deep.
Such a dramatic atrium void, the space plays a drama of materiality. Blue sky from above lies face to face opposite of the slated rough-cut-rock at the bottom of the floor. Three sides of concrete wall with exposed fair face finishes stand high defining enclosure. All planes meet in angle creating dialogue in interfacing detail of nice and smooth exposed concrete surfaces. On one side, stairs are descending to the stories below and go to the bottom of the atrium space. Clear thick glass parapets at each side of the stairs blend into the drama. A slit on the concrete walls reveals a glimpse of darkness behind it.
Such a dramatic atrium void, the scale and proportion render the peoples feeling small and intimidated by the serene and silent atmosphere. Bright light, friends of us, fill up the space. All of us solemnly bouncing around the spaces, from the glass to the rock bottom, from the concrete wall to the flight of stairs. Some get thrown back to the sky, others slip through the dark concrete slits.
Such a dramatic atrium void, the space let people contemplate as this is the core, the central, from where they can go to openings leading to different galleries preparing them for new experiences. Wellthought slit on the concrete wall become a bright guide along the corridor behind the wall. Narrow and high, this corridor ramping up letting people to the art galleries. Friends of mine slip in through the slit fill up dramatic ramp corridor while having dialogue with the cold grey concrete enclosures.
Once arrive at the galleries, unique drama are played again. Silent spaces become a background setting for the art. Silent spaces diligently complement the art shown. Silent spaces as art piece as well as art setting by themselves. We could pass through the well-crafted opening on the ceiling forming the screen of brightness against the pale and cold concrete wall surfaces while the art pieces stand beautifully emphasized by the dramatic setting. In the meantime, Well-proportioned spaces let people having dialogue with the art pieces and the gallery itself.
Moving from one gallery to the others, people get back to the atrium void as the main circulation core. Contemplate again, getting ready for the next drama in other galleries. And then, the sequences of architectural drama can be repeated again and again.
Lingering again in the void, we agree with each other, we don’t want to leave this space. We want to be part of it. We want to always slide on every well-crafted concrete corners. We want to feel the smoothness of the glass parapets meeting the harsh concrete steps. We want to enjoy laying down on the harsh rock bottom facing up to the sky. We want to complement this masterpiece play of materiality. We want to complete the spaces Tadao Ando has masterfully choreographed in this Chicu Art Museum, Naoshima, Japan.