Toyo Ito's winning entry the lusty library of Sendai Mediatheque

Oct 16, 2019

Its fairly safe to assume we can all agree that books infuse spaces with texture, color depth and character, adding a sense of comfort and a certain warmth. In this increasingly digital and intangible world we live in, books and libraries give us a sense of security and the familiar, at the same time evoking a certain thirst for knowledge- a childlike way order. Rows and rows of boring books, spines of which are hardly the material de jour for architectural masterpieces. Without so much as a floating bookcase or levitating random book to keep you engaged, how is one to entice the reader into the Hallowed Halls? Sendai Mediatheque is one of the spaces libraries in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Constructed by Toyo Ito in 1995 and completed in 2001. Ito’s proposal was conceptually rooted in an idea of “fluid” space of technology discussed in his 1997 article Tarzan in the Media Jungle.

The official opening was on January 26, 2001, the project started in 1989 when the Arts Association of Miyagi Prefecture requested the construction of a new museum in Sendai. A site of an old bus depot was replaced into library between 1989., an architectural contest was organized for the design of the Mediatheque, after consulting the public and in March 1995 Toyo Ito and Associates Architects was named the winner out of 235 competing proposals.

It’s an all-purpose program public facility which includes the mixture of library and art gallery functions located in the city of Sendai, Japan. Toyo Ito's winning entry for an open competition commissioned by the city of Sendai in 1995, the innovative building opened to the public in January 2001. It includes the services which provide a conventional book-lending library, an extensive collection of film and audio recordings with stations for both viewing and editing, a theatre, to a cafe and bookstore, all housed in a nearly cubic glass enclosure. Ito’s "characterizing" architectural elements are supported by the seven platform: a forest of 13 non-uniform tubes which appear to rise fluidly through the building.Its a milestone in Ito’s career. An introducing example of attempts to use new notions of 'media' as an architectural concept." Was the architectural genre.

This project’s importance is derived from its poetic imagery, avant-garde program, and technical innovation. In Ito’s own words:

Sendai Mediatheque embodies our proposal for a completely new concept of architecture. ...The complex includes a Mediatheque, an art gallery, a library, an information service center for people with visual and hearing impairments and a visual image media center. During the open competition and subsequent phase of basic designing, our primary effort was on demolishing the archetypal ideas of an art museum or library to reconstruct a new idea of architecture called "mediatheque" utilizing the state-of-the-art media.

The construction is made of three main elements: tubes, plates, and skin.

The plates (floor slabs) are composed of a honeycomb-like near work of steel sections infilled with lightweight concrete. The steel honeycomb structure allows the plate to span between irregularly spaced vertical supports without beams, and with minimal thickness of the slab itself. Each floor contains a different set of the building’s many facilities which are more or less free to interact with each other over the surface of a given plate.

The skin or facade treatment differs on all five exposed sides of the building, modulating light and views, creating a uniformity across each face of the cube during the day. The main (south-facing) facade is double-glazed and functions as part of the building’s climate control system. The materials which compose the skin range from glass, to steel panels, to aluminum mesh.

The most striking structural elements are the tubes, composed of thick-walled steel pipes; they range in size from 7 to 30 inches In diameter. Although they appear to be continuous, the tubes were actually manufactured in floor-height segments and were assembled sequentially, floor-by-floor. The tubes perform a number of functions. Firstly, they serve to structurally support the building. The four tubes closest to the outer corners of the plates were designed to resist a 400-year earthquake, while the others resist the vertical gravity loads. As a test to its integrity, the building survived the March 2011 earthquake with little to no damage.

The tubes also house vertical circulation of air, water, electricity, light, and people within the building. The constant motion of people through the stairs and elevators, as well as the glow of light passing through these tubes c, creates a perceptual link between the floors, and the functions they house, which might otherwise have felt isolated from one another. Because the tubes create links throughout the full height of the building, they are often glazed to provide fire protection between floors.