Benesse Art Site Naoshima

Construction year: 1992 (Annex 1995, Minami-dera Art House Project 1999)
Address: Gotanji Naoshima-cho, Kagawa-gun, Kagawa-ken | NAOSHIMA | Japan | Visit Website
Latitude/Longitude: 34.4477794, 133.9847157
Architect(s):

Naoshima is a small island in Japan’s Inland Sea that is home to local fishermen as well as a development for the arts. The Museum and hotel are located on the southern edge of the island on a steep hillside with interventions extending to the rocky shore line and beach below.

Composition of the Museum

The Museum is intended to be accessed by boat. A stepped plaza along the shoreline functions as the museums entrance when arriving by boat as well as housing an underground annex. In addition, it also serves as an outdoor performance space as well as a place to sit and contemplate the quiet surf of the sea and the beauty of the natural surroundings.

The composition of the Museum’s main building consists of three overlapping cubes and a circle, with a rectangular guest wing attached at an angle to it. The simple geometrical volumes of the Museum are built within the hillside so as not to disturb the beauty of the natural landscape but to become a part of it.

Museum’s Interior

Visitors ascend the slope, pass through the entrance of the main building and then descend into a large underground double height art gallery.  The room opens up on one side to form an exterior exhibition space with concrete walls which frame a view of the sea and the purple and green colored vegetation of the surrounding hills. On another side of the gallery the space opens up to another exterior exhibition room. This one is completely enclosed by concrete walls and is open to and frames the sky above.

The Hotel

The oval shaped hotel Annex is situated higher up the hill above the museum and is accessed by a cable car or walking paths from the museum. The annex houses several guest rooms for visitors. The entry corridor to these rooms is enclosed in glass which traverses a stream of flowing water. On one side there is a view to the sea and the other a view to a water plaza. Connected to this corridor is an oval shaped cut out volume of which in the center is a pool of still water filled to its edges reflecting the surrounding volume and the sky above.

The visitor can then continue on the other side of the oval volume and either access the water plaza with a wall of cascading water or ascend further on top of the green roof to the highest point to view the spectacular beauty of Naoshima Island and the Inland Sea.

House Project

Also located on Naoshima Island in Naoshima’s residential district of Honmura is another part to the Museum complex. Art House Project in Naoshima involves the restoration of old houses and the transformation of these houses into works of art by artists. The spaces are shaped in conjunction to architecture, previous inhabitants, and Japanese traditions and aesthetics. Tadao Ando is responsible for the design of one of these “Art Houses”, Minami-dera, which was built to house the work of artist James Turrell.

Minami-dera is a new structure that attempts to continue the memory of the temple that once existed on the same site that was destroyed by fire.  The temple is built from dark cedar planks that are found on the traditional Japanese style houses of the neighborhood. The interior is completely dark causing the visitors to be engulfed by silence and darkness, as their eyes adjust to the darkness they encounter Turrell’s Darkside of the Moon.

Other Constructions

Currently under construction, across the cove, is another addition to the Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum complex.  A new museum building, also designed by Tadao Ando, will contain a Monet water lily painting and installations by James Turrell and Walter De Maria.



⇒ Architecture Guide to NAOSHIMA
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