Inside* – Tama Art University Library

Tama Art University Library | Toyo Ito

This month we take a trip Inside* one of my favourite buildings, the Tama Art University’s library designed by, Pritzker prize winning architect, Toyo Ito.

© Ishiguro Photographic Institute. Entrance (L)

Located in the suburbs outside of Tokyo, this elegant concrete building sits atop a sloping hill at the entrance of the campus anchoring itself as the gateway to the grounds. On approach you can see a hint of the labyrinth of the arches inside which is artfully framed by the large glazed arches on the façade. Yes, this building is all about the ARCH. A classic architectural staple, I know, but the way Ito has managed to reinterpret it so gracefully is a masterclass in form and a reminder that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

© Scott Norsworthy

The structure does not follow a traditional formal grid instead it comprises of a series of arcades that criss-cross across the floor plates following gentle curves. The intersection of the arches creates an efficient means of distributing the load and therefore allows for the bottom of the structure to be super slender. This creates the illusion of lightness which is heighten by the flood of daylight from every edge.

© Scott Norsworthy. Lounge Area

The building acts as the threshold to the campus and therefore lends itself to having many temporary occupations as students circulate through it and wait in-between classes and for their transport. Ito encourages people to spend time in the space by delegating the public functions to the ground floor.  The programme consists of a gallery, cafe, lounge, multimedia stations and an area to chill and catch up on the latest art magazines.

mag area
© Ishiguro Photographic Institute
Stairs together
©Ishiguro Photographic Institute.  © Iwan Baan

The actual library is located on the first floor which can be access via a large twisting staircase on the east side of the building.

Library 2
© Ishiguro Photographic Institute

The library space consists of low books shelves which wind around and in between the structure.  These help to create zones within the larger space while still maintaining the visual connection.  Some of the arches are infilled with shelving to prompt spatial divides allowing for more private reading areas.  The ceilings are free of services, astoundingly, which emphasizes the handsome concrete and the clean lines of the space.

Library 1
© Ishiguro Photographic Institute
Library 4 framed view
© Iwan Baan

The perimeter of the first floor is lined with desks which are dotted with low level lamps. These work stations sit up against large windows which frame views of the landscape.  Soft white curtains are used to control the light and are patterned by the silhouettes of the trees outside.

Library 3
© Toyo Ito & Associates

Ito has managed to dream up a building which is both bold and humble whilst still providing a calm space for students to contemplate art.  I give him props for his mad design skills.