This is a project by Tezuka Architects + Masahiro Ikeda Co. and it is located at Niigata, Japan. It was submitted to Architecture News Plus (ANP) by Tezuka Architects. Project's program: Facility dedicated to educational and research activities in the field of natural science. There are sixteen images for Echigo-Matsunoyama Museum of Natural Science.
Located in the mountains of Matsunoyama, a region of Niigata Prefecture known for its heavy winter snowfalls, Kyororo is a facility dedicated to educational and research activities in the field of natural science. The area surrounding the site is famous for its beautiful woods of buna – or Japanese beech – trees, whose singularly shaped base follows the ground before straightening up, a trace of the heavy snows that flattened the tree each winter before it grew strong enough.
The facility was planned to house both a permanent base for scientists and exhibition spaces for the general public. A great emphasis was put on incorporating the environment’s natural and climatic settings into the concept. The structure’s pitched cross-section was inspired by the Matsunoyama region sheds that protect local roads from the snow. And the horizontal plan, shaped like a snake, follows the pattern of the paths surrounding the site. The sound emitted by a local variety of kingfisher, “kyororo…” was chosen for the project’s name.
The total length of the building, tower included, is 160 meters. With an outer shell entirely made of 6-millimeter-thick welded Cor-ten steel plates, the difference in temperature between summer and winter causes the snake-like structure to expand and contract almost 20 centimeters in length. Snowfalls in the region often reach 30 meters per year and form snowdrifts of up to seven meters, so the building has to withstand a total load of some 2000 tons, like a submarine buried under deep snow.
Wintertime visitors are led through high walls of piled snow and enter a unique tunnel world, where they are shielded from the harsh climate. The wideness of the inside trunk reflects the movement of people, providing large spaces at angles where visitors pause to observe the nature and becoming narrower where they walk. At key points inside the building, massive floor-to-ceiling windows give a spectacular view over the yukiguni – or “snow country”, as the region is known in Japanese – the largest one measuring 14.5 by 4 meters and weighing approximately 4 tons. Visitors are thus able to fully admire cross sections of the snow and the creatures living beneath.
To sustain the weight of the snow and give the structure a proper isolation, all windows were made of 55 to 75-millimeter-thick acrylic. This strong material also provides an extremely high 98-percent degree of transparency, which convincingly erases the boundary between the inside and the outside worlds. It is also said that right before the snow reaches the roof a distinctive light can be seen filtering through the top of the windows. In summertime the large cross sections of snow are replaced by sceneries of buna trees and terraces for rice cultivation. From the 34-meter tower, visitors can also enjoy a magnificent view over the treetops on Echigo’s Three Mountains.
The appearance of the weather-resistant steel outer shell changes with the passage of time. Six months after the Cor-ten plates were welded together on-site, the body was already displaying its characteristic deep brown, striped pattern. From the other side of the valley the building looks like a ruin from the Inca period, with its tower seeming to have dominated the treetops for ages. Hopefully it will remain as such for the ages to come, buried in the depths of the surrounding forest.