24. Mar 2014

Temple in Eifukuji/J

Text: Joachim Ritter
Photos: Toru Kitamura, Daichi Ano

A window is a window is a window. Is it not? Can we make any more out of an opening in a wall than we already do? Certainly we can, if we regard light as an integral part of the design and approach the task of creating a window with purpose and awareness. Le Corbusier revisited.

It takes a large portion of conviction to purposefully make a stylistic break within one building complex conviction that is best backed by an educated decision to pursue a specific approach. When designing a building to house additional office space and living quarters for the priests managing Eifukuji Temple on the same grounds as the temple itself, the architects were faced with a significant challenge: to blend the new structure into the complex while providing a direct visual link to the temple and ensuring a certain level of privacy in the living space.
The new building not only documents a break in style but also in the type of materials applied. Instead of the timber used for the old temple buildings, the new structure utilises reinforced concrete plastered with a locallysourced stone crushed into an aggregate. The finish on the interior walls is traditional Japanese plaster known as tosa shikkui. It comprises fermented straw mixed with lime and is highly durable. Thanks to the straw the stucco is first silky beige in colour, but gradually changes to white when exposed to sunlight – one of very few materials that appear to improve with age. The footprint of the new building is slightly trapezoidal and the optical message is one of combined geometric precision and playfulness. The cubiform building has 77 windows in all, and it is these windows that make the architecture so extraordinary. From the outside they are intriguing enough. At first glance you are not sure if they are windows or an especially aesthetically designed ventilation system. But the effect they have inside the building is somewhere between joy and mind-blowing. Clearly defined cones of light. Purposeful incident daylight. A gallery of outside views …
But first back to the drawing board: the architects’ concept was based on bringing daylight into the building while keeping private interior spaces out of the line of sight of temple visitors and pilgrims by varying the window positions inside and outside the buildings and forming windows that “cut through” the thick walls at a slant. […]
The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 92

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