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Benesse House Oval

Naoshima, Japan
1 of 16how to spend it

The Benesse House Oval is one of the buildings designed by Japan architect, Tadao Ando as part of the Benesse Art Site Naoshima. The Benesse facility consists of four buildings, all designed by Tadao Ando: the Benesse House Museum, Oval (opened in 1995), Park and Beach (both opened in 2006) in the island of Naoshima.

This project was for an annex to the Benesse House hotel that was originally built in 1992. Located on the side of a hill, it was part of a complex of buildings that brought museums, galleries, conference facilities, a hotel and a restaurant all onto one site. The extension, which was 40 meters higher up at the top of the hill, is linked to the existing core of the unique Benesse complex by numerous walkways as well as a funicular monorail.

With an oval plan and only one level, the building is set in the heart of a forested area that boasts a lovely variety of plant and tree life. The annex also offers vista points from which to appreciate the lush vegetation and spectacular views of the Seto Inland Sea.

In order to protect the environment, part of the new structure and its garden was set underground, as in the existing one. The oval itself measures 40 meters on its long axis and 20 meters on the shorter one. Luxury accommodation here includes four double guest rooms, two suites and an in-house cafe. The central courtyard also has a large pool with an oval shape measuring 20 by 10 meters on its long and short axes, respectively. It forms a sort of liquid sculpture and is enclosed by a portico that could be used as an outside gallery.

Inside the Oval, an L-shaped wall was constructed with the same type of stone used for the access to the main building. Water features were then made an integral part of the entrance design and used to link areas around the structure. At the edge of the complex, water flowed directly into the sea and the verdant hanging garden appeared to be an extension of the surrounding vegetation. Fusing with the landscape and the sea, the Oval and its wonderful garden offer a completely different nature experience.