The Sendai Mediatheque is a mixed-program public facility which combines library and art gallery. It is located in the city of Sendai, Japan.
Toyo Ito's design the the building was from a winning entry through an open competition commissioned by the city of Sendai in 1995. The innovative building opened to the public officially in January 2001.
The Mediatheque's seven levels of facilities offer a range of services including a conventional book-lending library, an extensive collection of film and audio recordings with stations for both viewing and editing, a theatre, and a cafe and bookstore, all housed within a nearly cubic glass enclosure. The seven platforms are supported by what Ito calls "characterizing" architectural elements: a forest of 13 non-uniform tubes which appear to rise fluidly through the building. Architecturally, the building is considered an important milestone in Ito's career. The project's importance is derived from its poetic imagery, avant-garde program and technical innovation.
In Ito's own words:"Sendai Mediatheque embodies our proposal for a completely new concept of architecture. ...The complex includes a Mediatheque, an art gallery, a library, an information service center for people with visual and hearing impairments and a visual image media center. During the open competition and subsequent phase of basic designing, our primary effort was on demolishing the archetypal ideas of an art museum or library to reconstruct a new idea of architecture called "mediatheque" utilizing the state-of-the-art media."
Ito calls the Sendai Mediatheque one of the high points of his career. In the Phaidon book, Toyo Ito, he explains, "The Mediatheque differs from conventional public buildings in many ways. While the building principally functions as a library and art gallery, the administration has actively worked to relax divisions between diverse programs, removing fixed barriers between various media to progressively evoke an image of how cultural facilities should be from now on. This openness is the direct result of its simple structure, consisting of flat concrete slabs (which are honey-comb steel plates with concrete) penetrated by 13 tubes. Walls on each floor are kept to an absolute minimum, allowing the various functions to be freely distributed throughout the open areas between the tubes."