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Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum

Higashiosaka, Japan
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Shiba Ryotaro was an important figure in Japanese literature after the World War II. Characterized by a critical look at modern life, his popular historical novels and travel writings provided moral support for Japanese people after the war. His sudden death in 1996 was widely mourned and his works are still seen by many Japanese as a sort of guide to life.

The museum built in memory of Shiba Ryotaro, designed by the Japanese Tadao Ando, has the aim of transmitting his message to future generations. Built on a site in Higashiosaka, next to the house where the author lived for many years, the project for the two buildings was conceived as a single integrated whole.

The original house is found in a peaceful residential area surrounded by a small, dense wood where it is said that Shiba, who was rarely seen, liked to walk and reflect. The study that faces the park houses his impressive library, from which the writer drew inspiration. It is now clear testimony to the deeply creative world that Shiba inhabited.

Program and design

An effective way of housing his enormous collection of books from around the world needed to take into account the importance of the setting and the fact that they would not be moved. The objective was to create an architecture that allowed people to visualize the inner workings of author's mind.

The new building is a curved structure, but due to concerns regarding the adjacent house, most of the volume was ultimately built underground. Passing through the house gate you go through the park that the studio overlooks, finally reaching the museum as you proceed through a curved glass corridor that frames the garden.

Once inside, away from the entrance, natural light gradually diminishes and, moving forward in the dark, you come to an exhibition area. Set within the heart of the museum this space is simply called "another studio". The walls of this vast space are three storeys high and covered in shelves containing the seemingly countless books collected by Shiba over the course of his lifetime.

One window of white glass composed of panels of various shapes and sizes filters the light so that it falls in many different patterns. This was to symbolize humanity in all its forms and guises, a fascination that Shiba so eloquently and frequently expressed in his writings.

It was through his works that Shiba cast a ray of light into the dark years of postwar Japan, giving hope to men and women who felt trapped by circumstances they couldn't control. The project searched for a way to convey the profundity of his creative world through an exploration of space.

The densely wooded area that surrounds the museum extends right up to the front of the building to create a scenic backdrop. A fundamental element, this green zone looks to evoke the spirit of the writer, who loved and revered nature. This project allows the museum to realize its wish of making the public more intimately aware of the multi-faceted world of Shiba Ryotaro.

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mariathuroczy, February 14th, 2013
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