This is quite possibly (one of) my favourite project of all time. Ever since I discovered it’s existence I have been wanting to visit Japan JUST for this one project. Okay maybe not that exaggerated but still the point is – it did not disappoint. An “architecture without exteriors”, an architecture that does not resemble a building as such but a blending of landscape and infrastructure. I present to you the Yokohama International Port Terminal by Foreign Office Architects, formally known as Osanbashi Pier.
The most stand out feature is the open public space which is also the roof structure. This generous expanse of wooden flooring and green space is accessed through a seamless transition from the ground level onto the pier. The openness eliminates any linearity and instead offers a fluid and multi-directional space allowing the public to freely walk about. It is a bit of a shame though that the grassed area is out-of-bounds, especially if you are wearing high heels (see signage).
Another unique feature is the origami like folds which results in conditions of floor bifurcating into walls but not in the traditional 90 degree sense.
Not only is the terminal multi-functional but what really impressed me was how well used it was. Couples, families, young and old all seem to enjoy the space immensely, and I’m sure many of them were like me, visiting the terminal for pleasure and not actually embarking any cruise ships. The view from the end of the terminal made me feel as if I was on a cruise ship myself, looking out to sea from the front of the ship.
The central interior space was the venue for a darts tournament when I was visiting. It was indeed a large open space lacking in natural light (sky lights were apparently omitted due to budget constraints) but nevertheless had its own unique character thanks to the design of the faceted steel ceiling.
An interesting point to note is the colour of the grass, in photos on the internet (such as arcspace) they appear green and luscious, while when we visited it was an orange, brown colour. This could be the winter season or just a case of dryness,either way it still looks good since it’s the same consistent hue throughout.
FOA consisted of the then husband and wife team of Farshid Moussavi and Alejandro Zaera-Polo and was their first project. Alejandro Zaera-Polo describes the project as the origin of his practice, “The hybridisation of infrastructure, landscape and architecture, the integration of computer-aided design into the practice of architecture, and maybe the exploration of a global practice were tested through this project into a real building.”
If you are ever in Tokyo I highly recommending visiting this project in Yokohama, less than an hours train ride away from central Tokyo.
All photos are my own (Nancy Ji).