The National Museum of Art is an international destination for contemporary art in Japan’s second-largest metropolitan area. The museum was at the heart of a sweeping urban development effort on Nakano Island — now a major cultural and arts district in the city’s historic center. This distinctive museum is entirely subterranean with three levels of underground exhibition galleries and public gathering spaces. A landmark presence in Osaka’s skyline, the museum’s entrance lobby is a larger-than-life stainless steel and glass sculpture inspired by the region’s native bamboo groves. The evocative structure appears to ascend from underground, curving and tilting to form a dynamic glass-enclosed entrance lobby that welcomes visitors from around the world.
“The forms are an expression of bamboos growing from the ground, reaching for the clouds and swaying in the wind. They represent a very dynamic and exciting view of contemporary art, continually renewing itself.” — Cesar Pelli FAIA, RIBA, JIA
A creative feat of imagination and engineering
Nestled between the Tosabori River and Dojima River on Nakano Island, the museum’s underground site descends below flood-level, with no bedrock and soil heavily infused with water. The museum’s subterranean design evokes a three-hull submarine, allowing the building to use its substantial weight to sink into the soil and resist the water’s buoyancy. The building’s three-layer shell of concrete and waterproofing membrane reaches a thickness of over ten feet. This innovative waterproof design reduces energy use, increases protection against earthquakes, and enhances security.
More About the Project
- Architect of Record: Jun Mitsui & Associates
- Structural Engineer: Mitsubishi Jisho Sekkei
- MEP: Mitsubishi Jisho Sekkei
- Location: Osaka, Japan
- Client: Ministry of Construction, Kinki Regional Construction Bureau, Ministry of Culture
- Size: 145,200 sq. ft. / 13,500 sq. m.
- Completion: 2004
- Firm Role: Design Architect
- 2005, AIA Connecticut Design Award
- Principal Project Photography: Jeff Goldberg/ESTO