Contact with the natural elements, water, vegetation and light, has a calming, comforting effect, and Japanese architecture has always incorporated natural features, sometimes in miniature form, for purposes of harmony and peace. A farewell temple, in a crematorium, is a perfect theme for Toyo Ito.
Across periods, places and projects of great variety, from the small single-family houses like the beautiful White U, which brought him international acclaim in 1976, to the complex, large buildings, like the Sendai Mediatheque and the National Taichung Theater in Taiwan, the Japanese master has transformed the material nature of buildings, playing with effects of transparency and lightness in pursuit of a personal ideal of dematerialization.
This time, in the funeral hall of Kawaguchi, Ito sets the building up against a small balancing reservoir revised from the old river inserted in the green setting of the Akayama Historic Nature Park. Between the water and the meadow, the funeral hall is an atmospheric presence made of lines and light, hovering in the suspended flow of time, of farewell and absence, offering itself for meditation using methods that are far from banal.
The coldness of abandon and the dizzying symmetry of non-life are sublimated in the inverted perception of the building, in which the roof is like ground that rises and floats, an airborne landscape. At the center stands the brick ziggurat of the furnace, closed and compact, which will gradually be covered by the plants on the terraces created by the setback.
Inside the central block there are seven rooms to contain the two passages of the ceremony, the farewell to the remains and the placement of the ashes in the urn. To ensure peace and privacy for the relatives, and to prevent audibility of the sounds of the mechanized systems, the rooms have been carefully soundproofed and receive indirect light from invisible sources inserted in the corners and the suspended ceiling.
Entering the building, visitors find a continuous space that runs between the central block and the continuous glazings of the outer perimeter, faced by the ceremonial rooms of the central volume. Continuing, they reach a central corridor that leads to a group of ten rooms, vast luminous spaces facing the artificial lake and the park, in which to gather during the wait between the cremation and the placement of the ashes in the urn.
Project by Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects - Photos Iwan Baan