Architectural Lighting Group (ALG), the firm behind the lighting design at Toshima Ecomusee Town, frequently works collaboratively with architects to develop architectural lighting that is fully integrated with structures. This time, ALG joined forces with Kengo Kuma, an architect that the firm has worked with many times in the past, cultivating the relationship between lighting and architecture through projects such as Ginza Onsen Fujiya, Nagasaki Prefecture Art Museum, and Forest/Floor.
In designing the lighting for Toshima Ecomusee Town, ALG president Takeshi Konishi and his colleagues interpreted their role as connecting people, nature, and architecture in a public space. The design is rooted in the concept of "coexistence between nature and architecture" and represents an environmentally conscious, innovative approach to illumination. We asked Konishi about the project, which exemplifies the firm’s continued search for new possibilities in lighting design.
The building's southwest side
Please give us an overview of the project.
Toshima Ecomusee Town houses both the new government office for Toshima ward and a high-rise condominium tower, making it Japan’s first combination government building/condominium complex. The new office is notable not only for bringing together aging, scattered urban ward offices and combining them with housing, but also for its innovative architecture and lighting environment. The central concept for the project was “coexistence of nature and architecture,” which led to the image of a structure resembling trees. The exterior of the building is covered from the first to the tenth floor in an “ecoveil” comprised of solar panels, sun control louvers, and vegetated panels. Steering clear of splashy lighting, we instead used dim, calm lights to evoke the landscape of a rural village and restore a sense of calm and stability to ward residents. While taking a distinct approach in the ward office versus the condominium complex, we used lighting to tie the entire structure together and articulate a new approach to illumination.
What was most important for you during the design process?
We pursued an integrated architectural lighting design, responding to the architect’s concept of “a building like trees” by designing an oasis of light like you might find in the midst of wilderness. We also kept energy conservation in mind and proposed a lighting environment that would be both calming and dynamic, serving to unite ward residents, ward office, and the surrounding urban area in a single light space. Another priority was bringing out the beauty of greenery and nature in the landscape. For example, we incorporated lights into the structure’s iconic ecoveil rather than installing pole lighting on the site, thereby illuminating the surrounding area with architectural lighting.
Looking up from the first floor at the ward offices in the ecovoid
Ecovoid viewed from the first floor information center
What challenges did you face in the project? How did you respond to them?
An atrium called the "ecovoid" extends from the first to the tenth floors, creating a path for air circulation and serving as a symbolic space at the center of the building. Deciding how to light this large space was one of the issues that arose for us. We devised a strategy for both brightly illuminating the floor of the first story—the origin point of the atrium—and wrapping the entire atrium space in light. On the first floor, uplights in both the ceiling and floor, along with linear and surface lighting, create a clean, elegant ambiance. The supplementary lights on the top floor are hidden from view, suggesting that the first-floor uplights may be shining all the way to the apex and thus lending a feeling of freedom to the space. The reflected light also illuminates the ivy hanging from the top floor, completing the calm and peaceful light space of the atrium as a whole.
The first floor of the ecovoid
Looking up through the ecovoid
How does this project fit into current architectural trends such as sustainability, social function, or technology?
This project represents a new type of public architecture in which ward residents and ward office are linked in a mutually trusting and secure relationship through a newly created “forest.” Since the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami, people have dealt with subconscious unease and nervousness about the possibility of more unexpected events, and in particular they have become more sensitive regarding disaster prevention. Toshima Ecomusee Town was designed within that context to serve as a symbol of harmony and a safe, secure community where people could enjoy nature. By highlighting the beauty of the plantings integrated throughout the architecture, the lighting contributes a feeling of calm to the building and adds interest to the daily lives of people in the community. We believe the project embodies a new type of architectural lighting that creates an oasis of light within the urban space.
Looking toward the Toshima Center Square and Community Plaza on the first floor
A passageway on the first floor
Subway entrance on the second basement floor
E-mail interview by Japan-architects.com (translated from Japanese by Winifred Bird)