Ship's Museum in Ishinomaki City, Japan

( Foto: Nigel Young / Foster Partners)

In the 17th century, a Japanese delegation crossed the Pacific for the first time to establish links with Europe. It sailed on the “Sant Juan Bautista”, a 500-ton ocean-going timber ship 55 m long and 50 m high. This vessel has now been reconstructed and, together with a documentation of the achievements of those Japanese pioneers, forms the central exhibit of the museum. The ship itself is berthed in a small bay, and two museum buildings are set in the surrounding hills. The development is ideally integrated into the existing topography. The layout follows the contour lines of the site at important points, and the slope of the ground is taken up by the roof surfaces. The two structures differ in cross-section, however. For the lower building, the hillside was cut away, and a curving retaining wall was inserted, against which the dock tract with its sloping roof was built. The structure of the lightly inclined front facing the sea echoes the form of a timber ship’s hull. This façade and the lower section of the roof are glazed and allow a view of the top of the ship’s mast. The upper building, which contains exhibition spaces and the museum administration, was set into the ground. The roof is conceived as a planted, ground-level viewing terrace with paved areas along the edge. A large staircase leads down from this plaza to the entrance hall. From here and from the glazed escalator that links the two sections of the development, there is a clear view of the ship, the sea and the hills.
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