Tama Art University Library by Toyo Ito



Toyo Ito's office has sent us a set of photos and a description of the architect's newly completed Tama Art University Library in Tokyo.


The photos are by Ishiguro Photographic Institute.


Below is some text on the project followed by credits:


Tama Art University Library (Hachioji campus)


This is a library for an art university located in the suburbs of Tokyo. Passing through the main entrance gate, the site lies behind a front garden with small and large trees, and stretches up a gentle slope.


The existing cafeteria was the sole place in the university shared by both students and staff members across all disciplines, so the first impetus for our design was to question how an institution as specialised as a library could provide an open commonality for all.


Our first idea was for a wide open gallery on the ground level that would serve as an active thoroughfare for people crossing the campus, even without intending to go to the library.


To let the flows and views of these people freely penetrate the building, we began to think of a structure of randomly placed arches which would create the sensation as if the sloping floor and the front garden’s scenery were continuing within the building.


The characteristic arches are made out of steel plates covered with concrete. In plan these arches are arranged along curved lines which cross at several points. With these intersections, we were able to keep the arches extremely slender at the bottom and still support the heavy live loads of the floor above. The spans of the arches vary from 1.8 to 16 metres, but the width is kept uniformly at 200mm.


The intersections of the rows of arches help to articulate softly separated zones within this one space. Shelves and study desks of various shapes, glass partitions that function as bulletin boards, etc., give these zones a sense of both individual character and visual as well as spatial continuity.


On the sloped ground level, a movie-browser like a bar counter and a large glass table for the latest issues of magazines invite students to spend their time waiting for the bus in the library.


Climbing the stairs to the second floor, one finds large art books on low bookshelves crossing under the arches. Between these shelves are study desks of various sizes. A large table with a state-of-art copy machine allows users to do professional editing work.


The spatial diversity one experiences when walking through the arches different in span and height changes seamlessly from a cloister-like space filled with natural light, to the impression of a tunnel that cannot be penetrated visually.

The new library is a place where everyone can discover their style of “interacting" with books and film media as if they were walking through a forest or in a cave; a new place of arcade-like spaces where soft mutual relations form by simply passing through; a focal centre where a new sense of creativity begins to spread throughout the art university’s campus.

Project title: Tama Art University Library (Hachioji campus)
Location: Hachioji City, Tokyo, Japan
Architects: Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects
Client: Tama Art University
Program: Library

Design and Supervision
Campus Planning : Tama Art University Campus Project Team
Architects: Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects
Design team: Toyo Ito, Takeo Higashi, Hideyuki Nakayama, Yoshitaka Ihara
Associate Architect: Kajima Design
Structural engineers: Sasaki Structural Consultants
Associate Architect: Kajima Design
Mechanical engineer: Associate Architect: Kajima Design
Interaction design: Workshop for Architecture and Urbanism
Furniture design: Fujie Kazuko Atelier
Curtain design and fabricator: Nuno Corporation
Supervisor: Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects
Design team: Toyo Ito, Takeo Higashi, Hideyuki Nakayama, Yoshitaka Ihara
Tama Art University Campus Project Team
Tama Art University Former Facility Office

Architecture: Kajima Corporation
Mechanical: Kajima Corporation
Shop drawing: Evergreen
Air-Conditioning, Plumbing & Mechanical Services: Techno Ryowa, Tonets Corporation,
Sanken Setsubi Kogyo
Electrical Installation: Kyokujitsu Electric, Kandenko, Toko Electric

Posted on Tuesday September 11th 2007 at 11:00 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Zender

    I love this. So light and peacefull. The way a library should really be. Toyo Ito is great!

  • Hemi

    Beautiful, calm and interesting.

  • Mattia Nuzzo

    What a beautiful place to sit, reflect, and absorb. When this building was under construction I was unsure of what the outcome would be, but I should have known better than to have doubted Ito. He’s really a master of pushing the boundaries of architecture in new directions and forms – without succumbing to needless showmanship. All this building needs now is some landscaping out front and a diligent staff with a generous supply of glass cleaner.

  • F

    what a relief after Chipperfield’ s Marbach library …

  • ito has such a light touch.
    has the air and majesty of a ancient temple ruin, adopted by the 21st century. truely inspirational.

  • yooo

    Ito is a master

  • Anthi

    I think that the certain design is rather romantic. It’s definitely useful, but without any high-tech hints. It’s beautiful anyway, and it is also possible that it adopts a rural subarb’s genius loci. But I dont’s think it’s contemporary design.. ps. the forms are not new anyway.. hints from “tradition” -medivial arcs- and maybe post-organic forms as far as the inside is concerned.

  • Tim

    I have to agree: this design has hints from more traditional architecture. However: traditional “western” architecture. I really admire the way the european forms of arches and such are influenced with a japanese touch, making the building really becoming something specific. It’s a rather romantic design, really beautiful. On a more critical note, however: I am not too sure about the design of the interior: the shelves and tables look a bit “messy” in relation to the clean design of the structure. I could be wrong, though – I’d like to see some plans of the building…

  • Nigel

    I love this vocabulary used in this way,too. The arch lies in such an order.
    Ito’s design is somehow lovely.

    And i would like to see more info on this project

  • F

    if you want more infos on the project , check the ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW august ..the project is on the cover .

  • double

    The structure is too pure that you will see the same archs everywhere with out something else what can attract you

  • osman


  • Peter

    Hey now, why don’t they mention that Tamabi is the biggest art university in Japan! I take pride in my alumni :)

  • all to say, absolutely beautiful…

  • Why does nobody post the truth about this?

    Its is a Louis Kahn Remake of a building.. it is beutiful, yes..

    Louis would have done the real vaults, instead of using a contradictive system.. -steel covered in concrete-

    nevertheless, a nice space

  • abdulqadirabas

    I strongly agree..it’s a remake of Louis Kahn’s building.But for me..it’s still a subtle piece of Ito concistencies in exploring spatial ambiguity.


    Of course it reminds us of some Kahn staff, but this one is extremely more soft and atractive. Why? because of a more sensitive and difuse pattern, a truely lightness of material (though i need to study it more to consider efficency), and a spatial softness and smoothness quite different from Kahn sharp grids. The final result is more close to Saarinen spaces with half the material. Anyway Ito is making some other things quite awfull lately too, his writings are great, that´s for sure.

  • lerbusier

    i see more of oscar niemeyer in this design rather than louis kahn, althought i understand the kahn in it also. it seems to me a good example of quality contemporary architecture in a world of architectural apearences and archistartets

  • roadkill

    shame the ceiling is not vaulted… it almost feels like two schemes…. but overall is not too disappointing

  • Daniel

    that was cool

  • Very cool… Maybe you’d like to add this to the map that I’ve just created about cool places to visit in Tokyo:
    You can add photos and videos too.

  • George Djenkov

    …::space filled with natural light::…

  • viqui

    Master piece!!!! I would say there’s some of Kahn in it also…

  • Yes it’s a beautifull space ansd nice architecture.
    But to be honest, what about the presentation of all the books?
    There’s nothing new and innovitive about that, and that’s a shame.
    It is still a lot of books on shelves. See how books stores are presenting their products, and learn from that! The client had to hire some retail specialists.

  • mirka

    hello, i am interested in this interesting buildig, could somebody help me where can i read more technical information??? thank you very much:)

  • Jelle

    Wow, I’d like to see some floorplans of this design.

  • I would like to see some floorplans and sectional views.

    I am planing a new building.

    Best regards,
    Wolfgang Sackmann

  • JH

    This a very majestic building. Very beautiful. Does anyone have a clue how the ceilings are so clean? Where are the fire sprinklers? Air Diffusers? Smoke detectors? Emergency Lighting? All of this plagues conventional buildings. If you have insight, please let me know!

  • ..talking recently about Ito-san’s work to italian architect Professor Andrea Branzi (author of the No-Stop-City-concept in the sixties), we had to conclude there are only few architects in the world daring to believe (and invest)in the experiment and to push the boundaries, opening up new possibilities for a better life in better projects, better cities. 1000 x thanks Ito-san!


    I am highly interested in the contruction plans and information about the structural solution

  • JohnH

    Planar catenary arches. The lack of a vaulted ceiling is actually quite nice in my opnion. Yes, it’s kind of Kahn inspired, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • vico

    the way shelves are ondulating through it and the promenade between the arches are so peaceful…

  • Max

    Doubtlessly a beautiful and interesting space to be in, but isn’t it a problem that the building is so deep? From the images one can see a lack of natural daylight in some areas, the victim of a design concept that could have used some “softening up” to really become outstanding architecture.

  • angry catalan

    You should read Ito’s writings before talking about his buildings.

    I doubt Ito’s design ideas have anything to do with Kahn’s (let’s not forget that formal essentialism in Japan is exemplified by Arata Isozaki, who influenced Ito’s early buildings – and who has used plenty of rather un-European vaults in his 80’s buildings), Plus to me they look more like stalactites anyway. Ito has extensively used vaults and arches in buildings such as Silver Hut or the Yamashiro Museum so check those out to see where he’s coming from. Oh, and the most important thing – masonry is extremely hard to come by in Japan. Bricks are expensive over there and builders are not familiar with the material. Sejima refers to those white brick flats she did as “experimenting with new materials” so both Kahn-style arcges and Mediterranean-style vaults are out of the question.

    What those arches ARE is a clever solution to the contradicting demands of a) a transparent space where different actions, images and information come and go continuously AND b) a complex, maze-like urban space with different intensities of phenomena, so that said phenomena aren’t rendered flat and static (i.e. monumental, permanent, essentialist, Kahn-like as in “teaching is to gather under a tree” or “arches are a shape that resides in bricks”). So hats off to Mr Ito for finding a simple answer to such a complex contradiction.

    As for the messy organisation of the shelves, I guess it has to do with his idea of “microchip-like floor plans”, as exemplified in the Sendai Mediatheque.

  • May

    This is Beautifull!! I am gonna use this as an inspiration for my school project :)

  • joko priyono S

    pretty and smooth, although concreet.

  • Cat

    The design looks similar to Oral Roberts University's library in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

  • Denis MacEoin

    The building is undeniably beautiful, and the interiors work well. But it is badly designed for a library. There seems to be little room for books, and these are kept at an uncomfortable level below waist height. I certainly wouldn't want to do much browsing there. Why is it that some architects get carried away by their own concepts, but ignore the human needs a building should express. Here, form most definitely doesn't follow function.

  • will

    yes, certainly elegant, although some details bother me. i find the lattice in the arch above the bookshelf too busy, and the furniture is pretty awful, which is an odd inconsistency for someone as sensitive as ito.

  • Visar

    Great architect!

  • Aneta

    Harmony, simplicity and these arches love.