Toyo Ito

Vaults, arches, arcs and smoothly poured concrete are the signature elements of Toyo Ito’s new library on the main campus of Tama Art University in Hachioji City, west of Tokyo.

The Japanese architect, who teaches at the university as a guest professor, was commissioned to design a library in a particularly prominent site on a gently inclined slope near the entrance to the campus.

The two-storey, concave building, a crypt-like reading space made up of a series of internal arches, has vast, curved windows that flood the rooms with light. Reinforced concrete arches tipped with tremor-absorbent rubber plates support the main structure and reach into the basement.

The ground floor, with the exception of some staff offices, follows the topography of the site and ramps slowly upwards, forming a generously proportioned exhibition space, the Arcade Gallery. The gallery is the only area open to the public and can be accessed from the north and south entrances.

University faculty member and designer Kazuko Fujie created the bookshelves and long tables that follow the shapes of the walls on the first-floor library. Round tables are dotted around the floor in between shelves and long curtains protect books from strong light.

“Laboratories” have been created on both the ground and first floors, where students can use reprographic equipment, work in groups and hold seminars. Students and faculty members have been using the library since April but it will officially open in July with an exhibition of Toyo Ito’s recent work.