On first approach, Mass Museum in Tokyo stands out like a large concrete monolith. Surrounded by residential architecture, the double-height form was designed to draw awareness to an urban gap in the Omotesando neighbourhood. Mass Museum was conceptualised as part of the Harajuku Expanding Landscape Project, a city-wide project to fill in urban gaps, starting with four unique sites. Nobuo Araki, of architecture office The Archetype, is the designer behind the Mass Museum. Based in Tokyo, Araki's firm specialises in a wide variety of sleek and modern architecture.
Mass Museum’s entrance is simple, yet incredibly eye-catching. Double doors, comprised of a warm wood, are centred in a large span across the front facade. The wood seems to reference the historic materiality of the local architecture, much of which is scattered around the museum’s site. The small museum is comprised of three distinct galleries. Each gallery has its own entrance and possesses the ability for a unique exhibition space, while still maintaining flexibility. A subtle set of steps made of concrete, like the facade, leads back to the exterior entrance of the other two galleries. The three galleries are united by a polished courtyard, which doubles as an event space.
The galleries’ interiors feature three main components, all of which are the most important elements of any exhibition space: the walls, the floors, and the lighting. In Mass Museum, these three finishes are undoubtedly classic: white walls, polished concrete floors, and overhead track lighting. What could be more minimal, or more importantly, more functional for an art space? White walls are the ultimate canvas; It’s hard to understand why an art gallery would show anything on a backdrop other than white. White walls invite you to hang something on them, or in this case, many things. Art is viewed best on a white wall: with the right lighting, and the right flooring, one’s surroundings disappear entirely, until it is just the viewer and the art.
The polished concrete floors are as much of a statement as a non-statement. On one hand, they speak to a modern, industrial aesthetic, unmoored by the pretention that accompanies hardwood or marble tile. On the other side of the spectrum, they are simple. They match the exterior of the building, they are practical and cost-efficient. At the end of the day, its not important where the verdict falls on concrete floors: for Mass Museum, they just work. The lighting falls in a similar realm as the floors. Track lighting is popular enough to avoid distracting viewers, and its utilitarian nature allows for ultimate flexibility in a room of ever-changing contents. Again, it works seamlessly for an art gallery.
Nobuo Araki took what was once an abandoned, urban gap and turned it in to a highly pleasing gallery space. Functionality pairs perfectly with a timeless aesthetic in the lovely Mass Museum.