Some might think minimalism stands in opposition to the preservation of history and instead focuses entirely on modernity, particularly in relation to design. But that is definitely not the case. Take the impeccably designed Mekari Shrine as a perfect example. Tokyo and Osaka based design studio ABOUT has renovated the award office of a Shinto shrine in Fukuoka, Japan, dating back to 200 AD. Instead of reimagining the building, the architects—led by Tadahiro Butsugan—beautifully renovated the space, honouring the original form of the building.
The theme of this plan is the concept of ‘returning to the roots’ and the inevitability of ‘being’.
One of around 80,000 shrines in the country, each shrine contains an office that serves as a special place where gifts and amulets are exchanged. Mekari Shrine is a Shinto shrine associated with the Goddess of the Moon. Being a shrine on the yin side of the yin and yang, and based on the client’s request, ABOUT chose a darker tone rather than a typically brighter one. The exterior walls are installed with polished black plaster, resistant to the sea breeze. The dark slate colour and thickness of the walls created a massive atmosphere. The result is a minimal and highly spiritual space that immediately instills a sense of calmness upon entering.
We aimed to create a space where one can feel the spirituality of the shrine by eliminating the act of explanation as much as possible.
Tadahiro Butsugan continues to explain the legacy and hopeful lasting impact of the project:
This is a small intervention in the shrine world, but one which we believe will become a guide to a new way of thinking about Japanese shrines, their roles in society, and their nature of existence.