Japanese Immigration Memorial

The Japanese Immigration Memorial in Minas Gerais, Brazil, is a celebration of the relationship between the people of two different nations. Over 1.5 million Japanese people call Brazil home—the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. Designed by Gustavo Penna Architects and Associates, the museum honours Japanese culture and its influence in Brazil.

The minimalist Japanese Immigration Memorial is unique in that the complete building is a metaphor for the relations between the nations and people of Japan and Brazil. Every detail of the design is intended to tell the story of the two countries, and of Japanese Brazilians today.

The building is a striking white organic form, stretching like a bridge over a small lake. The structure was designed as a bridge to symbolise the connection of the two nations’ ideas and values. The lake represents the ocean dividing Brazil and Japan. The soft curve of the building evokes cohesion and continuity. The entire experience of the memorial is representative of movement; as one moves through the structure and across the bridge, they are, in a small way, experiencing the passage from one country to another. Visitors to the memorial are asked to recall the story of Japanese Brazilians and their past, present, and future.

This Memorial is a beautiful example of how symbolism can weave through contemporary architecture. Buildings are so much more than they appear, and with the right amount of design intention, they can truly tell a story.