Tradition meets modernity: The rapid development of architecture in Tokyo is evident in the models at “Archi Depot.”

Japan in miniature

by Anna Moldenhauer | 11/15/2016

In the warehouse on Tennozu Canal you will find row upon row of white metal shelves. The exhibits, made variously of cardboard, wood and plastic, offer an extensive insight into Japan’s architecture – in miniature. A museum that opened recently in Tokyo’s Shinagawa district, “Archi Depot” aims to preserve and present the delicate architectural models. Rather than gathering dust in cramped offices, these designs by internationally famous Japanese architects such as Kengo Kuma, Riken Yamamoto and Shigeru Ban can be admired here – showcased on 116 shelves and 450 m² of floor space.

The architectural models are presented on white steel shelving stretching up several meters throughout the 450-square-meter warehouse, constituting an extensive archive.

There is a huge range of models on display from study models through to final versions, all previously not accessible to the public. Sometimes the models visualize an initial idea, sometimes they are one-off pieces that aspire to be artistic. The low-key presentation in the white setting of a warehouse, where the models are shown on simple metal shelves several meters in height and illuminated by LED lights, means observers do not miss a single detail of the sometimes abstract designs. Simultaneously, the cool look of the exhibition area suggests the idea of a massive architecture lab where work is done on finding ever different and new designs or improving existing ones.

View from above: Thanks to the minimalist atmosphere and bright light of the fluorescent tubes, the visitor’s eye doesn’t miss a single detail.

In addition every model has a QR code, which can be scanned with a smartphone, providing fast access to additional information. A special website provides other information including blueprints, photographs and similar projects by the respective architect. And as the models on the shelves are sorted according to the architect or design office, visitors can get a comprehensive idea of each author’s portfolio within a short space of time. For the creators behind the designs the warehouse museum represents a double benefit: In renting shelf space they solve the problem of storing the sensitive models in their own studios and can simultaneously present their works to a large audience. The museum of architectural models is the first architectural platform of its kind in Japan.

Regular public discussions moderated by a guest architect are now being held at “Archi Depot” on the topic “Future of Architectural Culture Designed by Architects – Value and Potential of Scale Models” and will continue until March 2017.