A place where the past and the future show through
This lodging has vitality, the result of a project managed through the joint consciousness of those in charge: young people, craftspeople, engineers and other experts, led by the Mumbai architect Mr. Bijoy Jain. It is a ferroconcrete apartment building--constructed on a mountain slope in the town of Onomichi, which overlooks the sea--and resuscitated with thorough analysis, choice and judgment. One can become a storyteller when driven by a shared pride, experiencing both hardships and achievements shared with others. Everyone involved in the operation of the facility happily and passionately explains its inception to visitors.
It was due to the keen insight of the owner that this old apartment building, made up of 24 cramped 2DK units, which anyone looking at it would assume should only be demolished, ventured to make it into a conversion project instead. It was also a superb arrangement to entrust this reconstruction to Bijoy Jain, who creates architecture that engages all the senses, including the sense of touch. The architect, saying that Onomichi is a town whose interest lies in the fact that both history and the present show through, boldly removed walls and created a simple and beautiful space open to both town and time. Temporal changes in fact provide us with an enhanced, new sense of meaning.
In this facility, whose large aperture allows one to take in the surrounding scenery, there are but six guest rooms. With the center part of the structure removed, a large courtyard unexpectedly arose in the center of the U-shaped building. The other side faces the mountain, towards a steep, cliff-like slope. On this surface, apparently, the author wanted to project Yasujiro Ozu’s classic film, Tokyo Story, in which an old couple traveled all the way from their home in Onomichi to visit their adult children in Tokyo. Stemming from this image, he chose to make the handrail facing the courtyard light and transparent; in other words, he attempted to construct a space reminiscent of Shakespeare’s stage.
In accordance with Jain’s image of the guest rooms as a sort of “cocoon”, Japanese washi paper was chosen and affixed to shoji doors without crossbars, and to small windows, and something like the oiled paper used in the Korean underfloor Ondol heating system was affixed to the floors. It is a Japanese space, dominated by the horizontal and vertical, but it is also certainly like being in a cocoon. Wataru Hatano, long engaged in making washi paper and in its attendant culture in Kurotani, Kyoto, produced paper into which was mixed the local soil, so that the paper does not appear too white. Areas around the bath and toilet and other spaces where water is used are densely packed with circular ivory tiles.
In addition to the exterior appearance of the architecture, the palettes of the walls in the dining room, bar, library and so on produce a calming effect. Attention has been given even to the nooks and corners of the space, and the curves are gentle. This is the result of extraordinary efforts put into the plastering, done by a professional plasterer, and the painting work in which the facility’s staff participated. In each and every part of the building, one feels the affection of those who collaborated in its recreation. Going forward, Japan will become a little humble as a country, but in this facility, one can sense the aura of a future in which one can feel the pride in the time and history etched into our nation.
Carefully stored in the gallery are the models used at the inception of LOG, samples of the dyes used on the walls, early architectural drawings, sign prototypes and more. The attitude and passion of those who created things are well preserved, arranged and organized so that those who take on the future of the facility and visitors can peruse them. I felt as though here, I secured the relief and belief that through the steady accumulation of wisdom, the future of Japan and mankind will be protected and pioneered.