Kyushu’s Nagasaki is the most “exotic” region in Japan. It was the only port in Japan open to the outside world during the Sakoku (“seclusion”) era and it attracted large numbers of foreigners to put down their roots.
Today, many European-style buildings remain as remnants of an era passed, where contemporary architects source local materials to retain the distinctive cultural flavours of this beautiful port city for visitors and tourists to experience.
Kengo Kuma’s extension of an earthy landscape
Look on the west side of the Nagasaki mountains on a clear day, and you will find a metal roof gleaming under the bright sky. The fascinating reflection belongs to the Royal Terrace building, designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates, to form the west wing of the Garden Terrace Nagasaki Hotel & Resort.
“To integrate the new complex with the surrounding mountain scenery, timber was of course our first choice of material for the establishment. Wood is also used to furnish the hotel’s lobbies, rooms and restaurants to create a warm and hospitable atmosphere,” the firm’s spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also explained how the design team placed the Teppanyaki restaurant, along with several premium suites, on the best sites of the hotel to offer guests expansive views across the natural landscape of the port of Nagasaki.
To the west of Nagasaki Port is the Gotō Islands consisting of more than 140 islands. Fukue Island is the largest among them and can be reached by ferry boat from the city of Nagasaki.
A delightful oasis amid an urban jungle
Previously an abandoned cement construction, Hotel Sou – which features only three rooms – was transformed by Japanese firm Suppose Design Office to depict a delightful oasis amid an urban jungle. The design team kept some of the original rebar and concrete, including the deteriorated exterior walls on the second and third floors, which allows the thriving plants to grow outwards and depict a dystopian sense of optimism.
“The whole design concept revolves around contrast and harmony,” says the team at Suppose Design Office.
“Blending the new with the old, and the inside with the outside, we almost completely reinforced and retained the core structure of this 40-year-old construction for design.
“We also brought in SOLSO, an expert in urban landscape, to bring some natural vitality into the cool-toned rooms, moreover, light-coloured wooden furniture and rattan sliding doors were added to brighten up the rooms.”
An unmatched sensation is enjoying the view of Fukue Port from Hotel Sou’s window – framed by broken concrete – as one sits on the bathroom’s cushioned windowsill.
Paying tribute to a history of fishing in Tomie
Located at the south end of Fukue Island, Tomie is a small town once known for its coral production and its population of fisherman. Nowadays, only a few coral stores remain.
In light of this, a group of Tomie-loving locals joined forces with Japanese architect Junpei Nousaku to convert an 80-year-old house, which had been left empty for 30 years, into a library and community centre – The Sangosan Tomie Library. The intention is to use books and activities to showcase the town’s history of its fishing industry.
“With the fishing town’s former glory in mind, the exteriors of the library have been coloured coral red, and the workbenches inside the coffee shop are made of coral-mixed concrete. In the same vein, the steps connecting the stairs are made of a treated piece of volcanic rock,” Nousaku said.
All of the library’s collections are donated by residents. Every book donor has to pick out three important books in their life, so that not only can visitors read other people’s selections, but they can also get a glimpse of the backstory.