Contemporary Architecture



  • Sendai Mediatheque is multi-function complex accommodating a mixed program of library, art gallery, audio-visual library, film studio and café.
  • It was a competition winning scheme chosen in 1995 from amongst 235 competing proposals.
  • Sendai Mediatheque is  widely recognised as one of Ito’s seminal works.


  • The Sendai Mediatheque project received the Royal Gold Medal in 2006 by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA
  • Its structural innovation, functional versatility, its symbolic meaning for the residents of Sendai.
  • But perhaps what has made this building is a milestone is that has tried to capture on architecture the ethereal, fluent, multidirectional and virtual nature of the computer world that characterizes our time.


  • The general concept, evident already from the competition entry, was the free public accessibility.
  • Located in an area of 50 x 50 m, the multimedia library should contain several features: library, internet booths, areas for watching DVDs, galleries, cafes, etc.
  • Sendai Mediatheque is located in front of a grove and surrounded on three sides by streets.


The design is based on three basic elements:
3.The skin


  • There are 7 platforms in the building.
  • These are the support where the functions are carried out.
  • They are 80 cm. thick.
  • It is actually a grid of metallic beams welded to two metallic plates, similar to those used in shipbuilding. This metal grill can also be seen on the roof, crowning the composition of the building.


  • There are 13 bundles of steel tubular structures covered in glass, resembling a twisted organic structure like a weed.
  • They cross and support the platforms, extending beyond the ceiling.
  • Freely dispersed in the building, they vary in shape, diameter, inclination and dimension, while providing light to the interior. The larger tube has a vertical circulation that connects the different levels of the library.
  • Despite its fragile and transparent appearance, these structures provide flexibility, strength and horizontal and vertical stability to the building in an area of high seismic activity and constant typhoons.
  • It is a transparent membrane that allows fluid visual communication between interior and exterior, and at times the boundary between the two seems to vanish.
  • Ito proposed different facades according to the character of the surrounding environment they face. For example, the main façade, located on the south side facing the boulevard, is a double layer of glass (very useful in the winter months of strong winds …
  • The outer extends slightly and increases the effect of lightness of the building.
  • The west side facade, which faces another plot, is opaque, coated with a metal frame that reveals the emergency stairs. The north and east facades, which face neighborhood streets, have different finishes on each floor: glass, polycarbonate and aluminum.
  • The first floor, called Open Plaza, contains the reception, a cafe and a store of books and magazines. It is totally extroverted toward the street.
  • The second level is the children’s library, internet and administration. It is a very open space, defined only by the furniture.
  • A very interesting aspect is that the separation between the public reading area and the private administration is simply a translucent curtain, resembling a floating wall.
  • At the third level and fourth level (the fourth is actually a mezzanine) are the area of loans of books and reading rooms.
  • In the fifth and sixth floors exhibition galleries are located, used by the citizens of Sendai.
  • Here, mobile rectilinear panels can be accommodated to the needs of the exhibition, in a clear reference to the sliding doors of Japanese architecture .
  • On the seventh floor there is a cinema and conference rooms, which are wrapped in a matte glazed wall (Ito calls it a “membrane”) of curvilinear forms, that is located in the middle of space.
  • Here are also an area for listening tapes and DVDs and areas of assembly. The furniture is also curvilinear and organic.

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