A wood and concrete curtain


Japan House in Sao Paulo is a global initiative from the Japanese government aiming to offer the world a new look at contemporary Japan. For the project’s latest building in Brazil, Kengo Kuma and Associates designed a facade that would blend South America with the Far East.

Kuma’s design combined materials, techniques and cultures resulting in a striking facade of wooden curtain and concrete. Hinoki wood, considered sacred in the Shinto religion and largely used for temples, is placed alongside washi texture, a traditional style of paper first made in Japan, and cobogos, small concrete blocks commonly used in Brazilian modernist architecture.

As the culture centre intends to give visitors a taste of 21st century Japan, the facade also uses technology to expertly mix traditional Japanese styles with a modern, digital approach; a 3D multimedia display plays short films and visuals behind the hinoki wood facade.

A team of specialists was required to install the hinoki wood using the traditional 300-year-old technique, fixing 630 large and small pieces of hinoki in a jigsaw, plus 300 pieces of gate, to create the 36 metre-long facade.

‘By using hinoki, the most precious wood in Japan, with its very special texture and aroma, I wanted to offer Brazilians the essence of the Japanese spirit,’ explains Kuma, who was inspired by the Japanese Pavilion at Ibirapuera Park.

The building’s interior features cast-metal plates coated with washi (handmade paper), again representing a fusion of Brazilian and Japanese traditions, while partitions and sliding doors and exotic plants continue the theme.

You can see more of this fascinating building here.

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