Sendai Mediatheque designed by Japanese architect, Toyo Ito is a good example of utilizing and stimulating energy flows in architecture. Located in the center of Sendai city, Japan, the Sendai Mediatheque replaces an existed old library on the site and serves as library, galleries for exhibitions, and multimedia spaces. The design objective is to create a space for people to freely exchange and absorb information in the new era of technology.
The building consists of three main elements: the floor plates, the glass skin and the columns.
Besides human body skin and clothing, “‘The third skin’ has been known to be used as an allegory for the building’s climate screen and its climate controlling function. The climate screen is the overall external instrument for fulfilment of our comfort needs.” (1) The exterior design of Sendai Mediatheque fulfils the double functions of the third skin: protection and utilization. The exterior skin of the south façade is transparent, receiving plenty of daylight, but the doubled paned or shaded glass acts as cooling war during summer time. During winter, the double skin glass functions as insulator layer to limit heat gain. The skin of the north façade is steel panel, which protects services places such as restroom, offices and storage. At night, the photovoltaic panels on the roof top supplement energy. The columns also serve as tubes of lights. Computerized rotating mirrors on top reflect sunlight into the columns and adjust corresponding to different weather and time. The transparent glass façade on three sides of the building also allows lights inside the building to shine out to the surrounding environment at night, transforming the building as a huge lantern.
The columns are the main feature that distinguish the Sendai Mediatheque from other buildings. Toyo Ito gives the columns tree-like patterns to bring the natural system inside the building. The columns grow through the building like tree trunks, feeding the building the nutrition it needs. The columns have different diameters and locations due to their different functions. Besides of lighting system, the columns also serve as stairs, elevators, ventilation and mechanical equipment. By getting natural air and sending the fresh air to each floor, the building requires little air-conditioning. Just like trees, the columns go through photosynthesis and transform solar energy to all the energy the building needs to function with. Different programs inside the building are not divided within each floor but are collected to different floors. Each floor has different floor height according to its function such as library, art studio, gallery and information center. The columns connect each floor by means of energy flow and unite the building as a whole body.
Buchanan argues that “Sustainability depends also on ensuring economic opportunity and social equity, as well as offering everyone a lifestyle that offers more than mere contentment, but also a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction. Instead of the inequalities and alienation of the present , people would be assured of the means to both fulfill their individual potential and gain a sense of connectedness, of intimate engagement with community and nature and so with their deeper psychological and spiritual selves.”(2) The deeper concept of the Sendai Mediatheque is to encourage information flow within the building and the people inside. The columns create non-closed space for people to form free circulation. The transparency of the exterior skin physically and substantially express the ideas of free information exchange and energy flows in the new century.
(1)Buchanan, Peter. Ten Shades of Green: Architecture and the Natural World. New York, NY: Architectural League of New York :, 2005. Print.
(2)Dahl, Torben. Climate and Architecture. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2010. 58. Print.