On the island of Naoshima in the Japanese prefecture of Kagawa, a unique museum project was realized by star architect Tadao Ando. Naoshima is a small island in the Japanese inland sea. The concept of the Benesse House Museum is the coexistence of nature, art and architecture. The interplay of art and architecture in a beautiful landscape has created a unique composition. Several museums were fitted into the landscape and partially disappear completely under the surface. The buildings respect the landscape and only appear consciously at a few places. The hard exposed concrete surfaces of Tadao Ando form spaces that connect with nature and emphasize the topography of the terrain. The contrast between concrete and nature, in which nature always dominates, makes this place so appealing.
The Rock Sculpture Garden is the best example of this concept. An elongated concrete wall cuts through a slope on the sea, in which the gallery is located. You only see this concrete wall and stairs that follow the sweep of the hill. From a terrace opens the view over the sea, here is also the only opening in the concrete wall through which one can look into the exhibition space.
Naoshima is an island located between the Japanese main island of Honshu and the island of Shikoku. From Honshu, you pass the port of Uno to get to Miyanoura on Naoshima Island. Both port cities are only 5 kilometers apart. To Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku, it is about 15 kilometers. The ferry terminal on Naoshima was designed by the famous architects of Sanaa (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa) in 2006. The rectangular structure consists of a thin roof standing on thin supports. Under the roof are completely glazed rooms and mirrored wall panels. The whole structure looks fragile and delicate. On the pier is the sculpture called Red Pumkin by pop art artist Yayoi Kusama.
Other buildings by Sanaa:
Near the port of Miyanoura stands the sculpture "Naoshima Pavilion" by Sou Fujimoto built in 2015. The walk-in sculpture consists of a white metal net made of stainless steel. The 7 m high Naoshima Pavilion is a polyhedron composed of triangular surfaces. The sculpture is a temporary work of art, which was built for the 2016 Setouchi International Art Festival.
The Chichu Art Museum was built in 2004 by Tadao Ando on the island of Naoshima. The museum was mostly built underground, not to interfere the beautiful island landscape of the Seto inland sea. Artworks by Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter De Maria are on permanent display in the Chichu Art Museum. Although the museum is mainly built underground, the structure allows natural light to enter through differently shaped courtyards, adding a different mood to the appearance of the artworks and the space during the day and at different seasons.
The Chichu Art Museum was built by Tadao Ando in a hill. The museum only comes to light at a few places. The courtyards were stamped as triangles, squares or rectangles into the hill top and form a series of spaces in the museum. At the end of the showrooms, there is a terrace overlooking the sea.
The Chichu Garden takes up the theme of water lilies by Claude Monet. As in Giverny near Paris, there is a pond with water lilies and other plants and flowers.
The museum displays the work of Korean artist Lee Ufan. Lee Ufan sets metal and stone in a relationship without changing it in essence. The museum is located in a valley and was designed by Tadao Ando. Horizontal walls of polished exposed concrete emphasize the works of art. The paintings by Lee Ufan are shown in underground showrooms, for which one sometimes has to take off shoes. The Lee Ufan Museum creates a harmonious blend of art, architecture and landscape.
The Benesse House was built as the first museum on the island of Naoshima. It houses the art collection of Soichiro Fukutake, the son of the founder of Benesse, a well-known textbook publisher in Japan. The Benesse House Museum was opened in 1992 and was designed by Tadao Ando. The Benesse House is actually a collection of several buildings. There are exhibition buildings, hotels, restaurants, cafes and a visitor center (photo). The buildings of Tadao Ando are sensitively integrated into the charming coastal landscape and create a field of tension between the artworks and the surrounding nature. In the landscape are everywhere works of art by different artists. Naoshima is famous for the works of Yayoi Kusama and Niki de Saint Phalle.
Benesse House Museum is a monorail ride to Benesse House Oval Hotel. If you want to spend several days at the Benesse Art Site, you can spend a wonderful time at this hotel. On top of the hill overlooking the Japanese inland sea in a building by Tadao Ando. The Oval Hotel has an oval, open courtyard with an oval basin. Like many other buildings on Naoshima, the hotel blends perfectly into the landscape. The roof is green and from the air you can only see the oval hole in the hill.