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History of construction of the Kansai-kan


The Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library is situated in a wooded area of the Kansai Science City, rich in history, culture and natural beauty. The Kansai-kan is the core facility in this area, and it is large, measuring 60,000m2; however, it does not have a monumental or grandiose appearance. The area surrounding the library has still not been fully developed, so its final urban character has not yet been established. In this setting, the library's basic concept of design puts highest priority on harmony with the surroundings.

The Kansai-kan comprises underground stack rooms which account for more than 3/5 of its total floor space, reading rooms half underground facing onto a courtyard, and office blocks located above ground. Consequently, the building is much more spacious than it appears from the outside.

The layout is simple and very easy to understand. This results from two objectives: 1) to provide a universal space layout that can be flexibly adapted to functional changes, and 2) to have a facility that will allow safe egress in times of emergency. The courtyard at the center of the compound provides natural scenery for each room while also playing a vital role as a safe refuge in emergencies.

While the Kansai-kan makes use of the very latest information technology, every room in the library, including the reading rooms and study rooms, offers bright open spaces, rich in natural imagery, with none of the hardness associated with technology. What is more, the building exteriors are clear-cut double-skin curtain walls.

The building is simple and rectangular, yet does not appear banal or mechanical. Rich and tranquil spaces, skillfully crafted, are found both on the inside and outside. The glass surfaces of the curtain walls reflect dappled light from many tees. The stucco facing gives a sense of depth; the simple aluminum projects an image of warmth and firmness; subtle designs instill an air of tension, and natural coloring brings out the play of light.

The reading rooms and study rooms offer spaces conducive to careful concentration yet open enough to help relieve fatigue. Most of the lighting in the underground reading rooms comes from the skylight. Along with practical considerations in the arrangement of space for the sake of uniformity, the skylight encourages occupants to achieve total concentration, so essential for intellectual creativity. The reading rooms and study rooms face a courtyard containing a copse of lush trees. The aim is to provide an enriched study environment where one can find refreshment after long hours of reading or research.

The landscaping was designed to give a sense of calm, to be a place where one can escape from the bustle of everyday affairs and relax. This is highlighted by the sound of a cascade going over a slope 250m in width. Next to the cascade, broad flat lawn provides a grand approach to the entrance. Here, the sound of running water, a symbol of Kyoto, invites the visitor to a quiet, cool refuge away from the clamor of the world outside. The compound in front of the building is a vast open space. Grass even grows over parts of the skylight, and over it all is the vast calm sky, where clouds roll by, and heaven and earth meet in the distance.

The key concepts in the design of the Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library are "Quietness" and "Simplicity". Quietness allows one to gradually become aware of the activities of nature. Simplicity, which also connotes beauty, is the norm throughout, though it has been achieved only after patiently overcoming many obstacles that arose in the course of the work.

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