さきごろ竣工した東京、港区の『道往寺』が、Louis Poulsen のWebマガジンに掲載されることになり、その原稿が送られてきました。デンマーク本社のリライトで削られるかもしれないようですので、記録のため全文をここにアップさせていただきます。書いて頂いたのは荒谷真司氏。英語と日本語原稿を併記します。

A New Japanese Temple of Modern Times

In April 2013, the new Dououji Temple was inaugurated in Takanawa, Tokyo. The temple belongs to the Pure Land sect of Japanese Buddhism. Founded in Edo era in 17th century, it enshrines a holly Goddess of Mercy counted as one of those for Edo’s 33 celebrated temples for pilgrimage. At the early planning stage for this project, there were choices between the old temple’s renovation and the new construction. Reflecting on the roles of the temple for the future, the chief priest decided to build a new temple.

Dououji Temple is situated on a difficult site; halfway up a hill, backed by a large apartment building on the top. The new three-storey temple building has its main hall on the first floor, the multi-purpose rooms on the ground floor, and the dwelling for the priest family was set up in an annex on the 3rd floor. The total floor area is about 1.240 square meters. The structure is of reinforced concrete, and partially, wooden structure (the laminated timbers of Douglas fir) is adopted for roof beams, pillars, and diagonal braces to support the large pent roof, whose curved surface characterises the building’s appearance.

The main hall on the first floor is on the same level as the facing roadway, and the corridor after the gate of the roadway side leads to the entrance. The composition of approaches from the gate to the entrance is not done in a monotonous linear manner; exquisitely combining curves and angles through the approaches, the architect has succeeded in letting the visitors enjoy seeing the building as well as the gardens at the lower level. Then, passing through the corridor with six brownish wooden pillars, people will feel the structural robustness and elegance that the temple has.

Sliding the entrance door, the visitors arrive at the reception, where white walls and black ceiling, together with minimalistic design of strips of black-painted wood are creating a beauty in Japanese style. The combination of white, black and green of the plants and artworks on the wall generates harmony of modernity and warmness.

Adjoining the inner corridor, the widely open main hall spreads on the left. To design this temple, Masaki Ogawa, the Japanese architect who pursued the project, both reviewed the history of Japanese Buddhism architecture and considered the meanings of temple’s role for the future. The key words were the position of Buddha’s stature, the shape and height of the roof, and the inclusion of garden views and natural light into the interior.

In the early Japanese Buddhism temples, according to Masaki Ogawa, the statue of Buddha used to be placed at the centre, allowing people to see and pray for it from all angles with migratory. However, in the course of prosperity of Buddhism, due to the necessity of securing the space for many people in the hall, the statures were pushed towards dimly-lit deep inside with lower ceiling. (The darkness of many existing temples seems actually to be one of the factors to keep the Buddhism at a distance from the contemporary Japanese lifestyle.)

The design concept of Dououji Temple was to secure both the migratory around the statue and the enough space for people to gather, and to fill the hall with natural light to bring about spiritual openness and spaciousness. The bright light from high side windows filters into the hall, and the glass plane behind the Buddha’s stature borrows the scenery of the exterior greenery. On top of that, a light tower installed high above the stature casts a brilliant light over the stature, and distinguishes its golden tone that derives from Edo era. The dynamic diagonal braces supporting the roof have become a reminiscence of the shape of the traditional temples’ ceiling, and shed the bright light through their slits; there is no image of conventional dim temples.

It is also remarkable that the patterns of flower petal, which are hollowed out (like “ranma” – Japanese openwork screen) on the light tower surface, scatter many small lights adding a beauty to the hall. Its design motif was the lotus flowers used at “sanga” – to throw the lotus flower leaves to commemorate the Buddha – during Buddhism rituals.

Louis Poulsen’s Aeros pendants, designed by Ross Lovegrove, were used as the lighting in the hall. According to Masaki Ogawa, the reason for choosing the lamp was of course due to its functional light and design, but also because he saw, in the design concept of Aeros, something common in Oriental philosophy – “samsara”, cycle of reincarnation. (The disposition of emboss patters of the surface of Aeros is based on Fibonacci – logarithmic – spirals, alluding microcosm and universe, and the structure of bone tissues has been a hint for the innumerable holes on the shade.) The large pendants of 72 cm diameter in ultra-thin aluminum in “golden sand” colour are harmoniously floating in the Dououji hall, as if they were specially designed for this temple.

Since the last half of the 20th century, the relationship in daily life between the Japanese and Buddhism has lost intensity. Nowadays, the Japanese people’s contacts with temples may be limited to the occasions of funerals and memorial services. The new Dououji Temple renews the older images for Buddhism temples, and its excellent architectural design will favourably be accepted with great wonders by contemporary Japanese people. The temple now has potentials for new way of activities and usages including, for instance, revival of Buddhism-styled weddings that have been faded away since long time.

Architect: Masaki Ogawa
Text: Shinji Aratani
Photos: Shinjiro Yamada and Shinji Aratani