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Cemetery Hall by Hiroshi Nakamura, Hiroshima

The warped conical roof of the Sayama cemetery hall, set within lush gardens, reaches down to a tranquil pool

Hiroshi Nakamura’s Optical Glass House in Hiroshima shared first prize in last year’s Awards (AR December 2012). This year he is the sole Japanese representative, with a project for a cemetery hall in Sayama in eastern Japan.

Set in the forested hills of Sayama, the cemetery has a lush, Arcadian quality, transforming it into a tranquil garden of the dead. The building provides a focal point in the landscape, a place in which mourners can gather before and after funerals. Visitors to the cemetery can also use it when paying their respects to their loved ones.

The architecture is serene, sober and elemental, with an emphasis on natural materials, the sensitive handling of light, and the expression of a connection with nature.

A roughly circular plan has an inner core of service functions and an outer ring of public and private gathering spaces enveloped by a great conical roof extending almost to the ground.

From a distance, the building resembles a warped and flattened wigwam surrounded by a shallow reflecting pool. A roof garden planted with Japanese maples protrudes through the conical canopy, as if the trees are growing up through the building.

1_WEBfrom a distance, the tree-filled cone blends in with and acts as the culmination to a leafy, stele-filled landscape

zoom_plan_01site plan


Clerestory glazing funnels light from the roof garden into the spaces below, and seasonally changing foliage adds to the poetical effect in a reminder of the regenerative power of nature. More prosaically it also assists in environmental regulation, with cool air drawn in from the pool and warm air rising to be expelled into the roof garden.

A narrow slot of glazing frames views out to the pool and landscape. A leather bench around the perimeter of the hall encourages visitors to rest and contemplate in calm introspection, sheltered and protected by the great roof.

The jury admired the modesty and nuance of the project and how it responded with great thoughtfulness to the social and personal sensitivities of bereavement.

web_2the glazed perimeter offers space for the contemplation of nature


Architect: Hiroshi Nakamura
Photographer: Koji Fujii_Nacasa and Partners Inc


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