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Little Hilltop with Wind View by Shingo Masuda, Yamaguchi, Japan

Shingo Masuda creates a climate driven folly with a twist. Its peripheral appears like a scene from Rapunzel but its structural and environmental integrity respond solicitously to its functionality.

Surreally poised on a hill, looking as though it has escaped from a de Chirico painting, this enigmatic white structure was commissioned by a Japanese wind power company. The firm originally wanted a viewing tower from which people could survey the landscape and the ballet mécanique of its wind turbines. But on his first visit to the site, architect Shingo Masuda realised that the hilltop already provided a spectacular view, so decided to approach the brief from a different perspective. Rather than build something to contemplate the scenery, instead he created a structure that was responsive to the wind.

Masuda calls this ‘flowing architecture’. ‘Grass and flowers flutter in the wind, clouds flow and wind turbines revolve,’ he says. ‘These things happen so naturally that we may not even notice. The movement of the construction should not stand out when it waves in the wind. We aimed for a strangeness that does not feel out of place.’

Supported by a steel frame interspersed with a grid of tensile wires, the tower is 2m² and 7.5m high. Panels of white vulcanised rubber clad its sides, stretching as it bends with the wind, like a sail. Masuda’s analysis shows that with a windspeed of 8m/second, the tower’s deformation is about 150mm.

Emerging Architecture tends to attract its share of whimsical, folly-like structures, but for the jury, this project stood out as being a more thoughtful meditation on the relationship between built form and climate.

Project team Shingo Masuda, Katsuhisa Otsubo, Yuta Shimada
Photographs Courtesy of the architects

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