Japanese architecture office UNEMORI ARCHITECTS has completed the Sukagawa Community Center in Fukushima as part of a municipal reconstruction project to revitalize the severely damaged city center after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Following a series of citizen workshops, UNEMORI ARCHITECTS developed a multi-purpose 13,698 sqm building complex extending five floors, housing a library, a museum, a lecture hall, childcare support as well as a café amongst others. Built in collaboration with Ishimoto Architectural & Engineering Firm, the community center’s architecture by UNEMORI ARCHITECTS is characterized by open floor setbacks, cantilevered slabs and an activity- based floor plan, transcending the building typology of a public community center and thereby successfully connecting the city and its people.
The Sukagawa Community Center was developed in the wake of the Great East Japan Earth- quake on March 11, 2011 that destroyed large parts of the city center of Sukagawa City, Fukushima Prefecture. In order to regenerate community life and to revitalize the severely destroyed city center, UNEMORI ARCHITECTS was commissioned to develop the Sukagawa Community Center in collaboration with Ishimoto Architectural & Engineering Firm as part of a municipal reconstruction project. By integrating the public’s demands on the multi-purpose community building through a series of citizen workshops, the Sukagawa Community Center was created as a public forum, connecting the city and its citizens.
The Sukagawa Community Center includes a library, childcare support and a three-dimensional play space as well as a museum, a lecture hall and a café amongst others. Moreover, with a total floor area of 13,698 sqm extending over five floors, the Sukagawa Community Center offers various socializing spaces and rental rooms for studying as well as several inner and outer terraces that surround the whole building.
UNEMORI ARCHITECTS designed the community center as an interlocked structure based on different floor slabs divided into small sections and staggered to form an incremental setback on the site facing the historic main street. The building’s architecture thus offers many terraces providing further outdoor activity and socializing spaces while the recessive façade of the building allows sufficient distance to the neighbouring houses.
The interior structure of the Sukagawa Community Center is characterized by an open floor plan and offset floor levels that partly appear to float freely in the cavity of the center, creating various voids and dynamic open views throughout the different floor slabs. In order to realize this complex structural system, UNEMORI ARCHITECTS designed a megastructure comprising the third and fourth floor that entails a steel frame composed of trusses. The cantilevered slab of the lower floor is suspended from the megastructure and supported by columns on the upper floors which positions are shifted accordingly to bear the load. Furthermore, the trusses provide space for the installation of air-conditioning equipment as well as smoke exhaust routes in case of fire, while serving as a sound-absorbing layer protecting the quiet library environment on the upper floors against noise coming from the lower floors. The upper floors are connected by gentle slopes and stairs which allows visitors to walk around the entire building as if taking a walk around the city.
The first floor of the Sukagawa Community Center, which serves as the main entrance to the facility, is a sloping space integrating the 2.5-meter difference in elevation of the site. The waiting area, café and event space located on the first floor are connected with the outdoor space and seamlessly integrated into the hilly city scape of Sukagawa. The second floor houses childcare services such as a kids library or an open, two-stories playground. Located on the third floor is the main library as well as a number of rental rooms and inner terraces which allow for quiet working as well as socializing spaces. The library extends across the fourth floor where more rental rooms and an open community space are located. The museum can be found on the fifth floor of the facility.
The Sukagawa Community Center offers a wide range of cultural and recreational activities that are assigned different activity themes, such as Raise, Play, Create, Learn and Meet. UNEMORI ARCHITECTS divided the facility into different areas of action offering various opportunities for people to meet, to engage in activities and to interact with knowledge.
UNEMORI ARCHITECTS designed the Sukagawa Community Center to transcend functional boundaries and enable a complex experience by reinterpreting the building typology of a public community center. With the complex structural layout of the community center as well as the reclassification from conventional categories into activity-oriented themes, UNEMORI ARCHITECTS provided an architectural solution that addresses the need for a public forum and simultaneously creates a long-lasting and versatile relationship between the city and its citizens.