In the grand tradition of Japanese civic architecture – a genre that has seen masterworks by Kenzo Tange, Tadao Ando and Kisho Kurokawa, amongst others – the new Ofunato Civic Cultural Center and Library is a virtuoso display of eccentric concrete forms.

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Designed by the Meguro-based studio Chiaki Arai Urban & Architecture Design, the new building sits astride the landscape like a grey crustacean, with concrete claws that thrust down into the ground. The hard-edged exterior is certainly striking, from the fluted fortress-like form of the fly tower above the main theatre space to the angled buttresses, but it’s the interior that really impresses.
Arai has mimicked the distinctive coastline of the Pacific coast in Ofunato prefecture, using layer upon layer of contoured concrete to form inverted ’river valleys’ that rise up above visitors’ heads. The complex includes studios, galleries, a library, tea room and concert hall.