Ofunato Civic Cultural Center staircase
(Image credit: chiaki-arai.com)

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.

Ofunato Civic Cultural Center and Library

(Image credit: chiaki-arai.com)

See more Ofunato Civic Cultural Center and Library

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.


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).