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Pop art: Hitoshi Abe's three ply composite skin is inventive and distinctive.

The manner in which some architects choose to describe their work is at times obscure, sometimes overblown, and often extremely baffling. Admittedly, when not using their mother tongue, it is reasonable to expect the odd metaphor to get lost in translation. In this instance, however, no matter how you choose to look at this particular building, there is nothing in it that is in the least bit soapy. Despite this the architect maintains his story that the interiors of this miniature museum represent an 'accumulation of soap bubbles'.

Designing this building in opposition to the ubiquitous white cube gallery, in an attempt to create a unique place for a unique collection, its architect, Hitoshi Abe, describes the derivation of its internal form as a specific response to the eight pieces of art that it contains. By notionally inflating pockets of air around each artefact, eight 'bubbles' have (apparently) been constrained within a predetermined (cubic) volume of 8.5m x 12m x 8.5m high, to somehow become ... angular ... as convention returns and as the building's metaphorical bubbles burst.

Despite this dubious proposition, the building has great appeal. Its distinctiveness, however, has little to do with the fractal composition that creates three rooms on three levels that spiral down from the high-level entrance that is accessed via a concrete stair. Its appeal has more to do with the nature of its material composition, using a distinctive embossed steel plate construction that is seen both inside and out.

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The alternating oblong dimples, which help to stiffen the 3.2mm thick steel plate, act as micro webs in what are effectively three-ply composite panels. Welded back to back, the steel plates have great strength; internally, the triangulated panels are arranged at inclined angles to help brace the perimeter walls. These dimpled walls support intermediate floors and ceiling panels that, by contrast, have been given a smooth finish. The central walls also create a core that contains lavatories, space for storage and a lift. Externally the walls are also dimpled, however here they are formed in CorTen steel, to provide a more durable and easy to maintain weather screen.

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Situated on an elevated site with views towards the Pacific Ocean, the architect has continued to distort the building's essentially cubic form by cutting out a series of angular windows. These not only illuminate the exhibits and offer specific views, but also add further dynamism to the spaces within.

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Article Details
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Author:Gregory, Rob
Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Words:424
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