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Australia House Gallery & Studio, Niigata, Japan

Monday 06 Aug 2012

A meeting of minds

Images: Brett Boardman 
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Australian and Japanese cultures merge at Andrew Burns' latest project in Niigata 

An enchanting new project by Andrew Burns Architect has been unveiled in Echigo Tsumari, Niigata Prefecture, Japan. The modest triangular form is a replacement for the original gallery and residential space Australia House which was reduced to rubble during an aftershock from the immense natural disaster that shook Japan in March 2011. Designed as a hybrid space for Australian architects to reside whilst undertaking collaborative creative projects with Japanese design professionals, the sharp form encompasses both dynamic display space and residential units.

Andrew Burns Architect’s sensitive replacement was unveiled last week to high praise during the 5th Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, a Japanese art festival held every three years in Niigata Prefecture. Handpicked from 154 submissions for the project by a jury chaired by the legendary architect Tadao Ando, the angular concept for Australia House Gallery and Studio actively engages with its natural setting, reflecting the Triennale’s theme for 2012: Human Beings are part of Nature.

Located in an area of extreme climates - scorching sun in the summer and folds of snow in the winter - Australia House draws in the changing intensities of natural light through expansive panes of glass and sports carefully angled mirrors which refract the light and exaggerate the effect of the surrounding environment.

Last September, Ando said of his selection: “It is difficult to form a triangle. However, that difficulty can create interesting architecture. I find the approach to this house attractive and the different elements well arranged. The idea of dealing with snow is thoughtful, considering that the site is located in a heavy snowfall region. It would be fantastic if only the triangular roof was visible as the rest of the house is covered in three-metre-high snow.”

Learning from past misfortunes of the site, the design studio has ensured that the new structure has been constructed with natural disaster-prevention elements as well as incorporating elements of Australian and Japanese architectural design. Andrew Burns Architect worked with Japanese architects Souheil Imamura of Atelier Imamu and Sotaro Yamamoto of Atelier Sotaro Yamamoto to conceptualise the Australia House, with Andrew Burns explaining: “This building extends our focus as a practice on developing innovative, contemporary, socially engaged processes that go beyond the everyday to explore how we relate to our world and build communities.”

Speaking on the opening of this modest yet moving project, Burns commented: “I couldn’t believe my eyes on Friday night as the Urada community filed into the gallery space and conducted a meeting under the neon light of Brook Andrew’s Mountain Home - dhirrayn ngurang. For me this confirmed the intentions of the project, a complete engagement of landscape, contemporary art, community and architecture.”

Sian Disson
News Editor

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Andrew Burns Architect

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