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Sagawa Art Museum
Set on the shores of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture is a modern design masterpiece. The Sagawa Art Museum, also known as the ‘floating museum,’ has a contemporary concrete and steel exterior sitting atop a shallow, rippling pool that reflects the sun’s rays to create a wonderfully soft aspect to the otherwise stark facade.

Designed by Osaka-based architecture firm Takenaka, the Sagawa Art Museum focuses on the permanent exhibition of works by outstanding creators that embody the spirit of Japanese art; the painter Ikuo Hirayama, the sculptor Churyo Sato, and the ceramic artist Raku Kichizaemon.

The building is made up of two main structures, surrounded by a water garden containing vast stretches of reeds and connected by an underground pathway. The newer of the two buildings, the RAKU KICHIZAEMON-KAN hall, in part designed by the master ceramicist himself and displaying a collection of his finest works, was modelled on the principles of raku. Originating in Kyoto around the sixteenth century, Raku ceramics are distinguishable by metallic highlights woven into their raw, almost severe appearance. The hall is a dark underground space, black concrete walls absorbing much of the light that reaches from a sliver of glass in the form of an underwater skylight, the movement of water creating a transcendental atmosphere.

Above the RAKU KICHIZAEMON-KAN hall is a tea room that appears as if an island afloat in the water garden. Regularly, the museum holds their Yuriri tea ceremony, designed and created by the celebrated raku master. Reservations must be made in advance.

The incorporation of seasonal trees offering a profound connection to the natural world and surrounding mountains is also a stunning backdrop for a number of special exhibitions held throughout the year, from acclaimed animation artists to traditional ukiyo-e (woodblock) prints.

A statue stands in a courtyard pond in the Sagawa Art Museum
A statue stands at the entrance to the Sagawa Art Museum
Shadows on concrete
The concrete and steel exterior of Sagawa Art Museum glows against the setting sun
Autumn scenes at Sagawa Art Museum
The exterior corridor at Sagawa Art Museum
Feeling small at Sagawa Art Museum
The concrete and steel exterior of Sagawa Art Museum glistens against the sunlight hitting the surrounding pool
The concrete and steel exterior of Sagawa Art Museum glistens against the sunlight hitting the surrounding pool
The concrete and steel exterior of Sagawa Art Museum glows against the setting sun
WORDS
Staff Writer
PHOTOS
Rachel E T Davies