junya ishigami completes plaza of kanagawa institute of technology in japan

in 2008, junya.ishigami+associates, the japanese architecture studio led by junya ishigami, completed the KAIT workshop at the kanagawa institute of technology. in the same year, the firm was asked to develop plans for a versatile semi-outdoor plaza that would neighbor and complement the new building. the architects began by considering the definition of versatility and exploring notions of semi-outdoor space in the context of the university campus.

junya ishigami plaza kanagawa
all images and video by junya.ishigami+associates



as there were few places on the KAIT campus for students to spend their free time, junya.ishigami+associates chose to focus on a versatile design that could be occupied in a variety of different ways. for example, the plaza allows students to sit on its floor to talk and eat or even lie down to take a nap. the space can also be used by athletic clubs to stretch before sporting events, or even for the display of objects for the university’s different events and festivals. stalls can also occupy the space, transforming the plaza into an active market.

junya ishigami plaza kanagawa



the plaza places a greater emphasis on how time should be spent, rather than dictating specifically how the space should be used. junya ishigami explains that when the emphasis is on how to use the setting, the focus is on achieving a purpose. however, when the emphasis is on how to spend time, the focus instead shifts towards physical experiences — although a loose purpose still exists.

junya ishigami plaza kanagawa



the architects explain that the site is surrounded by tall school buildings and lacks diversity as a landscape. consequently, ishigami decided to combine the site’s existing environmental characteristics with new built elements — creating an inspirational ‘soto’ landscape within the architecture. in japanese, soto means ‘outside’ or ‘the other’ and is the opposite of uchi, which means ‘inside’.

junya ishigami plaza kanagawa



the project has been conceived as an expansive landscape that changes with the seasons and the weather. the space is imbued with a sense of openness so that users do not feel confined by buildings, but instead are immersed in a calm and relaxing environment. junya ishigami designed the setting as a landscape where the huge curved surfaces of the building are connected like the earth and the sky to form a single boundary line — a horizon.



although it occupies the entire site, the building takes advantage of the 2 meter (6ft) height difference between the plot and other parts of the campus above. with its ceiling height kept as low as possible, the new intervention becomes part of the existing terrain. without the need for columns, the huge iron roof is supported by the four walls that surround the plaza. the curve of the canopy parallels the curve of the recessed floor, with the two elements joining in the distance to form a horizon inside the space.

junya ishigami plaza kanagawa



similar to the effect that clouds have on the earth below, the low ceiling brightens the perimeter of the plaza, while other areas remain less illuminated. this variation of light and shadow changes with the time of day and the specific weather conditions. the roof has a total of 59 openings, all of which remain completely open to the elements. on a rainy day, water enters through the ceiling’s apertures to create pillars of rain and a hazy overall atmosphere. the sound of the falling water echoing indoors and the sight of the raindrops further emphasizes the plaza as a constantly changing landscape.

junya ishigami plaza kanagawa



to support the plaza, 83 piles and 54 ground anchors were used as part of the project’s reinforced concrete foundations. the structure is described as being similar to that of a suspension bridge. the maximum span is approximately 90 meters (295 ft) and the ceiling height changes by about 30 cm (1 ft) due to the heat shrinkage of the iron plate. however, despite the scale and complexity of the construction, the project also has a human scale. the ceiling height is comparable to that of a house, while the thickness of the roof canopy has a similar scale to domestic furniture.

junya ishigami completes plaza of kanagawa institute of technology in japan



to reduce the burden on the four walls, additional reinforcement has been included in the outer circumference of the roof. meanwhile, the floor has been covered with permeable asphalt used for paving roads. this surface instantly absorbs water and allows it to flow under the plaza, keeping the floor dry and able to be sat on comfortably. additionally, the asphalt can be pressure washed to completely remove oil and paint.

junya ishigami completes plaza of kanagawa institute of technology in japan



the project stems from junya ishigami’s desire to achieve a close relationship between the human body and its environment. in contrast to many other architecture projects, which focus on the standing state of a human — and require furniture such as chairs and beds to connect the body to its environment — the starting point of the plaza’s development was the seated position. occupants are invited to take off their shoes and sit freely on the floor, or lie down on one of the gentle slopes. in this way, the body and the environment are directly related as part of an integrated landscape.

junya ishigami completes plaza of kanagawa institute of technology in japan



with the plaza open to the elements, students are able to relax and let time pass while feeling the gentle breeze, observing changes in light, and hearing the sound of the falling rain. ishigami explains that the method of bringing together the floor and ceiling planes to create a horizon has the simultaneous effect of both spatial segmentation and expanse. within the plaza, occupants can gather to feel a sense of unity or find a quiet area for privacy and a sense of intimacy. with the plaza of kanagawa institute of technology, junya ishigami has created a new ‘soto’ landscape where all users of the campus are invited to gather with a sense of openness and comfort.




project info:


name: plaza of kanagawa institute of technology
location: kanagawa, japan
architect: junya.ishigami+associates
principal architect: junya ishigami
project team: taeko abe, shuma tei, motosuke mandai, sachie morita, toru yamada, masayuki asami, federico lepre
design and construction years: 2008-2020
client: ikutoku gakuen/kanagawa institute of technology
structural engineer: jun sato structural engineers
constructor: kajima corporation
surface area: 4,109.78 sqm
photography: junya.ishigami+associates

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