Waseda University Honjo Senior High School Gymnasium by Nikken Sekkei

NIKKEN SEKKEI has completed a gymnasium as part of a high school in Japan. The design team sought to create a space beyond the conventional gym halls that see a room covered with blackout curtains. However, they aimed to create the optimal conditions these spaces require, offering students an everyday yet enhanced experience.

To achieve these ambitions, the resulting structure takes shape as a brutalist concrete building pierced by small and big holes. By doing so, indirect natural light suitable for indoor exercises tackles in while strong direct sunlight is blocked. Apart from the lighting conditions, this formation subtly connects to the outside environment piquing students’ curiosity and interest. Meanwhile, access is possible through hatches built into the walls.small and large holes peek through brutalist high school gymnasium in japan
image by Daici Ano 

avoiding excess ornamentation

Four structural ‘tubes’ were designed around the arena’s perimeter to house air conditioning, lighting, and sound equipment. The outermost tube employs a spacious layout and functions as a corridor, an indoor running track, and a passageway for indirect light to pass through to the hall. NIKKEN SEKKEI (see more here) strategically pierced the walls with various holes so dimmed daylight could reach the arena core. With this gesture, the presence of blackout curtains is unnecessary.

‘The space allows a sensitivity for light, materials, and a grasp of more a natural essence. This pursuit of ‘simple beauty’ is divorced from secular worldly trends.’ The facility’s interior and exterior were finished in fair-faced concrete. The architects avoided excess decoration, letting the arrangment itself do the talking. Besides, they opted to maintain the color’s original condition, both inside and outside, with the ‘primitive’ grey concrete as its only signature.

According to the studio, ‘the structural layout is akin to a temple; the intent of the spatial configuration was to create a place where users can learn the ‘essence’ of things’.small and large holes peek through brutalist high school gymnasium in japan
image by Harunori Noda [Gankosha]

an everyday yet extraordinary experience

The sports facility is designed to add to an ordinary routine. As students ascend the floors, their curiosity is stimulated, and their sensations are enabled. They feel the urge to find out what is behind the holes, to touch and explore. Not to be misinterpreted, the design team didn’t have the intention to convert an everyday- into an extraordinary experience. Their concept was based on the idea of architectural expression that can be modern, but also ‘universal’ in the sense of a timeless design.small and large holes peek through brutalist high school gymnasium in japan
image by Daici Ano

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small and large holes peek through brutalist high school gymnasium in japan
image by Harunori Noda [Gankosha]

small and large holes peek through brutalist high school gymnasium in japan
image by Harunori Noda [Gankosha]