Klein Dytham Architects’ latest project forms part of the celebrated Kumamoto Artpolis Program. The program was established in the late 1980s by Morihiro Hosokawa, then Governor of Kumamoto Prefecture but later Japan’s Prime Minister, to increase the quality of public architecture in the region. Arata Isosaki was appointed the program’s commissioner, and he matched architects with projects for new public buildings, either by direct appointment or by arranging design competitions. The program provided the fairly remote region with worldclass architecture, including masterworks by such giants of the Japanese scene as Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito, Kazuyo Sejima, and Kazuo Shinohara.
Kumamoto City, the Prefecture’s largest city, has a new bullet train station. Toyo Ito, the current Artpolis commissioner, oversaw the commissioning of several new buildings around the station, including entrance canopies on either side of the station designed by Ryue Nishizawa and by Mitsuhiko Sato. Ito invited KDa to design a new koban, or neighborhood police station, to serve the area around the station. The client for the project, the Kumamoto District Police, wanted a building that stood out as a local landmark but presented a friendly image.
The building stands on a teardrop-shaped site, separated from the large
surrounding buildings by taxi stands and a tramline. Looking to make a sculptural gesture in this wide, open space, KDa designed a ribbon of perforated steel plate running around the top of the building. To create the friendly, fun image, they colored the upper floor volume and the inside of ribbon with a gentle rainbow gradation, so that the colors visible through the holes change as people move around the area. The clever graphic - an everchanging billboard! - can be seen from all sides of the building, creating a building that stands out, but up close creates subtle effects by casting shadows on the surrounding road. The ribbon was not part of the brief for the building, but KDa have cunningly made it functional - a three-meter cantilever creates a shelter where patrol cars can park, allowing the police to enter and exit without getting wet.
Beneath the playful, floating volume of the ribbon, the building’s more pragmatic ground floor was designed to visually recede, with the simple concrete structure and even the window mullions all colored charcoal grey. The building’s interior was designed according to standard police specification.