Benesse Art Site, Naoshima

“The role of architectural space as a spiritual shelter is crucial. Here again, what is of primary importance are the imagination and fiction that architecture contains beyond the substantive. Without stepping into the ambiguous realm of the human spirit – happiness, affection, tranquility, tension – architecture cannot achieve its fictive vocation. This is truly architecture’s proper realm, but it is also one that is impossible to formulate. Only after speculating the worlds of both the actual and the fictional together can architecture come into existence as an expression, and rise into the realm of art.”

We were lucky to visit.

Having spent our travels booking last minute accommodation, which resulted in a truly mixed bag of places to stay, we couldn’t believe our luck when availability came up at the Benesse Art Site nearing the end of our travels across Japan. We’d been told there were no rooms (more than once).

Unexpectedly, they called back…

Built in three-key phases, the first starting back in 1992, the revolutionary ‘art island’ became the start point for the core ideas that inspired ’One Thing Well’. The combination of stone, rubble and concrete on near every surface of the site; meticulously designed with a clear focus on marrying the architecture with the Inland sea, sand, hills and forests surrounding the centers inspired the key shapes and colour palette of the new collection.

“It felt serene, but within the peace powerful structures revealed themselves. They blend in until they choose to reveal themselves. The air is wet, tropical, there are huge lightning storms and endless nature among the overgrown forests.”

The considered topography of the site is arguably the finest example of Ando marrying architecture with nature; a task that has been at the very core of his practice ever since he took up architecture. Benesse Art Site represents a near-perfect exercise in interpreting and co-existing with one’s surroundings.

“Art, architecture and nature become one under Ando’s watchful eye. Indeed, few would deny that once they have seen Naoshima, they have had a taste of paradise.”