Kengo Kuma pays homage to Japanese woodworking traditions with a striking museum facade

As pedestrians and motorists pass the new British Antiquities Museum (BAM) in Kamakura, Japan, the building changes before their eyes. The undulating wooden hinoki front is carved in a 3D polygonal pattern inspired by the traditional craftsmanship of Kamakura-bori, a form of lacquerware made by carving patterns into the wood and then lacquering it with layers of color.

Wavy facade designed by Kengo Kuma for the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Wavy facade designed by Kengo Kuma for the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Wavy facade designed by Kengo Kuma for the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Zoom on the wavy patterns of the wooden facade of Kengo Kuma for the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, inspired by the traditional Japanese craftsmanship of Kamakura-bori.

Zoom on the wavy patterns of the wooden facade of Kengo Kuma for the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, inspired by the traditional Japanese craftsmanship of Kamakura-bori.

The high and low points of the installation seem to move as they catch the light from different angles, creating a dynamic, almost kinetic effect. Designed by famous Japanese architect Kengo Kumathe British Antique Museum opened in September 2022, honoring the close relationship between the city of Kamakura and Britain.

London taxi on the first floor of the new British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

London taxi on the first floor of the new British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Georgian-era harp on display at the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Georgian-era harp on display at the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Just a minute’s walk from Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine and a seven-minute walk from Kamakura Station, BAM exhibits British antiquities collected over the years by museum director Masaomi Dobashi. The museum consists of four floors, each representing a different era and theme. The first floor is the museum shop, with a London taxi and a telephone box. On the second floor, visitors will find Georgian-era antiques, including leather trunks, red cloaks and bearskin hats worn by the Royal Guard.

Sherlock Holmes memorabilia and antiques displayed on the third floor of the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Sherlock Holmes memorabilia and antiques displayed on the third floor of the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Replica of the Sherlock Holmes study displayed in the new British Antique Museum in Kamakura.

Replica of the Sherlock Holmes study displayed in the new British Antique Museum in Kamakura.

Entrance to the study of Sherlock Holmes at the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Entrance to the study of Sherlock Holmes at the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

On the third floor, visitors enter the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels with a Sherlock Holmes-themed exhibit that recreates the fictional detective’s study and living space down to the smallest detail. The museum explains that “IAt the front, an armchair invites customers in, and the gourd-shaped gasojin (sparkling water device) that appears in Holmes’ story, along with antique microscopes and physics and chemistry equipment, are reproduced as they were at the time. ”

Extra-large gramophone made in 1935, on display at the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Extra-large gramophone made in 1935, on display at the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Notable items on the museum’s Victorian-themed fourth floor include a John Broadwood & Sons piano, an extra-large gramophone made in 1935, a fireplace from a Kensington mansion and a stained glass window depicting an image of Queen Victoria.

“As a connection between Kamakura and England, there is the National Trust movement which started in England during the Victorian era,” Dobashi explains on the BAM website. “It is about the permanent preservation of historically significant land and assets through donations, and many scenic spots have been preserved as heritage. Kamakura is where the idea of ​​the National Trust has was first introduced in Japan. ‘Kamakura’ is linked to the desire to cherish the good old British things, and the wonderful cultural heritage is still inherited.

Collection of British antiquities on display at the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Collection of British antiquities on display at the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

The design process of the British Antique Museum by Kuma is documented in the book Kengo Kuma: creation of a small British museum of antiquities in Kamakura by Masaomi Dobashi, revealing more details about the links between Kamakura, Britain, and Kuma, who also designed V&A Dundeea branch of the Victoria & Albert Museum of London located in Dundee, Scotland.

Night view of the corrugated wooden facade of Kengo Kuma for the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

Night view of the corrugated wooden facade of Kengo Kuma for the British Antique Museum in Kamakura, Japan.

British antiques and modern electric cars are on display here, and you could say it’s a timeless fusion of old and new,” says Kuma. “This time, the British Antique Museum BAM, which stands on the approach to the historic Dankazura of Kamakura, is lined with pure antiquities that have absorbed more than 100 years of time collected by Mr. Dobashi. In this sense, I thought that the design of the building should be as pure as possible. After repeated deliberations, we eliminated all windows and simplified, adopting a facade inspired by Kamakura-bori, which symbolizes the traditional culture of Kamakura.

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