Sambuichi Architects

Craft potters building

Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan

December 2003
The Japanese concrete construction industry has become a serious threat to the ecological equilibrium of the planet. Forests have been razed (particularly in Queensland) to provide once-used shuttering for elegant poured concrete buildings. After making a hollow building to contain the concrete one, the wood has often been simply thrown away, burned to add to the carbon overload of the planets atmosphere.
When Sambuichi Architects were asked to make a new building for the Miwa dynasty of craft potters, they were determined to set a better example. The Miwa ceramicists have been using the site for 300 years, and family members include Japanese living national treasures. They wanted a place for four stages of pottery production: a store for raw materials, a place for half-finished products, one for finished work, and one for painting.
Such an amazing tradition made the clients acutely aware of their responsibility to the environment, so the architects had to invent a new way of working. They decided all the modularly-organized cedar shuttering should be reused in the building. Elements of the boarding for external walls were remade as external doors and shutters. Inner shuttering was re-assembled as partitions. Supporting panels for the roof slab became wood flooring. Normally, even where shuttering is re-used, architects have no control of what happens to the wood. In this case, the whole process was integrated, and costs were obviously a good deal less than they would have been with the conventional system.
The Miwas wanted an ecologically friendly building in every sense. It is dug into the mountainside to obtain a natural internal climate suitable for storing clay. Its roof is covered in grass as an extension to the slope of the hill. Thermal flywheel effects are exploited to the full. The jury commended the ecological appropriateness of the little building, the quality of its execution and its potential as a model for construction in future.

Sambuichi Architects, Naka-ku Hiroshima, Japan
Project team
Hiroshi Sambuichi, Hidenori Ejima, Manabu Aritsuka
Daici Ano