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Religious architecture

A renovation project from Kyoto, Japan. Located in a tiny Kiya-machi Dori street, in the most narrow spot between of two rivers: small, but fast flowing Takasegawa canal and main river for Kyoto Yatsuyanagicho. It is the only place that you can see the both rivers from the street  (not visible in pictures though).

Originally the building was from 60’s (a guess by looking at older photographs) and it was renovated in 2010. It stands out due to an unusual burnt wood façade and a huge tree in front of it.

This building combines both worlds: the contemporary and the traditional one.

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house3

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I like this area of Kyoto a lot, in fact I just love it! In April 2012 I had participated in an architectural/urban planning competition of Takasegawa river (or canal) and it’s surroundings. So to keep long story short, during my last visit to Japan I decided to stop by Kyoto just to have a stroll in the area I spent so many hours working on,  all from a huge distance. And the walk was definitely worth the stop: I walked on foot the whole stretch of Takesagawa river (about 4 km) and the atmosphere was just magical. This little black building was a pleasant discovery as the particular spot is not covered by the google street-view (to prepare myself for the competition I virtually walked a lot in this area).

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house2

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This particular spot has a has a long history and plenty of stories to be told about. From 8th century it used to be an imperial garden with a mansion in this area. Nothing remains of the palace, but this tree, named Enoki is the only remain of the huge forest that once stood here. Enoki is revered as the sacred tree and it was selected as the “tree of pride for residents,” the city of Kyoto in 2000. That is reflected in the torii Daimyojin Enoki is enshrined in the back.

The tree is full of life: tiny green (and loud) parakeets were dashing in and out of the canopy, some huge mushrooms grow on it. Here, it feels as if the time has stopped.

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house4

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Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house

Click image to enlarge

This building is not only a shrine, but also an atellier apartment/artist residence. I had a quick glance at the interior: hight ceilings, exposed structure, contemporary lighting.

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house1

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This is the only perspective that pitched roof is visible. Approaching the house from the south it looks completely like a contemporary box (in contrast to very traditional or 80’s buildings in this area).

The story of the Lahti church (Evangelical Lutheran) begins at 1950, when the city of Lahti announced an architectural competition what was won by Alar Aalto. The original site however was not empty-on the hill there stood the city’s wooden church, what was from 19th century and designed by Jacob Ahrenberg,  apparently the wooden church was too small for the community. The church is on the visual axis with Lahti town hall designed by  Eliel Saarinen. The  drawings for the construction of the project were drawn in 1969.

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The construction was finished in 1978, almost 30 years later than original design was made. If one looks at the design as from late 50’s, early 60’s the impression is one, but if you look at it at something from late 70’s there is a completely different attitude. The spacial solution of the roof structure nevertheless is still very impressive. All the details  like interior and exterior lamps, handles and seating are designed by Aalto, except of the ones in the basement.  The final design undergone many alterations from the original project: the number of seating decreased; a basement was added; additional balconies were added as well.

The space was very pleasant, the colours almost grey-scale, the day when the photos were taken was rainy and gloomy (I guess typical Finish weather), but inside only due to natural light it was still bright, the atmosphere was uplifting and it was easy to concentrate. Those are the features that, I assume, were originally sought after by Alvar Aalto himself.

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The legend tells – that this was the last project of Alvar Aalto. And when the star-architect died, the drawings of Lahti church were on his drawing table.

Interesting notice: there was actually no real cross on of the tower in the original designs. After long discussions and negotiations now the tower has a small cross on it after-all (not visible in my photos).

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