The Nebuta House (nebuta-no-ie warasse, ねぶたハウス) is a building in Aomori, Japan designed by molo and team – see project team. This permanent museum dedicated to the history and living culture of Nebuta is inspired by the profound spirit of Nebuta and the beauty of the four seasons in this region. Twisted ribbons made from steel surround the whole building. At points they are swept aside to create openings and all are angled to emphasize particular views and to catch light. The red colour is influenced by the local lacquerware and smoothly coats the steel in a very similar way.
The Nebuta Hall is the largest space within the Nebuta House Museum. The floor plan of this space is such that when a person stands in any one part there is always unseen space. Another feature is a huge sliding door that opens out to the city and also allows Nebuta floats to be taken out into the city streets. The interior of the Nebuta Hall is black (literally a black box theater) and kept dark to be a muted backdrop to the Nebuta floats. The surface of the floor is concrete that has been ground down, polished and stained black. This process creates a slightly rippled and reflective quality – like a thin layer of water. This water-like quality is intended to reflect the vibrant colours of the illuminated paper floats.
When sitting in the theater with the large sliding doors of the Nebuta Hall and theater open one can see Aomori harbour and the Hakkoda mountains to the North East.
The waterfront is the one place where you can step back and see the whole building as an object – in most other views it is woven into the streetscape. From the waterfront, the building is a mystery or anomaly in the city. The reflective quality of the glass behind the screen gives the screen a feeling of transparency as if it were really a curtain with nothing behind it but the city.
Within several interior spaces daylight is filtered through layers of screens and sometimes through narrow openings into dark, cavernous rooms. The effect is reminiscent of being in an old Japanese house.
In the restaurant, looking down the ramp to the entry hallway one sees two hallways side-by-side separated by glass – one is a layered, screened space leading towards the restaurant, the other is the exterior covered passageway which is two stories high. The screens separate and abstract people’s movement to a blur in these two adjacent spaces. The rhythm of the screen also makes one aware of their own movement enhanced by the quality of the low late afternoon light.
At the building’s entry the steel ribbons are swept aside at the base. Here it is possible to enter into a covered exterior passageway (engawa 縁側) that goes all around the building. This space along with the screen help to blur the distinction between inside and out. The screen is a layer that is not fully opaque or fully enclosed.
The void on the second floor over the Nebuta Hall exit is enhanced by the experience of being behind layers of screen and glass. Depending on the weather and time of day a varying quality of light passes through layers of exterior and interior screens. At this point in the experience of walking through the building (having toured the Nebuta Hall), most of the building’s spaces are coming together visually. This is where you can see the restaurant on the right, shop on the left and the interior and exterior ramps with the Nebuta Hall behind. The movement ahead and above and rooms to the left and right help to orient oneself after passing through the dark museum.