all photos courtesy Junya Ishigami + Associates

In 2008, the architect Junya Ishigami completed a workshop for students at his hometown university: the Kanagawa Institute of Technology (KAIT). Ishigami’s KAIT Workshop would go on to to make him the youngest ever recipient of the Architectural Institute of Japan Prize and cemented his reputation as one of Japan’s most luminary architects. But the same year KAIT Workshop was completed, another set of plans had been put into motion: a project for a student plaza. Thirteen years later, KAIT Plaza has now been completed.

A magnificent feat of structural engineering, KAIT Plaza features a sloping iron roof, just 12mm (1/2 inch) thick, that spans 90 meters (295 ft). From floor to ceiling, heights range between 2.2 – 2.8m (7 – 9 ft) but during different seasons of the year, temperatures will cause the roof to contract and bulge as much as 30 cm (1 ft) as if the structure is breathing.

Large square openings filter air and geometric patterns of sunlight into the plaza, which can be used for any number of functions by the students. The floor is made from permeable paving that is not only comfortable to sit and lie on but also absorbs water and dries instantly. At its essence, the plaza seeks to maintain an approachable, residential feel while still being a multi-purpose outdoor structure. The architect hopes the space inspires those who use it to ponder not how to use the space, but how to spend their time in the space.

KAIT Plaza was completed in December 2020 and is not currently open to the public. If you would like to go see it, the school asks that you make an appointment.

the KAIT Plaza during construction