If you have plans to visit a City Hall you’re definitely not bragging to your friends about it. City Halls are stuffy places, with suits and paperwork. It’s where we go to change our address, submit birth certificates and to pay our taxes. The only similarity – if I was to make one – between City Halls and amusement parks would be the lines. But if the Aore City Hall in Nagaoka were an amusement park it would be the 3rd most popular in all of Japan.
Completed in 2012, Aore City Hall was designed to be an architectural specimen that would stimulate and reinvigorate the local economy. And that’s exactly what it has accomplished. In a City with a population of 280K people, Aore, as it was called, attracts roughly 1.2 million people per year. That’s about how many people the popular Yomiuri Land amusement park gets.
Aore City Hall was designed by acclaimed architect Kengo Kuma who envisioned the structure as a place where people would want to congregate. In other words, the opposite of what City Halls typically do. To pull this off Kuma first focused on the entrance, which had to be inviting. Taking inspiration from traditional Japanese homes, Kuma created a large doma that functions as a covered yard and is used for daily entry points. This way people could approach the building without feeling intimidated.
Another major change that was proposed and incorporated into the building was placing the Chamber on the ground floor. Typically, the Chambers where politicians gather for meetings were thought to be intimidating and therefore were always built on the top floor of the city hall. But by placing it on the ground level and allowing citizens to view the proceedings through 2 large windows the architecture creates an affinity between local politics and the citizens. The suspended wood panels on the ceiling, all sourced-locally, also help create a more friendly, non-stuffy environment.
The entire building, in fact, is decorated with similar wood paneling that creates a warm, welcoming feel. It’s become a gathering spot for locals and visitors, even if there are no roller coasters.