This public building commissioned by the Hyogo Prefecture is located in Miki in parkland created after the devastating earthquake of Hanshin-Awaji in 1995.
The complex has a dual function: first, as a disaster management centre; second, as a sports complex with nine tennis courts whose centre court is surrounded by 1500 spectator seats and is fully compliant with international competition regulations.
Form and structure conform to the building’s main function. The main constraint was to provide a huge, pillar-free space. In an emergency, vehicles must be able to enter the interior unhampered and there must be sufficient space to pitch rows of relief tents. In other words, although under cover, the area must be as flexible as a wide, open space.
This clashed, however, with the regulations for a complex hosting 1500 tennis match spectators where completely open spaces are not allowed. In the end, the problem was solved lowering the central arena six metres below ground level. The lattice frame structure allows wide untrammelled spaces while four large apertures are wide enough for vehicle traffic. There are other smaller entrances.
Endo has given particular attention to energy efficiency. All the tennis courts receive daylight from overhead skylights, reducing the need for artificial lighting. The glass panes have a protective film coating that prevents excess heating from the sun’s rays, during summer. Large expanses of the roof are covered with grassy turf, especially the south side where it rises 20 m. On the north side, the embankment is four metres high.
The artificial soil is a mixture of Japanese cedar and cypress bark chips. It contains 10 different types of seed and can be laid on surfaces with an inclination of as much as 70%. Initially, fast-growing grasses hold the soil in place. Later trees native to the area are planted and grow spontaneously. In this case, it took six months for the vegetation to grow. The grass bank-cum-roof provides thermal insulation.
When outside summer temperature reach 40° degrees, inside it is around 30°. The skylights are operable, allowing natural ventilation throughout the structure.
For Shuhei Endo, this structure of one of those he calls Slowtecture: a metal structure that stretches and extends to fit over the building like a skin. The ground plan is asymmetrical to provide greater stability. The lattice-frame environments nonetheless present a pleasing regularity. Endo has also coined other terms to describe his work like Rooftecture, Skintecture, Halftecture and Springtecture, each indicating different avenues of experimentation with form and structure. For Endo’s architecture is para-modern. It seeks ways of going beyond the confines of Modernism.
In the Miki disaster management/sports complex, space is enclosed under a huge “lid”, the glazed entrances the only areas not covered by the green wall. The entrances are like portals leading into natural caves. Once described by Hiroyuki Suzuki as the architect of steel for his wide and varied use of the metal, Endo is today experimenting with new and varied ways of combining form, technology and the natural world.