Japan's famous Shinkansen high-speed railway network was opened in 1964 between the major metropolitan areas of Tokyo and Osaka. It was subsequently expanded to serve cities throughout the country. The Shinkansen has now reached the southern island of Kyushu, with half of the 257-km southern segment opening in the spring of 2004. Four stations were built for this segment. One of them is the Shin-Minamata Station in the city of Minamata. Architecture is normally closed in by walls and is entered through doors.
But in a railway station trains roll through it on the platform level. The interior continues out to the exterior. Nevertheless, it is not a completely open space. Platforms need protection from rain, wind and sun, and should prevent noise from escaping outside as the trains pass through. Railway stations seem to be open, but are actually closed. They seem to be closed, but are actually open. They are special spaces, unlike the closed package of normal architecture. This work attempts to clarify the special character of railway station space.
The roof and walls of the station consist of a collection of rectangular units which continue into each other without distinction. The design process began by imagining that a number of the units were gliding past and then froze at a particular moment in time. The shape and state of the structure at this moment were examined to determine how much rain could be kept out, how much wind would blow through, how much shade would be provided, and how much noise from passing trains could be kept from escaping. After numerous repetitions, a state which met the requirements was chosen. This became the design.
The design is a frozen state. If it were unfrozen, it would move on to the next state. Instead of fixed and finished architecture, it is one moment in a trajectory. The implications extend beyond the design concept. In fact there are plans to extend the platforms after the station opens. The various parallel units have different surface angles. Different angles lead to different reflections of light. Units set at different angles reflect sunlight in different ways depending on the season and time of day. People will see gleams of different types depending on the time and the approach they take to the station. This variation, like a sun clock, is another kind of movement. It is also a way to give a brighter tone to the main entrance to the north-facing station.
The shimmering variations of light may also remind some of rippling sunlight on the waves of the beautiful Yatsushiro Sea off Minamata. Instead of being a large box enveloped by a continuous skin, this architecture is a collection of independent units. The whole is composed of many simple pieces which although to a certain extent operating to their own rules nonetheless fulfill specific, pre-established conditions. The intent was to generate "architecture as a state". Although computer programs were not utilized, this way of thinking is related to the Induction Design method whereby solutions to given conditions are found through self generation.