“Bean bag chairs are impossible in Japanese school libraries,” says architect Kenichi Nakamura.  But the dual language Nishimachi International School is no ordinary learning environment and its homey Yashiro Media Center is no ordinary book receptacle.

A collaboration by TOMURO Atelier and Kenichi Nakamura and Associates, the 4,223-square-foot facility–Japan’s only bilingual elementary school library–marks a corner of the school’s 38,130-square-foot, central Tokyo campus. It faces low-scale apartment buildings and single-family homes, including the stucco clad residence designed in 1921 by the U.S. architect William Merrell Vories for the school founder’s family. The heart of the campus, the historic house contains primarily administrative offices, but its first floor held the library until it moved next door where the family horse carriage was once garaged.

In deference to the founder’s house and the site’s rigid code restrictions, the building is residential in scale and character. Entered via a narrow outdoor passage, the library contains three levels. While the circulation and reference areas fill the ground floor, reading areas for older and younger students are above and below. Two glass-enclosed, vertical elements–the elevator shaft and the grand stair–bookend the narrow building and allow soft daylight to filter down to its lowest level.

The product of a 20-foot long steel cantilever, the transparent stair enclosure abuts the street on two sides and engages passersby with glimpses of activity inside. An oversized, mullioned window upstairs serves as an emergency exit while framing views of outdoor spaces. Elsewhere wall openings were minimized to maximize interior shelf space. Silvery aluminum panels cover the exterior, imbuing it with a fresh, contemporary look while nodding politely to the grey colored masonry next door.

Truly a home for books, the Media Center, unlike most school libraries in Japan, is relaxed and inviting. “We envisioned it like a living room,” explains Reiko Tomuro. While a lamp lit cluster of upholstered furnishings and floor cushions beckons borrowers as they enter the building, the upper floor capped by its soaring, slanted ceiling is reminiscent of a traditional reading room minus the usual code of silence. Top to bottom, all three floors ensure that a good read is well within reach of even the littlest book browser.


Nishimachi International School

TOMURO Atelier + Kenichi Nakamura and Associates

TOMURO Atelier
2-3-7-201 Azabudai, Minato-ku,
Tokyo 106-0041, Japan
Tel: +81-3560-2359
Fax: +81-3560-2379

Kenichi Nakamura and Associates
1-24-10 Kichijoji-Minamicho, Musashino-shi,
Tokyo 180-0003, Japan
Tel: +81-422-42-1610
Fax: +81-422-42-1609

Partners-in-Charge of Design:
Reiko Tomuro/ TOMURO Atelier
Kenichi Nakamura/ Kenichi Nakamura and Associates,  Registered architect

Structural engineer:
Noriaki Hanawa/ Hanawa Structural Engineers
25-51 Moegino, Aoba-ku, Yokohama-shi,
Kanagawa-ken 227-0044, Japan
Tel: +81-45-979-0771
Fax: +81-45-973-1377

Mechanical Engineers:
Sogo Consultant
4-22-2 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku,
Tokyo 116-0014, Japan
Tel: +81-3805-6633
Fax: +81-3805-6643

Electric and Audio-Visual Engineer in charge:
Tsuguo Endo, Tomohito Suzuki

HVAC and Plumbing Engineer in charge:
Hiroshi Wakamatsu

Landscape Architect:
Kiichi Tanaka/ Equipe Espace
5-4-29 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku,
Tokyo 107-0062, Japan
Tel: +81-3407-4368
Fax: +81-3407-4419

Lighting Consultant:
Hayato Arai/Lighting Studio Arai
2-6-2 Sakura-Yamate, Shingu-machi,
Kasuya-gun, Fukuoka 811-0113, Japan
Tel&Fax: +81-92-962-0635

General contractor
Taisei Corporation
Persons-in-Charge of Project:
Yoshiro Aikawa, Hiroshi Tsuchiya
Persons-in-Charge of Construction:
Chihiro Kato, Masakazu Moriya

Contractor for Audio/Visual system:
Eizo System Co.Ltd

Toshiharu Kitajima
ArchiPhoto Kitajima
704-3 Seto, Noda-shi,
Chiba 278-0012, Japan
Tel&Fax: +81-4-7138-3247




Structural system
Steel frame and Reinforced concrete

Exterior cladding
Aluminum panel: ALPOLIC, Aluminum composite material

Aluminum ribbed panel: Extruded aluminum ribbed panel, anodized finish

Exposed reinforced concrete, fluorine resin paint finish

Painted insulated galvanized panel

Extruded aluminum, anodized finish

Double-glazed glass with low-E insulated

Skylights: Wired glass

Wood finish on metal frame

Wood doors: Oil paint finish

Interior finishes
Bookshelves, Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Oak wood and aluminum, custom made by K.Craft

Suspension grid:
Steel mesh with vinyl paint in Basement floor

Paints and stains:
Emulsion paint on plaster boards on walls and ceilings

Carpet: Tiled carpet

Glass: Tempered glass for Elevator shaft

Reception furniture:
Aluminum panel, custom made by Cassina-ixc. Japan

Chairs & Tables:
Bezone, Cassina-ixc. Japan, Royal Furniture,

Mitsubishi Elevator