Mount Fuji World Heritage Center Shizuoka (architect: Shigeru Ban)
The Mount Fuji World Heritage Center is a museum and a visitor center in the city of Fujinomiya, central Japan. Designed by architect Shigeru Ban, the building of the center is shaped like an inverted mountain.
Opened in 2017, the center is aimed to present the significance of nearby Mount Fuji for Japanese people and culture. The 3,776-meter / 12,388-foot mountain, together with its natural landscape crossed by many hiking trails, is a popular travel and pilgrimage destination as well as a recurrent subject in Japanese art and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2013.
Shigeru Ban’s building
The 3,400-square-meter 36,600-square-foot complex of the Mount Fuji World Heritage Center consists of three buildings – the West Building, the North Building, and the Exhibition Building – all designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. The Exhibition Building is certainly the most iconic of the three.
Ban designed the Exhibition Building as an inverted image of Mount. Fuji, so as a conic volume turned upside down which reflects in a large pool, like the mountain mirrors in the sea. To further reinforce such a symbolic relationship, the construction is clad with a wood lattice made from Mount Fuji’s cypresses.
While the side wings accommodate a cafe, a library, a shop, and special exhibition spaces, the inverted cone contains the permanent exhibition of the center. The exhibition is conceived as a 193-meter-long / 633-foot-long ascending path symbolically and physically evoking the experience to climb the real volcano.
“Inside the building shaped like an inverted mountain is a spirally curved slope which leads gradually from the first floor up to the fifth. Viewing the exhibits as they ascend the slope, visitors can enjoy a virtual taste of the experience of climbing the mountain. When they reach the top (fifth) floor, there is an observation hall with a large picture window offering a breathtaking panoramic view of the real Mt. Fuji, which changes its expression from moment to moment. Spring water from Mt. Fuji is drawn into the Center building and used as an air conditioning heat source, and is then channeled to the Reflecting Pool in front of the building, architecturally conveying the cycle of water on Mt. Fuji.”
From Shigeru Ban’s project description.
Mount Fuji World Heritage Center Shizuoka, view of the Exhibition Building reflecting into the pool.
The exhibition indeed replicates the experience of climbing the volcanic mountain, from sea level to the top, which Japanese consider a spiritual tradition. During the ascension, the exhibition presents the 35,000-year-long relationship between Mount Fuji and humans, the natural and geologic landscape of the mountain, its flora and fauna, how it has been depicted in art. The gallery also includes an immersive movie theater in which two documentaries on the mount are projected on a 265-inch screen.
To further express the religious significance of Mount Fuji for Japanese people, the center was built adjacent to the Fujinomiya torii gate of the Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha Shrine. (torii are gate structures which traditionally mark the entrance od Shintoist shrines).
Views of the “inversed mountain” Exhibition Building, and schematic drawings of the wooden lattice cladding.
The center with the Fujinomiya torii gate on the left.
Views of the permanent exhibition, movie theater, and panoramic hall.
All photos by Hiroyuki Hirai.