West Japan General Exhibition Center
1975 - 1977
Site Area: 35,892 sqmBuilding Area: 9,851 sqmTotal Floor Area: 11,089 sqm
Official Web Site
The West Japan General Exhibition Center is located on the north side of Kyushu's Kokura Station, previously the site of an extensive port. This area, once characterized by large scale facilities such as cranes, oil tanks, smoke stacks, warehouses, etc. standing in disorder, was redeveloped on the occasion of the establishment of Kokura Station along the high-speed bullet-train railway network.
Such a context indicated the need for an enormous structure: an expansive column less space. The structural system applied to make this huge space in a very particular context is the so-called diagonal suspension structure. A pre-stressed concrete roof is suspended by cables stretching diagonally from a series of pillars. The lateral forces on the pillars are equalized by back stays strung in the opposite direction. The suspension cables are strung in a V-shape from the top of the pillar to the point of attachment with each roof unit, in a series, along the longitudinal direction. Each unit corresponds to one-eighth of entire structure, so that the building appears as a repetition of the same piece eight times. These eight pillars resemble the masts of a sailing ship with its sails down, or the skeletal structure of a long bridge.
Even the curving wall of the office area produces an association with a ship's form. In this way the building sustains a rhythmic repetition at a large scale relating to its context with symbolic metaphors evoking port and water.
The resulting ceiling of the approximately 50×170m column less space developed from the image one sees when looking up at the surface of the waves, which shines with reflected sunlight. The ceiling's thickness is as thin as possible (approximately 1/70 of the span) and receives natural light through the slits between roof units. Required rooms are arranged at the perimeter of this huge space with offices and a restaurant housed at one end of the building facing an open court. The spatial composition of this project came to be regarded as a prototype for many other exhibition centers built afterwards.