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Architect Kentaro Ishida: Creating Spaces to Provide New and Richer Viewing Experiences

Born in 1973, Kentaro Ishida studied architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA School) in London, and worked for the Swiss architectural design firm Herzog & de Meuron from 2004 to 2012. As an associate at the firm, he was in charge of project management and was also the lead designer for the Pérez Art Museum, Miami (Miami Art Museum), and the Triangle Skyscraper Project (Paris). We spoke with the architect, who currently runs Kentaro Ishida Architects Studio.

Kentaro Ishida

Architecture as a Vessel to Aid Activity

During his university years in London, a city where modern high-rise buildings intermingle with old streets, Ishida was forced to think about how new architecture can exist while preserving the old, and he strongly recognised the influence that buildings and design have on cities.

As an architect, Ishida is more interested in public spaces and places than he is in buildings. He tells us that this is because “it is architecture that creates spaces for people to gather, and that is what we can offer people.”

“An example of this is the plaza in front of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. It has a gentle slope, which invites people to stay there, sit down, and watch street performances. I have a great interest in these human phenomena. Even in a city, even on a residential scale, it is possible to create conditions for people to gather. I think that is the inherent power of architecture.”

“As an architect, the most important thing to focus on is what will go inside the structure,” Ishida continues. “Architecture should be a vessel that makes people happy and helps with their activities.”

This aesthetic is also evident in the spaces he has created for the appreciation of art, which he has been involved in since moving to his current base in Tokyo. These spaces include N’s YARD, a private museum for contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara, and the OTA FINE ARTS, a gallery featuring many of Japan’s leading artists.

「N's YARD」

Exploring the Set-Up Process of Exhibition Spaces

An outstanding work of art can look completely different depending on the environment in which it is displayed. When working on a museum or gallery, Ishida states that “it is very important for an architect to explore what kind of environment will bring out the message of the artwork, and to arrange the structure to make use of natural light, the proportions of the building, and the space within it as a medium for displaying the artwork.”

To this end, Ishida has been analysing contemporary art-related architecture from around the world in order to develop a new typology for art museums.

However, in most cases, it is not known at the construction stage what kind of artworks will be housed in the museum. Therefore, Ishida’s work begins with learning and researching the artist’s philosophy and what the artist sees.

While researching case studies for his work, Ishida was exposed to the diversity and interest in art, and the strong message of the artwork, and was impressed by the energy that artwork possesses.

The Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern has a 36-metre-high atrium, and contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson’s “The weather project,” exhibited in 2003, was a work of art that seemed to erode the large space.

For Ishida, artists are “like textbooks that teach us about beauty, deep sadness, and the human way of life, from an angle that differs from our general sense of values.

Pictures: FOUR LEAVES Villa in Karuizawa, Japan

What is Site-Specific Architecture?

Ishida was first introduced to contemporary art through the Pérez Art Museum Miami (Miami Art Museum) project, which he was in charge of from the concept design stage through to the project’s completion, while working for Herzog & de Meuron.

He describes the character of the city of Basel, where he was living at that time.

“It’s a city where art is close to home, with The Municipal Art Museum Basel, founded in 1662, having a history of opening its public collection to the public even before the Louvre. In June, when the world’s leading art fair, Art Basel, is held, it attracts art professionals from all over the world.”

We ask Ishida about his future outlook as he continues to deepen the inspiration he receives from art and apply the individuality of places to his work.

“I believe that architecture should be site-specific. There is no way that the same architecture can be created in different countries, with different climates, and different ways of using sites. Good architecture can only be created by researching and analysing the locality and its context.”

“Architecture plays a very important role in a city, intervening not only in the city itself but also in the lives of its people. I want to continue to be involved in projects with that stance. As for art spaces, I would like to continue my search for spaces that create newer, richer viewing experiences.”

This vision strongly reflects the solid perspective and sensitivity that Ishida possesses in his pursuit of space.

OTA FINE ARTS 7CHOME, a project space opened in 2022 in Roppongi


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