Designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta and opened in September 1990, the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art (Watari-um) cuts a striking profile on the edge of Harajuku and Gaienmae. The abbreviated ‘Watari-um’ derives from the combination of ‘Watari,’ the family name of the founders, and ‘Museum.’
The building takes advantage of the specific geometry offered by a triangular plot at the intersection of a mayor thoroughfare and a secondary side street. The confluence of the two façades is emphasised by the cut-out silhouette of the emergency stairway which projects up ahead the main façade with a curving skin, and also by the entrance to the building, an outstanding presence at grade level. The long incision which runs down through the middle of the façade to conclude at the base with a large rectangular display window is the only reference here to the internal organization of the building, which is articulated over six floors. The ground floor and basement are occupied by a bookshop; on the first, second and third floor are the exhibition rooms of the art gallery, while the top floors accommodate the offices and the owner’s residence.
From the urban and architectural point of view, and using the words of Mario Botta, the building “emerges as a Romanesque church in the midst of the great confusion and the diversity that surrounds it”
Name: Watari-Um │Type: Museum│Architect: Mario Botta│Completed: 1990