Nebuta house . Aomori

Construction began in March 2009 on a unique and sculptural building on the waterfront of Aomori City in Northern Japan. Twelve meter tall ribbons of steel make up a screen that completely encircles the building, with a shifting pattern of light and shadow that changes through the day and night. This mysterious volume enclosed by the ribbon screen will house a deep dark dwelling space for the giant paper characters and creatures of Aomori city’s famous Nebuta festival.

For anyone not yet familiar with Nebuta, it is one of Japan’s three largest festivals and is an incredible event to experience. Nebuta is a form of storytelling, where larger than life heroes, demons and animals from history and myth, come magically to life in luminous three dimensional forms created from paper and light. During the first week of August each year, the Nebuta floats light up the night as they are paraded through the city streets of Aomori by hundreds of thousands of dancers moving and chanting to the deep sounds of the taiko drums and ethereal music of bamboo flutes. Literally millions of visitors are drawn to Aomori for the festival. Visitors experience something universally human, almost primal in spirit, in the release of energy that happens during this deeply cultural, Japanese festival. The festival is indeed intended to rouse the sleepy spirits of people from the heat of summer, to prepare for the harvest.

molo has designed a permanent building dedicated to the history and living culture of Nebuta. In 2002, Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen of molo won an international competition held by the city of Aomori and juried by Tadao Ando and Jean Nouvel. This unique cultural building has grown from a process of Forsythe +MacAllen working closely with a team from the Aomori city government offices to develop the program, inspired by the profound spirit of Nebuta and the beauty of the four seasons in this region.

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