Ireland House, Tokyo

This competition proposal began with an in-depth study of Shinto structures whereby a community of halls are interconnected under the one roof. Ishi-no-ma-zukuri is one such complex Shinto shrine structure in which the haiden, or worship hall, and the honden, or main sanctuary, are interconnected at different levels through a passage paved with planks called Ishi-no-ma, or intermediate hall. With a deep respect for these complex Japanese structures as well as similar resilient communal structures in Ireland such as medieval abbeys and friaries, Ireland House in Tokyo is likewise a series of interconnected halls and spaces under the one roof – it is an embassy; a home to diplomats and state agency personnel; a cultural centre; a community meeting place; a showroom and source of knowledge gathered together to make a vibrant and welcoming place. In the spirit of Omotenashi (Community and Company), an open tiered frame of halls, terraces and gardens are shared with Tokyo.

Through an open triangular braced timber frame, one traverses a pocket garden to enter the Main Building Entrance Hall – a double-height space that acts as a fulcrum with access to vertical circulation as well as the Consular Area. A Library/Exhibition Space has a direct relationship to the street. Likewise, the Hub Entrance Hall looks onto the street, provides access to the tiered cascade of gardens and offers an open mezzanine level view onto the Representational Hub Event Space at the lower basement level. The Event Space is glazed on three sides onto perimeter gardens. On the lowest sub-basement level – accessed by a vertical car lift as well as a shared vertical stair and lift core – car and bicycle parking as well as service spaces are accommodated.

Rising through the upper levels – all with access onto long shared terraced gardens the length of each floor – a suite of office halls for the various state agencies are accommodated on the first floor. On the second floor, the Embassy Offices along with cellular offices and meeting spaces for embassy staff are accommodated. The Ambassador’s Office benefits from views onto the park opposite with its own access onto a private covered garden terrace. On the third floor, the Ambassador’s formal dining and lounge area for hosting dignitaries as well as the visiting minister suites and ancillary areas are accommodated. On the fourth floor, the Ambassador’s Residence is accommodated. Finally, on the fifth floor, two one-bedroom staff apartments are accommodated.

Terraces and gardens are present at every level and prospect within this building as a scientific taxonomy of both Japanese and Irish plant species. Cherry blossom trees planted in raised moss beds are proposed for the long terraces that cascade from each floor level down to the main event space at basement level. Acer maple trees in a rock garden are proposed for the street level entrance garden while topiary shrubs in a gravel bed and are proposed for the covered external terrace off the Ambassador’s Office on the second floor.

Much like the Shinto structures and other resilient historic structures made of timber in a seismic environment, this proposal focuses on the use of a mass timber post-and-beam stacked frame that is braced with post-tensioned cross-laminated timber shear walls at the perimeter and a central vertical core for structural efficiency.