Sun Moon Lake by Norihiko Dan and Associates 17.08.11

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Tokyo-based architecture practice Norihiko Dan and Associates has completed the Sun Moon Lake Visitor Centre in Taiwan. It forms part of the Taiwanese government's "Landform Series": four buildings designed to boost tourism in sites of outstanding natural beauty. Dan describes the lakeside setting of his building as "mysterious, tranquil and beautiful", with "fantastic dragon-shaped mist in the morning".

His building is as eloquent as his description. Two parallel masses rise out of the landscape before turning as if to meet. They just miss, sliding past each other to create the impression of two buildings in gentle embrace. A reflecting pool sits in front, mediating between building and lake.

The building holds the administrative offices for the government's Environmental Management Bureau in one wing while the other provides space for visitors and includes a 200-seat lecture theatre and gallery. From the roof, visitors can look out over the lake, which approaches the front of the building as a narrow inlet. Wooded hills encroach upon the site on the other three sides.


To fit into this setting, Dan wanted to create a building that would be "half landscape and half architecture". That it rises from the ground and has a turf roof is only the most obvious expression of this desire and the building certainly cannot be accused of trying to hide itself away.

Beneath its green roof the building is a tour de force of shuttered and exposed concrete: sometimes soft and fluid, at other times more aggressive. Simple glass walls box in some entrance spaces so as not to distract from the sculptural form of the concrete.

"We were inspired by the dynamism of the landscape," says Dan. This dynamism draws the visitor through 
the porous building, while opening up unusual views to the surroundings. This was important for Dan who felt that most sightseeing centres suffer from focusing too much on one view, leaving a lot of "dead space". Here, all aspects of the building "communicate with and relate to the surroundings".

The viewing platforms provide perhaps the best expression of this idea. To reach them the visitor must either follow a winding pathway up the building mimicking the local walking trails, or pass through a concrete cave, penetrating the building. Only then does the lake, and a chance to glimpse misty dragons, open up in front of the visitor.



Norihiko Dan and Associates



Duncan Marsden

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Dan wanted to create a building that would be "half landscape and half architecture"


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