Projects   Project Portfolio – February 2007
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SSM/Kanno Museum of Art

Shiogama, Miyagi, Japan
Atelier Hitoshi Abe

Hitoshi Abe forges a box of dimpled Cor-Ten steel, painted white on the inside, as a home for the new Kanno Museum in Japan 

Photo: © Daici Ano

By Naomi R. Pollock, AIA

A stark metal box for metal sculptures, the Kanno Museum of Art (also known as the Shiogama Sculpture Museum [SSM], after the surrounding town) contrasts markedly with the expressive curvy structures that first thrust architect Hitoshi Abe into the limelight. This latest work, a Cor-Ten cube, dimpled with a pattern reminiscent of diamond plate, contains a cluster of small galleries, inspired by soap bubbles but made of flat planes of steel. The brainchild of an art-loving, 70-something psychiatrist eager to share her collection, the 2,370-square-foot museum features eight modestly scaled figural works by such Western artists as Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore, plus temporary exhibitions. Adjacent to the doctor’s palatial 30-year-old, masonry home in the Sendai suburb of Shiogama, Japan, Abe’s sculptural building—residential in scale only—bears no resemblance to this or any other house nearby.

Single-family homes, small apartment buildings, and sporadic rice paddies border the narrow, circuitous road leading to the hillside site of the Kanno Museum. Perched on a grassy plateau and adjacent to an existing retaining wall, Abe’s rust-colored building rises from concrete foundations. With its ground level below the road, the cube stands apart from its densely built immediate surroundings. Yet the approach to this object building proceeds effortlessly from the street, across the museum’s small, cast-concrete parking area, and up a series of steps into the boxy volume. The main entrance, marked by an L-shaped Cor-Ten canopy, brings visitors directly into the museum’s top level.

Leaving behind the mundane streetscape, the front door opens onto a reception area—the entrée into a magically white world, textured exactly like the exterior. Here, floors become walls, walls become ceilings, and art becomes the focus. Steel stairs descend immediately to an exhibition space, the first of a spiraling sequence of irregularly shaped galleries on three levels, all contained within the building’s rectilinear enclosure. With slashed doorways and white, angled walls defining the three display spaces, the journey culminates on the building’s lowest level, with the largest gallery, a room intended for small concerts and art installations. From there, an elevator back up to the top completes the circulation loop, depositing passengers in a small vestibule, where glass floor panels allow glimpses of the galleries below. But what really draws the eye is a triangular window across the adjacent reception room, opening toward ocean views—one of the few points of contact between the otherworldly interior and the real-world exterior.

Unlike commonplace buildings, so often stacked in domino fashion along grid coordinates, the Kanno Museum has its own unique, internal order.

Want the full story? Read the entire article in our February 2007 issue.
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the People

Kanno Museum of Art Foundation

Hitoshi Abe + Atelier Hitoshi Abe

3-3-16, Oroshimachi, Wakabayashi-ku, Sendai, Miyagi, Japan
 phone: +81-22-284-3411


Structural Engineer: Oak Structural Design (Masato Araya)

Facility Design: SOGO CONSULTANTS, Tohoku


General Contractor:
Kajima Corporation
Takahashi Kogyo


Daici Ano / Fwd Inc.
mailing address: 3-3-17 RE-KNOW 2F Higashinihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo103-0004, Japan
phone number: +81-3-3668-7722
e-mail address:

CAD system, project management, or other software used:


FormZ, etc.


the Products

Structural system:

Steel Plate + Reinforced Concrete (Foundation)                                                      
Manufacturer: Takahashi Kogyo(steel plates)

Exterior cladding

Metal/glass curtain wall:
Type:    Corten Steen Sandwich Panel (t=68) All welded, no paint finish.
Manufacturer: Takahashi Kogyo


Type:   Reinforced Concrete


Type:   Corten Steen Sandwich Panel (t=68) All welded, no paint finish.
Manufacturer: Takahashi Kogyo


Steel: Corten Steel
Kajima Corporation


Type: (Corten) Steel Frames and Doors (No Paint)

Metal doors:
Type: (Corten) Steel Frames and Doors(No Paint or Urethane Paint)

Wood doors:
Type: Hunger Door

Sliding doors:
Type: Wood Door


Type: Stainless Hinges

Interior finishes

Acoustical ceilings:
Type: Ceiling Steel (t=2.3) SOP Vacuum Ceramic

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Type: Steel Counter

Paints and stains:
Type: Oil-based paint (Floor, Wall, Ceiling)

Special surfacing:
Type: Artificial Wood (t=12GP)                                                        

Resilient flooring:
Type: St Sandwich Panel Dustproof Paint


Interior ambient lighting:
Type: Ceiling Light                                           
Manufacturer: Toshiba

Type:    Ceiling Light                                                    
Manufacturer: Toshiba

Task lighting:
Type:    Spot Light On Lighting Rail
Manufacturer: Yamagiwa

Type:    Spot Light, Foot Light                                                  
Manufacturer: Yamagiwa

Type:    Upper Light
Manufacturer: Matsushita Denko

Type: Dimmer Switch
Manufacturer: Matsushita Denko


Type: Elevator(Electric 3person 20m/min)
Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Hitachi Home Elevator


Water Supply:
Direct Connection,
Hot Water Supply: Local Supply,
Drainage: Natural Flow (public drainage)

Manufacturer: T-form

Type:    Low Tank                                                       
Manufacturer: INAX

Type:    Single Bulb, Mixed Bulb                      
Manufacturer: Fuji Design



Type:    Air Conditioning: Duct Type, PAC Heat Pump (cooling) Air Conditioning         
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