Bathe in Shadow

Bathe in Shadow

Daylight in buildings - Region 4: Asia and Oceania

Ai Toma
Sumika Hosoe

Keio University


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In “In Praise of Shadows” by Junichiro Tanizaki, Tanizaki introduces the beauty of shadows, which has been deeply appreciated in Japanese culture. Rather than clarity and brightness, the Japanese have valued darkness and pale, subdued light.

It is said that exposure to light improves physical and mental health. Although proven to be true, this may not necessarily be the case. It may also be the “shadows” that influence the relaxation of the Japanese mind and body. The Japanese room values the shadow as an object not to be eradicated but observed with respect to the objects casting it. The shapes and patterns of shades, considered a positive absence, are essential for the Japanese mind.

Therefore, the main goal of this project is to raise appreciation of the beauty of shadows that the Japanese valued and explore the possibility of using shadows to enhance mindfulness.

The site is located above the Shibuya River in Tokyo. An area with year-round sunlight was selected in order to create different types of shadows. Underground space, close to the water level, is used to create a quiet space in contrast to the bustling space above ground, where there is a lot of human activity.

The roof of the underground space is located at the same level as the ground level. In addition to the design of the windows, which casts various shadows, we aim to create a space where visitors experience various shadows created by the reflection of the Shibuya River, the topography of the land, existing bridges, and surrounding buildings. Rather than constructing a new building, it hopes to utilize the existing structure in order to embrace and carry over the charms of the Shibuya river and prospect a more accessible Shibuya River.

In Shibuya, a city with abundant underground space, tubular structures are often seen in stations and buildings to let light in from the ground to underground. Taking advantage of this characteristic of Shibuya, a circle that drops light in a tubular shape was utilized in the design.

The diameter of the circle was set as 1500mm in order to design four patterns of windows and spaces used by individuals (changing rooms, washing areas, etc.).

The ceiling windows, structural frames, columns, and plans were designed based on a guide, where sets of three circles are arranged consecutively.

Pillars were designed based on the shape of the three circles joined together. On top of the pillars, structural frames and window frames are installed. The window frames, which consist of three types, allow the number of windows to be freely arranged from a single unit.

Four types of windows are designed. One and two circles cast spotlights along with distinct contours in dark spaces.Three circles and a series of windows create a frame of shadows in the bright space. The lines of the frame create striking shadows on the steep terrain.By arranging these four types of windows gradationally, the space allows visitors to experience a variety of shadows throughout the 77-meter-long site.

Shibuya is known as one of the busiest cities in Tokyo. As a public space for relaxation, and openly shared bathhouse was chosen as an ideal program that can be used on a daily basis. The bathhouse is placed 1.4 meters above the riverbed in continuity with the flow of the Shibuya River, developing a close relationship with the water.

The entrance is designed as a bright welcoming space with round patterns of light and contour shadows. Its iconic patterns make a strong arrival sequence while subtly attracting visitors into the darkness.

As the visitors pass the entrance, they enter a spacious changing area with lockers, restrooms, changing rooms, and vanities. Round lights fall in the hallways and in each booth, growing darker towards the bath area.

The bath area consists of one long open shared bath and washing booths. No partition wall is intentionally placed to create a boundary in the bath. Instead, the appearance of shadows functions as a boundary line between different atmospheres within a single bath. The shadows move differently depending on the weather and time of day, allowing visitors to enjoy different spatial experiences in the bath every day. Visitors are free to choose where they would like to bathe in the shadow according to their mood and preferences.

Immersing oneself in various shadows in the bathhouse can be expected to have the potential for improving one’s mental and physical health. Moreover, the experience will raise an awareness and appreciation for “beauty of the shadows.”