Leveraging the expansion of the well-known Riverwalk Kitakyushu shopping center away from the Murasaki River into the town of Kokura, the developers — MGA&D’s clients for over 10 projects in Japan – used the excess permissible area to build a six-story Design Institute on top of the building’s base of showrooms and retail. We gave the Institute its own identity through the white tiled facades rising above the blue stone base that ties it to Riverwalk. The simplicity of the facades provides a suitable backdrop to the historic temple immediately behind the building.
The Institute’s program includes a lecture hall, design studios, a library, media center, student lounges and food service. Students enjoy the camaraderie and communication engendered by a multi-level open space in the center of the building, which is energized by an elliptical stair connecting the main lecture hall with the media center above. Artwork by Michael Graves – well-known even in Japan as an architecture and design educator – enlivens public spaces throughout the building.