Fujisan World Heritage Center by Shigeru Ban Architects; Naomi R Pollack; Architectural Record

Japan – Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration

Majestic and mythical, Japan’s snow-capped Mount Fuji has been an inspiration for artists, a destination for religious pilgrims, an ambition for hikers, and, since 2013, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Commemorating this honor, the Fujisan World Heritage Center (FWHC) is a museum and resource center that celebrates the mountain itself. Designed by the Tokyo architect and Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban, the building’s defining features are a monolithic wood lattice cone and its reflection in an expansive pool in front. While the cone points downward, its mirror image resembles the famous flat-topped peak.

This clever concept surfaced during the center’s competition, hosted by Shizuoka Prefecture for a site in Fujinomiya, a town of 131,000 situated 83 miles southwest of Tokyo. Though Mount Fuji is 11 miles away, the property has an unimpeded view and is adjacent to Fujisan Sengen Shrine, which administers Shinto activities held on the mountainside. “The client wanted to symbolize Mount Fuji, but I had never designed a symbolic building before,” says Ban. In his quest for an appropriate form, the architect recalled the rugby camp of his youth located by a lake near the mountain.

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