Since 2011, Tokyo University of the Arts and the city of Hokuto in Yamanashi Prefecture have been working together to redesign its Kobuchizawa Station building as part of an initiative to breathe new life into the rural area.

Local citizens were involved through numerous workshops as the city’s natural, historical, cultural and artistic aspects were considered in a project that aims to make the station an artistic gateway to the mountainous Yatsugatake resort area.

“The citizens of the area have a strong appreciation of art and there are many who paint or enjoy other crafts on their days off. As a local government, it also holds the largest number of music club activities (in Japan)” says Atsushi Kitagawara, whose architectural company has designed the station building. “After discussing it with them, we decided to make a station that looks like an art gallery — and there will actually be a space in it that can be used as one, too.”

The exterior of the building will be part wood and part glass, materials that Motomi Nishiuchi, an architect at Atsushi Kitagawara Architects, explains will help it blend into the natural environment of Kobuchizawa.

“Hokuto is known for its views of the Yatsugatake and Akaishi mountains and their crystal clear spring water. The station building is designed to resemble mountains and the water that accumulates in valleys,” Nishiuchi says referring to the facade that will feature three angular peaks of dark wood that alternate with two large windows.

The unusual choice of the dark brown is a reference to the rich soil of the volcanic Yatsugatake Mountains. The paler bottom half of the structure will be made from Japanese red pine, which, according to Kitagawara, is extremely rare, making this possibly the first time such wood has been chosen to be used for a station building.

If all goes to plan, the station is scheduled to open in 2017. It will be a new addition to currently three buildings in Kobuchizawa designed by Kitagawara, an architect whose affinity with the landscape has won him a lot of respect.

“I was born in the mountain area of Shinshu (Nagano), where I used to collect insects everyday,” says Kitagawara, proudly describing the huge collection he had when he was a child. “I started appreciating urban life after moving to Tokyo, but being surrounded by such wonderful nature of the area makes me feel very comfortable, and it makes me realize the importance of nature.”

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