Jozenji-dori Avenue, famous for its rows of zelkova trees sprouting fresh leaves in summer and its Pageant of Starlight in winter, could well be called the symbol of Sendai. The modern glass facade of Sendai Mediatheque stands on this street and houses a library, art gallery and production studio. This is a cherished public complex where Sendai's citizens come for relaxation and refreshment and to express themselves through art and culture.
The 1st floor features a huge open space known as the "Plaza", which is home to a cafe and the museum shop.
If you take the escalator up to the next floor, there you will find people relaxing on chairs dotted around a space that faces onto Jozenji-dori Avenue. This would make a nice, relaxing place to take a rest on a visit to Sendai.
Sendai Mediatheque was designed by architect Toyo Ito, who has won many awards for this building. The structure's construction in particular is unique, and attracts an unending stream of visitors from around the world.
"For people interested in architecture, this is something of a Mecca," says Sendai Mediatheque Assistant Director Yasushi Sato. The structure's construction is "unique in the world," and is made up of 13 tubular columns known as "tubes", sheets of metal known as "plates" that act as both floor and ceiling, and a "double skin" outer wall made of two panes of glass. As the structure is so unique, the construction apparently also required the participation of craftsmen from a shipbuilding factory.
The "tubes," as well as being used for the building's stairs and elevators, also bring light down into the building from the rooftop, and even house the building's air conditioning, plumbing and wiring.
A good place to get to see the construction from inside one of the "tubes" is Tube 5 in the southeastern part of the building. This is the largest "tube" and houses a staircase. In order to encourage people to use the stairs, ad-hoc events are held here as part of what is known as "project TUBE 5".
Mr. Sato goes on to explain: "Due to its unique structure, the building does not require supporting walls. This means that the first floor can pretty much be used without splitting the area up."
This should help give you a sense of the open space and the way in which people are able to come and use it freely, as they want. Whilst at first glance it looks like a place which is avant-garde, this comfortable public complex allows visitors to come and relax without having to put on any airs of formality.
January 2011 will mark Sendai Mediatheque's 10th anniversary, during which numerous events will be held there, making it a great time to go and take a look around if visiting Sendai.
Access: Take either the bus or the Loople Sendai service, and get off at the "Mediatheque-mae" stop.
20 minutes' walk from JR Sendai Station (1.8 km/1.1 mile).
Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Closed days: New Year's holidays (29 Dec - 3 Jan); Maintenance & inspection days (4th Thursday of every month).