Project in Detail
Alpha Tomamu Towers
Klein Dytham architecture, Shibuya, Japan
World Architecture Festival 2009 - Shortlisted
Alpha Tomamu Towers
Alpha Tomamu Towers, Hokkaido, Japan
Located in the forest covered mountains of central Hokkaido, the alpine resort town of Tomamu is an outdoor recreation paradise. Standing in this beautiful landscape are the 40-storey hotel towers of the Alpha Resort, built during the economic boom of the late 1980s. Now twenty years old the two towers needed re-cladding, so the resort’s owners asked Klein Dytham architecture to develop a colour scheme.
Wanting to reduce the impact of the towers KDa decided to use camouflage, but the difficulty was that the natural environment surrounding the resort changes constantly with the seasons. KDa’s solution was to camouflage one tower to suit winter conditions and the other to suit summer - one tower fades from black to white, and the other from green to white. While KDa wanted to dissolve the buildings’ mass, they didn’t want invisibility and so inserted a few red panels to liven things up. Their inspiration was the cheerful red baubles on a Christmas tree - rather than being around for just one day a year, the red panels create smiles year round.
The extraordinary size of the buildings and the boldness of the colour scheme creates a surreal scene – KDa’s scheme produces in the real world a scene normally only possible in computer renderings!
The alpine resort town of Tomamu is located in central Hokkaido, the northern-most of Japan’s main islands. The area’s forest-clad mountains make it an outdoor recreation paradise, with key activities being hiking, golf, and rafting in summer and skiing in winter. The Alpha Resort in Tomamu has a mixed architectural heritage – the complex includes Tadao Ando’s famous Chapel on the Water, designed as a wedding chapel, but also includes two rather out-of-context hotel towers built during a period of rampant development in the late 1980s. Qualifying as a super-high rise hotel, the 40-storey towers are something of a shock in their beautiful landscape context. The towers stand 121 meters tall - so high that in the winter the cloud layer is often lower than the top of the towers, so that the uppermost floors float in fine weather above the clouds (like airliners!).
Built during the Japan’s economic “bubble”, the rooms in the towers had issues with spalling of the external tile cladding, and with condensation and dampness internally. The towers needed re-cladding and additional insulation, so the resort complex’s new owners, Hoshino Resorts, asked Klein Dytham architecture to develop an external colour scheme. KDa had previously worked with Hoshino Resorts in renovating the Risonare Resort in Kobuchizawa, a project that produced their highly acclaimed Leaf Chapel, the Brillare wedding reception hall, and the Moku Moku Yu bathhouse.
KDa, like everyone else, wanted to reduce the impact of the towers. If the towers couldn’t be removed, perhaps they could be hidden, and KDa concluded that the best approach was 40 storeys of camouflage The difficulty, however, was that the natural environment surrounding the towers constantly changed with the seasons, so KDa decide to camouflage one tower to suit winter conditions and the other to suit summer. The winter tower has a colour gradation from that runs from black to white, while the summer tower fades from green to white. While KDa wanted to dissolve the building’s mass, they didn’t want invisibility, and so inserted some red panels to liven things up and create a friendlier image. Their inspiration was the red baubles on a Christmas tree that, as Astrid Klein explains, “look so cheerful and make everyone smile.” Rather than being around for just one day a year, the red panels create smiles year round.
The re-cladding of the “winter tower” has just been completed, but the “summer tower” was completed last year. The completed buildings are astonishing. The extraordinary size of the buildings and the boldness of the colour schemes create a surreal scene – KDa’s scheme produces in the real world a scene of a type normally only possible in computer renderings!
The renovation of the towers is the first such project in Japan and has required new skills to be brought into the country – the external insulation is being fitted by a specialist Canadian company – and so has attracted a great deal of interest in the Japanese construction industry. After years as monuments to a rather negative phase in Japan’s history, the towers are becoming an upbeat landmark not only in the Tomamu landscape but also within the development of the Japanese construction industry.
Klein Dytham architecture