- Architects: Klein Dytham architecture
- Location: Karuizawa, Kitasaku District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan
- Area: 86.0 m2
- Project Year: 2016
- Landscape Designer: Studio On-Site
- Lighting Designer: ICE Illumination of City Environment
- Structural Engineer: NIEDA Atelier (ARCH), KAP Architects (LS)
- Mechanical Engineer: Gn Engineering
- Electric Engineer: Tact Comfort
- General Contractor: Kitano Corporation
- Civil Engineer: Sako Consultant
- Client: Hoshino Resort / Hoshino Resort Asset Management
- Site Area: 5,093.58 m2
From the architect. Picchio Visitors Centre and Ice Rink is located in the foothills of Mount Asama, an active volcano. This area of Japan, known as Karuizawa, is famous for its hot springs, cool temperatures in the summer months, red leaves in autumn and snow in the winter, making it the perfect weekend retreat from Tokyo, which is only 90 minutes away by bullet train. This project, a structure that can act as a skating clubhouse in winter and a nature centre in the summer, was a collaboration between Klein Dytham architecture and Japanese landscape design firm Studio on Site.
The project is a part of the Hoshinoya Hotel complex and is located next to Japan’s first bird sanctuary, which was established in 1964 along with a simple square ice rink for the local ice-hockey team.
Over the years the bird sanctuary flourished and although the ice rink and small clubhouse became overgrown, the site emerged as a breeding ground for dragonflies which became an attraction in itself for visitors in the summer months.
The Picchio project revolves around enhancing all of the existing site facilities. The new ice rink is naturally landscaped according to the site topography and the clubhouse brings together the site’s dual purpose. The welcoming structure acts as a focal point throughout the year; as a nature and information centre at the start of bird sanctuary treks in spring, summer and autumn, and also as the ice rink clubhouse in the winter months.
The sweeping arcs that ice skates make on the ice as well as the angles of the winter sun were both key starting points for the design phase. These things, along with the overall shape of the new rink, really informed the architecture of the project. The building was positioned on the only part of the site that receives direct sun, so as to make the most out of the ice on sunny winter days. Two sweeping arcs that follow the perimeter of the rink then become the main walls of the project. The north facing back wall is solid, while the south facing wall acts as a frame with large glass sliding doors that open up in the summer. A large curved steel beam forms a 25m column-free portal frame allowing the sliding doors to completely slide back, giving amazing uninterrupted views of the pond and allowing an uninterrupted view of the pond and forest beyond. The two walls are clad in wooden shingles with random anodized aluminium shingles in ‘dragonfly’ blue and green.
A large curved double-sided bench runs down the center of the space, allowing people to sit and face the pond in the summer with the doors fully open. Sitting on the other side allows people to face the shelving wall with research materials, displays and monitors. As the space widens towards one end, small informal talks and workshops can take place.
The transformation of the building from summer nature centre to winter ice rink clubhouse was an important aspect of this project – the structure had to be welcoming and fully functioning in both seasons.
In the winter months the shelves are relieved of the books and instead filled with rental ice skates. Yet again the double-sided bench is a focal point in the building, giving ample space for lacing up skates, or to sit in the warm and watch the swirling skaters outside. The building location not only keeps direct sun off the ice but allows spectators and skaters alike to soak up the winter sun on a fine day.
To maximize the skating season, a third of the rink has cooling pipes to help freeze the ice nearest the club house, simple temporary railings define the edge of the ice. As the temperatures decrease and the whole rink freezes, the railings are removed and people can skate around the whole rink. We believe this is the first time in the world an ice rink has combined both assisted freezing and natural ice.
Ensuring that the Picchio project was in harmony with its surroundings was an important aspect of the brief and huge efforts were made to both echo and respect the natural features of the site. Two deep wintering pools were made in the pond so that fish and other water life could have a place to live where the ice did not fully freeze; the natural flow of the water was the guide for landscaping works. Furthermore, to ensure that even in the depths of winter there is always a hint of the summer months to come, flecks of colour in the form of brightly coloured aluminium panels are darted in amongst the cedar shingles, bringing to mind the iridescent dragonflies that will surely return to the pond as temperatures rise.