The Tottori Takahama Cafe – recently featured in Arch Daily – stands as a fascinating example of sustainable architecture, skillfully blending Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), concrete, and local craftsmanship. Conceived by Kengo Kuma and Associates, the Japanese cafe offers patrons a one-of-a-kind dining experience, close to sand dunes and open waters. The project demonstrates a harmonious fusion of architectural elements, design techniques, and sustainable features, epitomizing contemporary, eco-friendly architecture.
Kengo Kuma and Associates sought to create a space that melded seamlessly with the environment, treating the cafe as a natural extension of the landscape. Drawing inspiration from the traditional Japanese principle of “borrowed scenery” (shakkei), the architects designed a hybrid structure of CLT and reinforced concrete that ascends like a “staircase to the sky,” blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces.
Why Cross-Laminated Timber
Utilizing wood sourced from local Hinoki cypress trees, the cafe’s design achieves a distinct aesthetic and structural stability. This material selection not only reduces the carbon footprint associated with transportation but also supports the local economy.
Since 2010, Japan has been advocating the use of lumber in various types of buildings. The country demonstrates a strong preference for Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) due to its environmental benefits, cost-effectiveness, and earthquake resilience.
Embracing CLT aligns with Japan’s commitment to sustainable construction and CO2 reduction while bolstering its timber industry. As a result, architects and builders are increasingly adopting CLT for its versatility, innovation, and eco-friendliness.
In tribute to Tottori’s folk crafts (‘Mingei’) culture, the cafe highlights local craftsmanship throughout its interiors. The practice describes the integration of these elements:
“Chairs are designed with cross-laminated timber, while light pendants are made of Washi paper sprinkled with local sand. The bathroom sinks are made by Nakai-gama, a Tottori Mingei pottery workshop, which uses a beautiful combination of green and black glazing.”
Expansive glass windows optimize natural light, minimizing artificial lighting needs and providing passive solar heating for temperature control. Greenery is integrated throughout the interior and exterior spaces, heightening the connection to nature. A rooftop viewing area, shaded by a wooden pergola, offers breath-taking views of the surrounding landscape.
At night, warm-toned lighting accentuates the textured façades and rooftop pergola, adding a dramatic touch without sacrificing the intimate ambiance.
The Tottori Takahama Cafe exemplifies the seamless integration of nature and architecture through its innovative use of materials and local craftsmanship. Its textured, wood-paneled exterior harmoniously blends with the nearby dunes. Serving as a testament to the creativity and vision of Kengo Kuma and Associates, the cafe not only inspires future projects but also highlights the potential for contemporary architecture to beautifully intertwine with the natural environment.