Sfera building

  • Culture house with art gallery
  • Kyoto (Gion), Japan
  • 2003

Sfera Building is a five-storey culture house with art gallery, art book shop, design showroom, café and restaurants. It is situated in Gion, the famous cultural district of Kyoto.


The client’s brief was to create an impression in this traditional neighbourhood by interpreting the local aesthetic tradition, yet be completely contemporary.


The cherry-leaf patterned facade was inspired by traditional Japanese screens of bamboo, wood and paper. Inspiration was also drawn from the Japanese tradition of ”cultivating” nature. Photographing the sun through the tree crowns at the site started the process. Leaves were picked and put in a random pattern. This was in turn photographed and processed through computers into an abstract repeated pattern consisting of four differently sized dots/holes. The pattern was then punched into large titanium sheet panels that were mounted on a structure with a two-metre distance to the ”actual” facade, creating a monolithic appearance from the exterior.


The building changes with the day. With sunlight, a distinct leaf pattern is cast on the interior. At night, hidden green light fixtures behind the facade makes the house glow like a giant Japanese lantern.


The interior space is like a three-dimensional puzzle. The different departments flow organically into each other. A three storey-high space at each entrance connects the floors spatially. A continuous staircase between three floors adds to the flow and sense of direction.