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Optical Glass House, Hiroshima, Japan

Location: 3 Chome-1-4 Otemachi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, Japan
Year built: 2012
Architect: Hiroshi Nakamura

The Optical Glass House is a towering, glass-brick building designed by Japanese architect Hiroshi Nakamura in 2012. Situated beside a busy intersection in the bustling Japanese city of Hiroshima, the unique building is a sight to behold.

The building’s optical glass facade is the pinnacle of its design and namesake. Contrasted by a lush, tranquil garden courtyard, the glass veneer stands tall, reflecting dancing light patterns upon the walls and floors of the interior rooms.

The brilliant facade comprises about 6,000 blocks of pure glass, which boast both beauty and function. The blocks close off sound from the busy streets while allowing abundant light and shades of greenery to flow through.

About Hiroshi Nakamura

Hiroshi Nakamura and NAP Architects is a Tokyo-based firm led by Nakamura himself. Born in 1974, he earned a Master’s degree from the Graduate School of Science and Technology at Meiji University in 1994. Nakamura worked for Kengo Kuma & Associates from 1997 to 2002 before establishing his architecture studio. His company specialises in regional, urban and industrial design and planning.

Nakamura is known for combining harsh, angular shapes and surfaces with soft greenery and ambient light. His Sayama Forest Chapel design, which won the Architizer A+ Award in 2016, exemplifies these qualities. A prized architect, Nakamura has won several awards, including The Japan Institute of Architects (JIA) Award, the JIA Sustainable Architecture Award, Grand Prize in the JCD Design Awards, and Building of the Year in the ARCASIA Awards for Architecture in 2016.

His work has also featured on television, including the series ‘The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes – Japan’ and NHK World’s ‘Design Talks Plus’.

It’s fascinating how the designers managed to create a building that interacts with the street in such a simple yet elegant way, and by building a two storey wall facing it. They have not only reinvented the old school glass bricks (by custom making them with materials used in optical glass), but have also created a blueprint for how courtyards can be flipped to create highly usable buffers from the street. One of the top buildings on my post-pandemic travel list, just need to figure out a way to get access inside. – Raghav Goel

Photos by Koji Fuji / Nacasa Partners Inc / Horioshi Nakamura & NAP