Toshiyuki Togashi/Archi-Depot

Part warehouse, part gallery, Archi-Depot is Tokyo’s first museum dedicated to storing and exhibiting tiny building mockups.

After an architectural design leaves the drawing board and before it becomes a life-size structure, it exists as a scale model. And while architectural masterpieces are best marveled at full scale, the level of detail in their smaller mockups can be spectacular in its own right—not just for industry people, but for the public, as well.

Yet firms don’t always preserve these fragile architectural models once the actual building is constructed, particularly in Tokyo, where space is limited. This concerned the team behind Archi-Depot. Located inside a warehouse in Tokyo, Archi-Depot touts itself as Japan’s first museum to not only store and preserve models by some of Japan’s most influential architects, but also put them on display for students, experts, and enthusiasts alike. Operated by a storage company called Warehouse Terrada, which offer storage services,the museum opened its doors in June.

The nearly 1,500-square-foot museum features a controlled-storage environment, with the temperature, humidity, and amount of light maintained at levels that won’t make the models fade or collapse. It’s lined with 116 shelves, which architectural firms can rent and use to store their models and other materials. Boxes are stored on the top shelves, according to Dezeen, and the models are placed at eye level for visitors to peruse as they walk up and down the aisles. Near each model are QR codes that museum-goers can scan with their phones to get access to materials like photos and blueprints of the buildings.

(Toshiyuki Togashi/Archi-Depot)

So far, the museum holds models from contemporary Japanese architects including Kengo Kuma, Manabu Chiba, and  Shigeru Ban, as well as works by international names. Archi-Depot isn’t the first to feature architectural models—architect Richard Meier in New Jersey and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have also hosted their own scale-model shows. But this is about more than just preserving and showing off Japan-made models. The initiative is also an effort in “archiving Japanese architecture,” as the organizers write in a press release.

Japan has snagged the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize two years in a row: Toyo Ito won in 2013 and Shigeru Ban in 2014. And with the anticipation of the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan mounting, Japanese architecture has been enjoying more of the global spotlight in recent years. In an age filled with celebrity architecture and grandiose projects, designs coming out of Japan often stand out for their simplicity and innovation.

In 2015, for example, Japan scrapped an Olympic stadium design by architect Zaha Hadid after Ito and other Japanese architects criticized it for being overly flashy. Instead native architect Kengo Kuma—who embraces timber construction—was tapped to design a stadium that Kuma told Architect Magazine would “reintroduce a ‘green connection’ in the center of Tokyo”. And Ban is well-known for using simple cardboard and other recycled materials to build churches that can withstand earthquakes, and to create shelters for disaster relief.

(Toshiyuki Togashi/Archi-Depot)
(Toshiyuki Togashi/Archi-Depot)
(Toshiyuki Togashi/Archi-Depot)
(Toshiyuki Togashi/Archi-Depot)
(Toshiyuki Togashi/Archi-Depot)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    Electric Scooters Aren’t a Transportation Revolution Yet

    New data show a staggering rise in shared dockless e-scooter use nationwide. But commuting habits have seen little change since the dawn of micromobility.

  2. a photo of a man surveying a home garage.
    Transportation

    How Single-Family Garages Can Ease California's Housing Crisis

    Given the affordable housing crisis, California cities should encourage single-family homeowners to convert garages into apartments and accessory dwelling units.

  3. Maria Romano stands behind one of her three children, Jennifer, 10, as she gets something to eat in their Harlem apartment in New York Thursday, June 3, 2005
    Equity

    Why HUD Wants to Restrict Assistance for Immigrants

    A proposal by Ben Carson’s agency would eject immigrant families from public housing to make way for the "most vulnerable." Housing advocates aren't buying it.

  4. a photo of a Metro PCS store in Washington, D.C.
    Equity

    What D.C.’s Go-Go Showdown Reveals About Gentrification

    A neighborhood debate over music swiftly became something bigger, and louder: a cry for self-determination from a community that is struggling to be heard.

  5. A photo of single-family homes along a hillside in San Marcos, California.
    Equity

    The Political Battle Over California's Suburban Dream

    State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 50 would rewrite the state’s single-family zoning codes. What's wrong with that? A lot, say opponents.