Ireland House aims to be a physical and tangible expression of the partnership between Ireland and Japan. It is the home of Team Ireland. It signals ambition and confidence in a relationship rooted in our common values and distinct but complementary perspectives. It will be place for muintearas and comhluadar; for meitheal and omotenashi/おもてなし. (Approximate translation is community and company; teamwork and hospitality).
In its design and construction, the project must be meaningful and true to the links that already exist between Ireland and Japan, reflecting 60 years of diplomatic relations between our states and also the legacy of forerunners such as Thomas James Waters, Lafcadio Hearn and John William Fenton as well as the more contemporary influence of Peter Rice.
But beyond that it must be a beacon for the Irish community in Japan and those Japanese who share an affinity with Ireland. It must be a light box for Irish artists, businesspeople, entrepreneurs and innovators. It must be a meeting point that supports commercial interaction and a laboratory for discovery and innovation.
In summary this building will capture the spirit of Ireland. A place of heritage and culture but also a modern nation that is an island at the centre of the contemporary world. It will be an embassy, it will be a place to do and promote business, it will be a cultural centre, it will be a community meeting place, it will be a showroom and source of knowledge. It will be a vibrant place and it will be a welcoming place. It will be a true Ireland House in Japan.
In December 2017, the Irish Government took the opportunity to purchase a suitable site from the Japanese Government, very well located in central Tokyo, with the aim of developing an ‘Ireland House’ - a home for team Ireland and a centre of Ireland’s presence in Japan. Ireland House will include; a major event and exhibition space for culture, promotion and business; offices for the Embassy and the State Agencies and the official accommodation of the Ambassador, and will be a convening and meeting place for the Irish community in Japan.
The vision for this new ‘Ireland House’ building, is to provide an exceptional platform for Ireland to develop an increased level of ambition and engagement in Japan in future years, as part of its commitment in Global Ireland 2015. In addition, the new building will help to raise Ireland’s profile in Japan and showcase its arts, cultural heritage and business through excellence in design, and the construction of a landmark building.
In order to deliver this landmark building, the Department of Foreign Affairs commissioned a two stage international architectural design competition for an Architect led design team and engaged the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland to launch, administer and act as competition registrar in line with best practice.
A detailed brief setting out the building requirements and site constraints was drawn up by the Department in collaboration with the State Agencies, and with input from a Japanese architectural consultant, with the view to ensuring the entrants had as much detail as possible to allow them to propose a design that would fulfil the Competition Vision, and could be realised.
An international jury was proposed to judge the competition and consisted of the following members:
Anne Barrington, Irish Ambassador to Japan, 2014-2018, (Chair of the Jury)
Sou Fujimoto, Director Sou Fujimoto Architects, Tokyo, Japan
Karen McEvoy, MRIAI, Director Bucholz McEvoy Architects, Ireland
Ciaran O’Connor, FRIAI, State Architect, Office of Public Works, Ireland
Raymund Ryan, Hon FRIAI, Irish architectural curator and critic, Pittsburgh, USA
Joseph Walsh, Irish furniture designer, Ireland
The competition was officially launched by the RIAI in January 2019.
The Stage 1 submission required the architect-led design teams to submit two A1 boards and a 5 page report outlining their proposals. There were 67 entries for this stage from many countries including the U.S., UK, Canada, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Germany and Ireland. These submissions were assessed anonymously by the International Jury.
Five Stage 1 submissions were shortlisted to progress to Stage 2, the entries were from:-
- Arigho Larmour Wheeler Architects in collaboration with Ostick & Williams Architects.
- Hall McKnight
- Henry J Lyons Architects
- Graeme Massie Architects
- Grafton Architects
They were each given a number of months to submit more detailed proposals on eight A1 boards and a 20 page report for the design of Ireland House. The Stage 2 submissions were again judged anonymously and over a number of days the Jury made their selection of the Winner.
The Jury stated that they were very impressed by the standard of the submissions, their presentation and explanations.
Once the selection was confirmed by the Jury the name of the winning design team was revealed by the competition registrar to the Department of Foreign Affairs and is to be led by Henry J Lyons, a Dublin based architectural practice
Negotiations were completed and a contract was concluded with Henry J Lyons in August 2020.
This was the entry the jury unanimously agreed best fulfilled the brief. This design recognises and resolves the diverse use of requirements of a combined embassy, cultural and business centre that will be Ireland House in Tokyo.
It will facilitate a welcoming, forward looking, positive and friendly relationship that already is established between Ireland and Japan. A special place for bringing people together, for gatherings, meetings, exchanges of ideas and encounters.
The public link from the street to the event space is both welcoming, flexible, and is at the heart of the building. It allows best for the next step of the evolution of the design with the client.
The public, semi-public and private spaces are well sequenced. The building has a positive relationship to its neighbours and the nearby public park.
A beautiful palette of natural materials is used. The materials reflect Irish and Japanese sensitivities.
The winning scheme has an empathy with its environment, is carefully thought out, subtly integrates many different brief requirements, yet is both calm and captivating. A fitting winner.
This design had an elegant sequence of spaces, clarity of structure, combined with a simple and subtle facade to the public park. The jury admired the location of the library, the options for people, business and cultural interaction. The design is an essay in the clear execution of a strong singular idea.
A clear response to the zoning constraints of the site while also investigating certain traditional and modern idioms in an interesting way.
An ambitious 3D frame combines to create interesting spatial relationship and variation within the tight physical constraints of the site. A good visual link to the public park combines with thoughtful interiors.
This proposal has a clear set of references in form, space and material terms that can be related back to Ireland.