This is a project for the bell-ringing hall of Shoumyouji Temple in Aga, Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture. Shoumyouji Temple is located on the border between the town which was built on reclaimed land that was once sea, and the mountains that surround it. When one climbs up the long stairs to the temple, one could see the bell-ringing hall, and beyond it the sea in the distance, where one can almost picture the sound of bells echoing towards the sea and town. This sensation triggered our instinctive decision to orientate the bells to face the sea. At the beginning of the project, we proposed a simple architecture that respected the existing bell-ringing hall, but the monk asked us to make something that would spark people’s curiosity, attracting them to visit. After a series of conversations, we settled on the present form. The space under the roof where the bell is hung is a cave-like extension of an existing stone wall, with a distinctive roof over it that reflects the shape of surrounding mountains. Since we were making a sculptural roof, we wondered if an interesting technique could be used. We decided to stack wood in Jenga-style and carve out a form in 3D. We made a 1/5 scale mock-up with an actual small bell hanging from it for the monks to see, which ultimately finalized the design.
After the construction was finished on site, we felt it was a shame to put a roof on the building because it was beautiful in its unfinished wooden block state, but considering the need to waterproof, a roof was necessary. Therefore, we decided to use cedar bark for the roofing so the trees would look like they are covered with a thick layer of bark. With the full cooperation of the people of Kure National Institute of Technology, each piece of cedar bark was cut by hand in a workshop and installed onto the roof under the craftsmen’s guidance. When one looks at the roof, one would be able to see that every single piece of roof material was hand-made with great care, and this is what gives the bell tower a sense of presence.
Many people attended the bell tower’s completion ceremony, including monks and students of Kure National Institute of Technology. We were able to catch a glimpse of how this place will become a new base for the town, and a node that will bring everyone together. We sincerely hope that the Bell Ringing Hall will be loved by everyone for a long time.