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Connecting RISD & Inami: Old Hokuriku Bank Building Adaptive Reuse Design Presentation

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

June 12, 2020

We have reached the end (of one phase) of a long journey, which also marks a new beginning. The idea for this project brewed in November 2018 when Inami local Mr. Katsuhiko Nakajima brought to my attention an article on KitaNippon Newspaper about Nanto City government's intention in selling the historic bank building. This idea was formalized from a ppt document into a design research+travel initiative in December 2018 after a quick nod from Mayor Mikio Tanaka. (read project background here)

Fast forward to 2020, on June 12, we hosted a unique design presentation, connecting RISD students and professors to the rural community in Inami, Japan. A typical design critique would lasts for 5-6 hours, with storytelling and debates between designers and critics. We condensed the presentation into a 2-hour meeting via zoom for a different audience. If not for COVID19 pandemic, this could be an interesting face-to-face town hall meeting between the locals and RISD tour group in Japan.

As the initiator and liaison, jumping between Japan and US with 2 extreme styles of communication and project practices makes me embrace even more the innovative and persevering capacity of the American culture that I was brought up in. My biggest pleasure in the project is partnering with my alma mater Rhode Island School of Design. RISD has always acknowledges traveling to Japan for cultural immersion being a critical experience for the students to deep-dive into an unfamiliar culture, with physical experience at the project site, and opportunities to interact and research with the local community. Despite all the challenges in procedural matters and eventually the COVID19 pandemic, Professor Wolfgang Rudorf and Professor Liliane Wong has never stop pursuing the travel opportunity for the students, "January (winter session), to March (spring break), to May (Final Critique), perhaps let's try next Fall semester..." I feel grateful for the relentless effort, realizing RISD is a great, dedicated partner in social design projects.

My precious interaction with Interior Architecture students brought back memories of high-stress, sleep-deprived design studio classes at RISD, all for the love of creative work. 9 Interior Architecture students with diverse academic and cultural background demonstrated their passion and creativity through 9 design projects of their own topic of interests. Kudos to their research effort given all the limitation in material available in the US on top of language barrier. Cultural diversity in US colleges makes the learning experience exceptionally invaluable. Being able to listen and learn from peers, supporting each other through sharing of different cultural knowledge and perspectives. Building mutual respect and unique team dynamics foster great creative and fruitful learning experience for students.

The following are highlights of the students' 14-week effort for Spring 2020 RISD Her

itage Studio : Rethinking Old Hokuriku Bank Building - 9 Architectural Interventions

We are working on a publication to document all 9 projects to greater details.

Yara Hadi - FuFuFu Rice Exchange 富富富お米交流所

1st Year MDes Graduate in Interior Studies: Adaptive Reuse Program, RISD INTAR 2021

RISD デザイン大学院1回生, デザイン学修士(インテリア建築) 適応型再利用専攻

In rural communities like Inami, resident migration and the birth and death rates have led the population to decline and age. Rice Exchange is a place for the Inami community to exchange agricultural goods. Agriculture has been a large part of Inami’s economy, and this project sheds a light on Inami’s agricultural past starting with the preservation of the name Yokamachi. Yokamachi means 8th day block. In 1655, women from this block would sell their grown produce on the 8th, 18th, and 28th day of every month. For this reason, the new use I am proposing for the Hokuriku Bank is a mixed-use agricultural market with an office space for Fu Fu Fu Rice company, as well as a small grocery and test kitchen. This project aims to bring back Inami’s history with the market by preserving the name Yokamachi. A place where people can gather and sell fresh produce.


Antoine Matta - The Artist Lab アーティスト・ラボ

3rd Year Undergraduate RISD / Haute École d’Art et Design de Genève 2021, Interior Architecture

RISDデザイン大学インテリア建築学部3回生 / ジュネーブ造形芸術大学 インテリア建築専攻

My project was born out of the realization that the city of Inami, and more generally, the province of Toyama, have been hit, like the Japanese society, for a decade by the aging of its population and an ensuing loss of economic and cultural activity. It fits within a pro-active cultural and artistic approach that would allow, in agreement with the municipality of Inami, to offer creative spaces for artists so that they can revitalize Inami culturally. The project would be continuously linked to the culture of carving wood, traditionally predominant in Inami, and classical Japanese architectural codes. This is how The Artist Lab intends to create an illusion between open and closed spaces, private and public spaces, and between spaces dedicated to creation and those dedicated to contemplation. The construction would be articulated around different systems, including a play on various privacy filters which would create modular spaces, innovative yet respectful of the codes of the Japanese garden. Altogether, it would find its place within the metal frame of the Old Hokuriku Bank.


Stefan Korfmacher - Inami Research Co-op


3rd Year Undergraduate, Brown University 2021, Architecture and Environmental Science


In rural communities like Inami, resident migration and the birth and death rates have led the population to decline and age. Over the last few decades, the Japanese government has been promoting "I-turn" and "U-turn" programs to encourage young people and families to move to rural towns to support them, often as farmers. Though these programs have not reached the rate necessary to stabilize towns, recent studies on successful family migration reveals useful trends for supporting incoming residents. I am proposing an agriculture research extension building, creating an opportunity for partnership and learning between incoming farm families and long term residents. The building offers a greenhouse and flexible laboratories, allowing incoming

residents to pursue joint careers in research and farming and encourage exchange between new farmers and experienced residents. The kitchen and dining room, library, and classroom provide community resources for both adjacent neighborhoods and new farmers in nearby towns. The facility couples agricultural education and improvement with community integration, building a stronger pathway for new residents to relocate to Inami.


Robert Yang - Reflecting Upon Noh 能を振り返る

1st Year MDes Graduate in Interior Studies:, RISD / INTAR 2021, Adaptive Reuse Program

RISD デザイン大学院1回生, デザイン学修士(インテリア建築)適応型再利用専攻

My programming concept is a cultural performing arts center for the town of Inami, with a focus on the ancient Japanese drama, Noh. Utilizing specific concepts and principles of Noh and reinterpreting them in contemporary manner, the center will provide Inami with a cultural asset that will honor the traditions of Japan, while propelling the town into the 21st century. The Hokuriku Bank Building will be adapted as the center’s foyer, as well as a secondary performance space. Wall height mirrors create the illusion of expanded space, and encourage audience members to reflect upon themselves and the performance (in line with the Noh’s kagami no ma). A bridge set at an angle of 105 degrees is a direct translation of the hashi-gakari in a traditional Noh stage, and acts as the threshold between the Bank building and the main performance shed. A glass curtain wall using the colors of a traditional Noh curtain (age-maku) imbues the space with an atmosphere of magic and mysticism. Through the threshold, one enters the main performance space, a modernized Japanese shed structure with charred cedar cladding. Deviating from the roof structure of the traditional Noh stage, the four columns shoot up to the ceiling of the shed, appearing to support the roof above like the canopy of trees. Tiered seating and a viewing platform allow for multiple observation opportunities, while large shoji screen doors open on either side of the shed to create an interface with the street environment.


Mallikà Kanodia - Inami Community Center


3rd Year Undergraduate BFA in Interior Studies, RISD / INTAR 2021: Adaptive Reuse

RISD デザイン大学インテリアスタディ学士3回生(芸術)適応型再利用専攻

I created a multi-functional community center that includes a library, a tea lounge, meditation towers, and a multi-purpose deck; all surrounded by a bamboo forest. To increase community engagement, I propose associations with the Nanto Municipal Hospital which could use this community space as a wellness camp for their patients as well as hold general medical camps and such. Another type of association could be with the Inami wood carvers, where they could hold classes for children. Such collaborations will not only engage the local community but also create activities for tourists. While designing this space I was really influenced by certain aspects of Japanese architecture especially in Japanese gardens and temples such as framing views, creating minimalism and trying to achieve an atmosphere of serenity and openness.

Initially I looked at the structural grid of the existing building and using that grid I created the bridge. This bridge hosts the circulation core, the library lounge and a tea kitchen. The bridge offers complete views from the facades and the seating follows the boundary of the bridge, giving visitors a view of the outside. I used mostly cedar wood for the warm ambience and have kept the design minimal. The warmth of the cedar and the green bamboo forest create a peaceful atmosphere.


Danning Niu - The Future Machi of Craft 未来の工芸の町

5th Year Undergraduate, RISD / INTAR and Brown University Dual Degree Program 2020, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Studies: Adaptive Reuse

RISDインテリア建築学部5回生 . ブラウン大学デュアルディグリープログラム インテリアスタディ学士(芸術)適応型再利用専攻

This proposal introduces a Designer in Residency program into the existing building complex. The residency program encourages young designers to live in the Japanese countryside and to learn about traditional crafts, such as the renowned Inami woodcarving. The town of Inami has a rich history of woodcarving and is known for the virtuoso of its craftsmen. However, at present, the interest of the younger generation to inherit the tradition has waned significantly and the demand for the traditional wood architectural components has also dwindled. The circumstances present a need to preserve and reinvent the traditional craft and to rethink the values for the artisan town.

Architecturally, my intervention preserves the existing Hokuriku Bank and transforms the latter additions into a fragmented version of the traditional machiya complex, which I call the “The Future Machi of Craft.” I was inspired by the spatial layout of machiya and the experience of walking down Yokamachi Street and seeing all kinds of activities happening around you. I allocated all the working areas to the first floor and the residential units to the second floor, and translated the prominent pedestrian experience into the formal design of the complex. The design features a fully accessible, central indoor walkway on the first floor, flanked by the different meeting rooms, workshops, digital labs on both sides. It consists of alternating landings and ramps and leads the visitor from the bank building up to a community kitchen at the end of the journey.


Nico Chen - Buddhist Guest House 仏教徒用ゲストハウス

1st Year MDes Graduate in Interior Studies: Adaptive Reuse Program, RISD / INTAR 2021,

RISD デザイン大学院1回生, デザイン学修士(インテリア建築)適応型再利用専攻

To showcase the origin of Inami as a town of woodcarving and devotion to Buddhism, I’m

proposing a Buddhist guest house for tourists for prolonged stay in Inami, and also for urbanites keen on seeking inner space through meditation. In the original site, the three volumns from different times created continuity. The new program is set up based on annual sun path, guests’ daily Buddhism experience routine, privacy and noise level. Architecturally, I’m adding two pieces of Corten steel walls to connect the old “host” (neoclassical building) and the “guest” (new additions). This architectural promenade lead visitors to different activities that replicate a monk's daily routine. A dialogue between the old and the new, the relationship of seeing and being seen are created. People can see through to the neoclassical building while they are having different activities. Additionally, the relationship between solid and void/ light and shadow via spatial structure and material shows architectural rhythm inside the space.


Yerim Lee - Aroma-Healing Store 癒やしのアロマストア

1st Year Master of Design (MDes) in Interior Studies: Exhibitions and Narrative Environments / INTAR 2021

RISD デザイン大学院1回生, デザイン学修士(インテリア建築):展示・叙述環境

My concept for this project is to create a space that serves as a healing space while also stimulate the local social economy. The key idea is to make aroma using surplus wood from the wood carving process of Inami's woodcraft studios. There is a Japanese-style garden where people can relax and experience the scent of wooden aromas. In this building, displaying samples of wood, herbs, and oil used in the aroma process will create curiosity and interest in people and

providing more information about the process of wood-aroma production and wood aromas' healing effects, etc... In a small, quiet, beautiful Inami building, I would like to invite people to feel wood aroma scent’s healing effect and help the local's economy.


Eve Kim - Memory Bank メモリーバンク

2nd Year Master of Design (MDes) in Interior Studies: Adaptive Reuse Program/ INTAR 2021,

RISDデザイン大学院2回生 デザイン学修士(インテリア建築)適応型再利用専攻

Located midway on Yokomachi Street, a street descending from the 13th century Buddhist Temple and famous for Inami’s woodcarving tradition, the former bank will be adapted for a photography exhibition space preserving the public and personal memory of Inami and its citizens respectively.

For me, a bank is a place to protect precious valuables; and photography freezes intangible and ephemeral memory. Hence, I want to create a memorial museum, protecting the people’s memory as a timeless value within an envelope made of concrete, a volume created by employing a cast & mold technique.

Positive and negative casts of the existing concrete facade will be implemented in-situ and strategically attached as new structures behind the bank building. Various concrete textures and imprints will demarcate the different photograph collections of Inami.


We hope to give you a glimpse of the design work that came out of this social-innovative Interior Architecture Studio. A short description with couple of images cannot justify the research and thoughts being put into these projects. Drop us a line if you are interested to learn more about this initiative, if you want to explore opportunity to conduct Adaptive Reuse design research with us or just to share your comments or thoughts!


RISD Interior Architecture team is creating a publication documenting the works from this design studio. We gladly delivered our innovative thinking, showcasing the limitless creativity and various adaptive reuse principles and strategies. We hope this will sparks new dialogue in energizing the Inami community, where they will take this initiative to the next level.

An overview of this initiative can be viewed at

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