Mountain Pavilion in Bambajima, Toyama, Japan by Peter Salter
Built as part of Toyama Prefecture's machi no kao
(face of the town) series of small projects in
the early 1990's, this mountain pavilion (affectionately
called Peter House locally) on the Bambajima River is one
of only a few built projects by the British architect
Peter Salter. Having also designed the Inami Woodcarving Museum
as part of the same series, Salter appears to
grasp the built character of northern Japan, neither
resorting to mimicry nor complete abandon of traditional forms,
construction, and materials. Like the Museum, the
mountain pavilion is a unique structure that
enriches its environment, in this case at a
trailhead in the Northern Alps.
Located near the small town of Kamiichi, the
mountain pavilion is reached by winding roads that
stretch for about 30 minutes from the nearby town. Once
reaching the end of the road, Peter House is hidden behind
thick trees on one side and open to the river on the
other three sides. The exact purpose of the
primarily open-air structure is not apparent at
first glance. A deck is its sole outdoor space,
though stone steps provide access around and below
the pavilion. Inside, stairs lead to a viewing platform that
points upstream towards mountain peaks beyond.
Exterior materials are primarily copper with some wood, while inside wood predominates
with bamboo being used for the railing infill.
The choice of materials gives the structure a subdued presence
in its natural surroundings, even in winter
when at times it is completely covered in snow.
The intense snowfall in the region was taken into consideration
by Salter, who designed the structure so it has an inner
and outer shell, the interstitial space intended as
a place for mountain creatures to make nests.
Also, an intricate system of pipes slows water
runoff so the melted snowfall would be visible in
the warm months as drips of water from exterior
pipes. On a recent visit, the previous night's rainfall was
still evident in the structure's drainage.
Easily the most impressive aspect of the
pavilion is its surroundings, made evident by the views
that it frames. Thankfully, Salter designed a building that
harmonizes with nature while straddling the line
between contemporary and traditional, its form
being an artistic response but also resembling a
Japanese warrior helmet. Since its completion in
1994, a shed roof has been added above the exterior drain
pipes (evident in second image), perhaps to protect
the intricate workings from the heavy snow. At first the
addition was a bit disconcerting, but after a while
it was apparent that Salter's original design is
such that slight changes don't affect its overall
appearance and quality, whereas a Modernist
solution would appear violated.