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Retro Japan: The striking shapes of Kyoto's international conference center

The Kyoto International Conference Center (ICC Kyoto) is seen reflected in its garden's pond, in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto on Oct. 13, 2020. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)

KYOTO -- The Kyoto International Conference Center (ICC Kyoto) in this west Japan city's Sakyo Ward opened as Japan's first full-fledged international conference venue in 1966. Three years earlier, the national government had sought bids, and the plan proposed by architect Sachio Otani (1924-2013), who studied under leading architect Kenzo Tange, was chosen from among 195 submissions.

    The corridor that connects the main entrance and main lobby is seen inside the Kyoto International Conference Center (ICC Kyoto) in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, on Oct. 13, 2020. Natural light is taken in from the upper part of the corridor. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)

    Backdropped by Mount Hiei and built in conformity with the nature around it, the building evokes the characteristics of Japan's ancient capital, Kyoto. The building uses traditional Japanese architectural techniques to combine trapezoid and reverse trapezoid shapes that bring to mind "gassho-zukuri," or steep-roofed traditional houses, and buildings of Shinto shrines.

    ICC Kyoto's Main Hall has the capacity to fit up to 2,000 people. Its ceiling is decorated with a disk modeled after the world floating in the heavens, and it also functions as a light-reflecting panel. Its Japanese garden and tea room, which borrow scenery from the Takaragaike pond next to the facility, and other features serve as platforms for cultural exchange.

    Since its opening, the conference center has held around 20,000 international and national meetings and all kinds of events attended by some 12 million people. In 1997, it hosted the 3rd Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP3), where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted. In response to the diverse ways in which the forms of meetings are changing, ICC Kyoto has been upgraded and expanded. Perhaps it can continue to serve as one of the world's great international conference centers.

    (Japanese original by Takao Kitamura, Osaka Photo Department)

    The disk modeled after the world floating in the heavens, which also works as a light-reflecting panel, is seen on the ceiling of the Main Hall of the Kyoto International Conference Center (ICC Kyoto), in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, on Oct. 14, 2020. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)

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    The Japanese version of this article was originally published on Nov. 22, 2020.

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    This series explores Japan's architectural wonders and secrets of yesteryear. Read more Retro Japan articles here.

    Retro Japan in Photos: Kyoto's awe-inspiring conference center

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