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This project brings to Paris the first purpose built Japanese institute in Europe, The function of the building is to accommodate a wide range of cultural activities including multi-purpose theatre, exhibition space, library, mediatheque, tea house and reception area, classrooms and administrative offices. The building is to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Japan and its continuing developments in the fields of Art, Design, Music, Literature, Performance and Technology.

The building is situated on what was one of the last open sites to the Seine in Central Paris just west of the Eiffel Tower on Quai Branley facing across to the Trocadero. The site is 1670 sq. m in the shape of a quadrant. The building comprises 7,700 sq.m of net useable area with 6 upper levels and 5 levels below ground.

The architects were selected by an open, anonymous international competition launched in 1989. Over 2000 entrants registered for the competition and 453 projects were submitted. The first prize was awarded in March 1991 to Armstrong Associates in association with Masayuki Yamanaka. The project was completed by Jenifer Armstrong (nee Smith) and Kenneth Armstrong.

The building can be perceived above ground as the bow of a sail with its main translucent fae tightly trimmed to the street boundary. The public enter below the suspended fae to a parvis which is open to the sky and which reflects sunlight back into the building. The arrangement of floor plates and circulation emphasises the hierarchy of public and private spaces, relating interior experiences to exterior views and vistas. The palette of materials is restricted and includes blue/black Belgian stone, Canadian maple, stainless steel, silk screened and clear glazing, perforated metal panels and pale painted plastered walls. It is intended to form a calm backdrop to the colour and movement generated by the activities within the building. The building was inaugurated in May 1997 by President Chirac and Princess Sayako, daughter of the Emperor of Japan. Jenifer Smith and Kenneth Armstrong were awarded an RIBA Award for excellence for this building in 1998.

This was an Armstrong Associates Project.

Maison de la Culture, Paris