The Meridian line Akashi Ferry Terminal

Akashi, Hyogo
Hiroyuki Hirai

This building is intended to be a terminal for a ferry line linking Awaji Island to the mainland. Functionally, it is quite simple and consists of two spaces: a waiting hall with a ticket counter and toilets and a passageway leading to the gate where tickets are presented before boarding.
The waiting hall is the main space in this building. I tried to give spatial expression to certain images the client had suggested at the start of design: Akashi (a scenic coastal area in the region with ancient literary associations), the meridian and an astronomical observatory. The building is a simple, closed box with two types of openings. One is a cruciform opening in the ceiling that is off the building’s axis but is aligned with the true north-south axis. The light entering through the opening not only serves as a sun dial but together with the slightly domed configuration of the ceiling is meant to point out the fact that this place is on a meridian. I also made the ceiling domed so that the light falling on the floor or the wall would be distorted and not form a perfect cross; I wanted the light simply to serve as a sun dial and not take too symbolic a form.
To emphasize the narrow opening, I made the roof structure a monocoque of steel plate, reinforced only where necessary with steel members. The resulting roof plate is basically cantilevered; columns are erected only where they are structurally required.
The building is a type of camera obscura, projecting an image representing the world outside. If a journey is a process of confirmation for oneself of what exists in the outside world, then entering the waiting hall, where one encounters an image of the world, can be said to be the first step in that process.
The other opening in this space is a long, horizontal bay window. Its form was determined after repeated studies to make certain it would introduce no light that might weaken the effect of the light from the ceiling and would frame a view only in the direction of the impending journey, that is, only toward the sea. I wanted this picture window to frame the world in a different way from the opening in the ceiling.
The passageway, the other space of the terminal, is completely different from the waiting hall in being a space of reality. I wanted to create a blunt, matter-of-fact space by using nothing but familiar, ready-made industrial products such as the window of aluminum louvers and figured glass (installed in an exposed frame of section steel) and the tent roof. Once they have gone through the enclosed space of the waiting hall, passengers abruptly encounter once more the city of reality and the sea on which they are about to sail.