This special exhibition introduces 10-year achievements of New Material Research Laboratory (NMRL), co-established by internationally acclaimed artist Hiroshi Sugimoto and architect Tomoyuki Sakakida in 2008 through a variety of media including architectural models, photograph, old materials, tools and other materials characteristically used in NMRL’s works.
Based on our philosophy “Traditional materials are the newest”, NMRL undertakes the challenge of reinterpreting and reimagining the use of materials and construction methods from ancient and medieval times and applying them in the modern setting. They do not select building materials from catalogues, but collect materials ranging from antiques to industrial materials from a unique perspective on a daily basis and incorporate them in their spatial design. The design is further enhanced by modern details achieved through the combination of traditional artisans’ skills that bring out the best qualities of materials and the latest technology. The exhibition reveals trajectories of NMRL’s ongoing activities exploring architectural possibilities of traditional materials.

【New Material Research Laboratory The Origin Story】
I started my career in contemporary art as a photographer. It was some time later that I began photographing buildings. A request from The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles was the trigger. The museum asked me to create photographic works based on important buildings for an overview of twentieth-century architecture. Then, from a certain point, I took over the job of constructing spaces for exhibitions of my own work within so-called art galleries. I had suffered through some difficult experiences, particularly with newly built gallery spaces. At Hiroshi Sugimoto: History of History, an exhibition to mark the opening of the Daniel Libeskind-designed extension of the Royal Ontario Museum, I was quite bewildered to find the space still under construction on the first day of the exhibition. My struggles were repeated in many spaces where the theories of the architect were in conflict with the practical needs of the artist—Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Nouvel’s Fondation Cartier, Herzog & de Meuron’s de Young Museum, Zumthor’s Kunsthaus Bregenz, Koolhaas’s Leeum and Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie. These ordeals, however, enabled me to refine my own sense of space. They provided me with helpful examples of what not to do, fed through to my sensibility, and over time caused an image of the kind of building I wanted to actualize inside my mind.
As I got older, I had the idea of pulling together all the work that I have done in my life into a coherent whole, and began working on the concept of the Odawara Art Foundation : Enoura Observatory. It was precisely then that an unexpected architectural commission fell into my lap: a request from Soichiro Fukutake to reconstruct the Go’o Shrine on Naoshima. This project gave me the opportunity to think about the outward forms of Japan’s ancient religious beliefs. A commission to design the Izu Photo Museum in Mishima soon followed. That was what inspired me to join forces with Tomoyuki Sakakida and establish an architectural practice. I set up the New Material Laboratory to rescue and revive the increasingly overlooked old materials of traditional Japanese architecture. My aim was to prove that the old materials are in fact the newest materials of all. Here time runs backwards. The Enoura Observatory is designed to draw the heart and mind all the way back to the very dawn of human consciousness.

Hiroshi Sugimoto


*The symbol “・” is pronounced as “ten” in Japanese and a word meaning “exhibition” is also pronounced as “ten” in Japanese.

*The exhibition “ten” and the “ten” of the 10th anniversary of the laboratory are embodied in the ”・” (ten) symbol.

October 21st (Sun.), 2018 – March 3rd (Sun.), 2019

ARCHI-DEPOT Museum – Room A (2-6-10 Higashi-Shinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 140-0002)

Open Hours
Tuesday – Sunday, 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM (Admission until 6:00 PM), Closed on Monday
(open when Monday is a holiday, but closed the following Tuesday)

Adults 3,000 yen / Students 2,000 yen / 18 and under 1,000 yen
(Including the admission for the exhibition Room B and a free copy of NMRL’s portfolio booklet)
* Free admission for visitors with a physical disability certificate and one of their carers
* Presentation of your school identification card Windicating your age or a physical disability certificate will be required on admission.


Curated by
New Material Research Laboratory

Exhibition Design by
New Material Research Laboratory

Curatorial Advisory by
Fumiko Suzuki

Curatorial Support
Art & Public Co., Ltd.


Odawara Art Foundation (Public Interest Incorporated Foundation) and Gallery Koyanagi