Art Tower Mito
A Bold Architecture for the Sake of Art
Art Tower Mito (ATM) is a contemporary cultural complex overlooked by a helical titanium tower, located in the heart of Mito City in Ibaraki prefecture. Inaugurated in 1990 to celebrate the city’s hundredth anniversary, this original architectural compound dedicated to the arts also provides an observatory on the urban landscape.
While Mito is the capital of Ibaraki prefecture, its quiet and rural aspects show as soon as arriving at its JR station. The skyline is indeed rather low, made of small size buildings. However, an odd and unconventional shape stands out in this landscape, and attracts people curious of contemporary architecture.
The architectural observation tower
The entrance of the Art Tower Mito complex is quickly reached and symbolized by a 100-meter high tower, made of steel and covered with titanium plates. On a closer look, the original architecture of the structure is based on the Boerdijk–Coxeter helix and made of regular tetrahedra stacked up to form a narrow spiral heading toward the sky.
It was contemporary Japanese architect Arata Isozaki (1931 - 2022) designed this bold edifice, ordered by the municipality of Mito to commemorate its 100th anniversary in 1990. The construction works lasted 2 years for a total cost of ¥10,35 billion (~70.6 million dollars). According to the architect, the helix symbolizes the movement from the past toward the future and from tradition to new creation.
The Art Tower is an interesting sightseeing site thanks to the little observatory arranged at its third level. Located 86,4 meters high, it can accommodate 19 visitors at the same time. The observation deck is accessible by a glass-walled elevator offering a view on the details of the tower’s internal structure. In the observatory, a 360° view on the city and the surroundings was arranged through randomly placed portholes of various sizes, creating the strange sensation of being in a plane ✈️ or in a departing spaceship. It has become a game to try every view at every angles to enjoy the panorama.
Cultivation of traditional and contemporary arts
Aside the observatory, the compound includes several buildings of cultural and artistic purposes, such as:
- A Japanese theater, of 320 to 580 seats, rehearsing various plays from the Noh and Kyogen repertoires as well as contemporary plays,
- A concert venue with a hexagonal stage, of 620 to 680 seats, dedicated to classical music, directed by conductor Seiji Ozawa,
- A contemporary art gallery that can accommodate large-size exhibitions thanks to the high ceilings of its 9 rooms, and,
- An entrance hall inspired by European churches, occupied by a wonderful and impressive organ on its second floor.
The ATM 🏧 site and its high-end facilities bring some cultural dynamism to Ibaraki area, attracting amateurs from the whole country and beyond. The tower’s observatory is a nice complement to a sightseeing day in Mito city, after the flagship sites that are the very famous Japanese garden Kairaku-en and its Kobuntei pavilion, as well as the historical site of Kodokan. Best on a sunny day, we particularly recommend the visit during the blooming of plum flowers in February-March.