This was a project to construct a new building on the site of a dental clinic that offers medical services to the local residents of a small town in Kyushu, Saga Prefecture. In order to respond to the diversifying needs of patients, the clinic sought to remake itself as a general dental facility that would offer treatment, correction, prevention as well as dental care for infants, so as to contribute to the revitalization of the local community. In a small town such as this one, the clinic also serves as a valuable source of employment, as well as an important place of local interaction. The architecture of the clinic thus had to not only fulfill appropriate requirements regarding safety, functionality and serviceability, but also venture to offer something new to the local community by creating opportunities for social interaction and contact with nature, thus becoming a place of physical and emotional “healing” for both staff and patients.
Tucked between a national highway and a JR train route, the clinic is located on a site that stands on extremely weak, stratified silt soil close to several large factories. Although the client wanted a building with a well-balanced structure erected on stable ground with effective sound insulation and anti-shock fixtures, the project ended up transforming the existing structure into a form that would envelop and contain this soft space: using architecture to extract natural elements from the site, allowing the clinic to attend to its patients promptly and astutely. The overall impression of the clinic is one of well being – as if one were being embraced by the magnanimity of nature, basking in the komorebi (sunshine streaming through the foliage) of the overhanging trees. Gentle light entering through small round openings distributed all over the walls fills the interior, and cross-sections that generously incorporate open atria, large and small openings and skylights facilitate a variety of interactions with other people and the natural environment.
The clinic maintains a sense of openness without feeling fragmented, and the transparency of the treatment area has been enhanced. The client had three requests: 1) that the clinic remains open at the old location until the new building was complete; 2) that there be a direct passageway linking the new clinic to the residential wing; and 3) that the new building be easily recognizable for frequent visitors to the clinic. This resulted in a design that oriented the new building westwards facing the highway. The completed clinic overlooks both the highway and the residential wing, and care was taken to create a situation in which the architecture would open up to the outside. In addition to providing for physical buffers like setbacks and waist-high partitions, a second, psychological buffer layer was created by using various natural elements that exude a sense of vitality, such as swaying leaves, moiré patterns on water surfaces and the sound of flowing water. （ Ryuichi Furumoto ）