BLENDING IN

One of Japan’s top architects is working on an “invisible” train

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Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima has long been known for making buildings that blend into the environment. Her style has been described as “fluid, transparent and intertwined with nature”—and it’s earned her (along with colleague Ryue Nishizawa) a Pritzker Prize.

An example of her style can be found in northern France at Le Louvre Lens Museum:

Workmen prepare the site of the Le Louvre Lens Museum on the eve of the inauguration of the museum in Lens
Workmen prepare the site of the Le Louvre Lens Museum in 2012. (Architects Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa SANAA/Reuters/Pascal Rossignol)
A workman walks on the the roof of the Le Louvre Lens Museum on the eve of the inauguration of the museum in Lens
Preparing Le Louvre Lens Museum in 2012. (Architects Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa SANAA/Reuters/Pascal Rossignol)
Louvre Lens Museum
Visitors walk past Le Louvre Lens Museum. (EPA/Yoan Valat)

Looking at the above, it isn’t hard to imagine Sejima also designing a train that blends into the landscape. That would seem like a fanciful notion, except that Seibu Group, known in Japan for its trains and hotels, commissioned her, and her firm SANAA (pdf), to do just that. Limited-edition trains with her touch will roll out in 2018, as part of the company’s 100-year anniversary celebrations. (She’ll modify existing trains, rather than work on new ones.)

Like many of her buildings, the trains will feature a reflective surface, allowing them to “disappear” into rural and urban vistas as they connect Tokyo to other parts of Japan, including the mountains of Chichibu. “I thought it would be good,” said Sejima, “if the train could gently coexist with this variety of scenery.”

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