NOTOMACHI PUBLIC BATH 

Sitting high on a hill between the mountains and the rice fields, this public bath overlooks a picturesque fishing village surrounding a south-facing bay on Japan's Noto Peninsula. The site of ancient Jomon settlements, these rice fields are being prepared for excavation.

The original Jomon dwellings were large roofs covering shallow pits dug into the ground. They were the inspiration for our approach to the bath design: ground forms covered by roofs.

Continuous landscape forms weave in, under and around the roofs, columns and baths. Individual baths "escape" from under the roofs and move out into the landscape. There is a wonderful indoor/outdoor feel to these spaces that are part landscape, part building. The design was conceived as a group of buildings gathered around a common outdoor terrace open to the rice fields and sea beyond.

We visited old folk houses of the Noto Peninsula and were inspired by the light and mystery of their timber roof structures. Our aim was to achieve a similar mystery, by creating high roof volumes animated by light, shadow and rising steam. Traditional Japanese joinery was used in the construction of the men's bath roof.

We used many local craftsmen in the making of the building, including a rooftile maker, who crafted large ceramic scrolls, typically meant for roofs, that we used as seats in the outdoor bath garden.

After bathing, people gather on the central terrace between the two baths to relax and take in long views over the rice fields and out to the Sea of Japan.

Tina Govan, Design Team, Atelier Zo, Japan