The enveloping aluminium louvres resemble woven fabric, representing the textile industry

NICCA Innovation Center serves as a research facility for a chemical manufacturer group that has been based in Fukui Prefecture since 1941.

Located within an urban environment lined with residential houses, it is designed as an innovation hub—a bazaar for the exchange of knowledge and skills—to bring people ‘from the world to Fukui’.

The enveloping aluminium louvres on the façade resemble woven fabric, representing the textile industry with which the company is closely associated. They hide pipes while mitigating the sun’s rays from the east and filtering the surroundings.

Commons—open-concept hot-desking offices—are located in the centre of the building as multipurpose spaces that facilitate active interactions and ‘cross-fertilisation’ of ideas and approaches. The commons are also linked seamlessly to the various laboratories, which have been ‘opened’ up with glass walls—liberating researchers from the solitude of work and inspiring interaction within an integrated research community.

While the commons on the second and third floors are intended for employees, there is a public common on the first floor that is open to visitors and people from the community. In that space, there is also a showcase, café, cafeteria, practical laboratory, hair salon and hall.

The 'street' offers a multi-layered view of the building’s spaces
Public commons

A ‘street’ connecting the first through fourth floor allows a bird’s eye view and multi-layered experience of the building’s spaces. This ‘street’ is intentionally made longer than necessary to elicit more encounters with researchers.

Idea Tables are set up in the hallways to encourage collaboration, while contemplation rooms and library offer some personal space.

Louvre-like slits in the concrete ceiling, with a parallelogram cross-section, function as passageways for natural light and wind into the interiors. The gabled top light can be opened and closed to capture the prevailing wind that blows north-south over the Fukui plains, drawing it into the commons by gravity-based ventilation.

To reduce the heat from the natural lighting, the sun’s movements were calculated to determine the angle and aesthetics of the ceiling slits. Thermal active building system (TABS) pipes within the slabs and walls provide radiant air-conditioning using Fukui’s abundant groundwater. After the groundwater cools the solar radiation, it is used in the laboratories, toilets, sprinklers and for melting snow. A thermal storage-type system is used to pump hot water for heating during winter.

Groundwater cools air that is then sucked into the building
Glass walls connect laboratories seamlessly to the commons


Project Name
NICCA Innovation Center
Fukui, Japan
Completion Date
November 2017
Site Area
12,360.37 square metres
Gross Floor Area
7,495.73 square metres
Architecture Firm
Tetsuo Kobori Architects
Structural Engineer
Mechanical Engineer
Takahiro Arai