Making use, Passing along, and Eternal return

The goal was to bring out the allure of a storied locale by drawing on the concept of cycling.

U2 project a “nostalgic future” by placing modern sensibilities within an established setting that is part of the traditional landscape. And conversely, those who’ve always known Onomichi may find something of its charm anew within U2’s confines.

Making use, Passing along, and Eternal return.

It’s about making use, passing along, and eternal return.
The goal was to bring out the allure of a storied locale by drawing on the concept of cycling.

A port town known for its sloping topography, stunningly scattered with houses and sacred sites from antiquity; history, climate, the sea and the mountains all favor Onomichi, in eastern Hiroshima prefecture. Splendid for walking tourism, it’s now known worldwide as a mecca for bicyclists.

We transformed a former oceanfront warehouse into a revitalizing base station comprising a hotel, cycle shop, restaurant, bar, café and bakery, as well as shops for clothing, local delicacies, a public lounge and an event space.

Retaining the outer structure of the 1943 prefectural shipping warehouse, we built an internal architecture on a different order, mirroring the historical lay of the town around it, which expresses itself uniquely through the relationship between its building fronts and the intricate alleyways they line.

Like picturesque Onomichi itself, with its dense arrangement of traditional small dwellings, we attempted to continue the “community of small-scale locations and interweaving pathways” pattern within the confines of the building. So just as it occurs in the larger landscape, a path will lead visitors past the bike repair, for example, to a porch-like area where travelers can gather with local residents enjoying U2’s amenities, to meet, relax, exchange news and information. The segments within the building are organized to become “of a piece” with the way the town works, and has worked from its origins. Made to make travelers feel at home; rewarding the lives of local residents from homes around it.

The materials we used – timber, mortar, steel – call to mind the town’s shipbuilding heritage and traditional houses. Numerous details, such as low-key lighting that mimics the illumination of fishing boats, immerse visitors in an experience that epitomizes the essence of Onomichi, and gives U2 the sense of being a ward within the town.

In a world surrendering to homogenization we tested two ideas, “time confers value to objects,” and “a town’s essence can be endlessly embodied in the new”, and realized these in the form of elements to be harmoniously conjoined to revivify Onomichi’s appeal.

U2 project a “nostalgic future” by placing modern sensibilities within an established setting that is part of the traditional landscape. And conversely, those who’ve always known Onomichi may find something of its charm anew within U2’s confines.

Where the conventional strategies for enriching the value of a place’s public image involves scattering its shared characteristics across the existing landscape in a way that disregards the individual, with Onomichi U2 we pondered the idea of a “small worldliness”, born of the acts of everyday life, carried out in a built environment that speaks in the local architectural vocabulary and extols the innate bounty of the place that supports it.

We believe that reconfiguring the meaning and value of what is experienced as “public” may be the key not only to enhancing Onomichi’s inherent appeal, but may serve similarly for other localities throughout Japan.

Three Cycles

The project came about in response to a combined proposal sponsored by Hiroshima prefecture to design a business that would enhance tourism, as well as the space in which it would reside. At issue was the view of Onomichi as a day-trip destination. The only way tourism could expand was to encourage visitors to remain longer. We thought it crucial for the growth of tourism that visitors be accommodated in ways that fulfilled the functions of a “community away from home” – with dining, shopping and other everyday comforts.
Because Onomichi is known as a cycling town, the notion of eternal cycles mines a deep reserve of ideas: The freedom and adventure of bicycling, the return of a place to purpose, the unending cycle of time as experienced daily through Onomichi’s subtle, temperate harbor climate. U2 is our way to embody these cycles.

Nostalgic future, and memory

The process of renovation yields a new building. For those who knew the place in its previous life it will always represent loss, as there’s small solace in speaking of it as it was. U2’s building served as a warehouse for commerce, the life of the town, of the country. We needed to retain its appearance so that story could continue to be told in the present tense.
Therefore, we chose to touch the existing building as little as possible. Of course, there were structural strategies to ensure its long-term viability, but our aim was to contain the concept of “nostalgic future”. That is, though the facility will feel entirely new, its age would remain palpable.
The name U2 comes from the original name of the warehouse, Kennei Uwaya #2 (Prefectural Shed #2).


We were struck first by the bright, natural light that poured in from above, which we wanted to maintain, as well as the building’s stunning materials, largely weathered concrete punctuated by huge iron doors. Building like this typically begins with a concrete foundation, but that was infeasible due to the weight on the existing structure, and so we designed an integrated interior architecture, independent of that structure. We set down a steel frame foundation and built upon that using structural channel steel beams.
The plan is a lightweight steel frame construction that is easy to build and dismantle, and provides additional anti-earthquake support to the exterior building. Joints are bolted, and because the fragility of the older structure didn’t permit bringing in heavy equipment, the steel frame was carried in piece by piece and constructed manually. We employed some of the oldest methods in large-scale building, while relying on fully contemporary technology to guide our structural analysis, ensuring that everything conformed to precise tolerances. We maintained the old, infused it with the new, and fulfilled imperatives on technological, aesthetic, and spiritual levels.

Ambience: Designing the air

From the first, the environment was a strong component of our design. We considered that partaking of the local Setouchi area environment – warm, enriching – was one of the cherished experiences of any visit.
Substantial insulation is generally required to create a sophisticated, controlled environment. To preserve the look of the original uninsulated shed we had to devise a new architectural program. We sought to take advantage of the unimpeded natural light at the shoreline, and harness the temperate shoreline breezes, in conjunction with radiant heating to regulate the interior temperature within a narrow range, adjusting only slightly upward or downward. Unlike standard HVAC, which heats the air directly, the program utilizes far infrared long wave radiation, which is conveyed by the large, open surfaces to provide an even, ambient temperature throughout the space. Variance mechanisms engineered into the system, which includes humidity attenuation, need only minute adjustments from season to season. Initial installation of the low-wattage system was costly, but is offset by its efficiency and low impact, which reduces cost dramatically over the long run.

Regionality, Locality

We thought of the shed’s huge area as the periphery of our site. By way of placing small structures within the open plan, mirroring the arrangement of small buildings in surrounding Onomichi, we pursued a feeling of continuity from without to within.
We put to work the familiar materials on which Onomichi has stood from ages past, purposefully using iron, mortar, and varied materials that are subject to weathering. We used traditional local items, such as fishing boat guidance lamps, in our lighting plan. The hotel worked with local textile makers on covering for the beds and chairs of Bingo Gasuri, a textile with a 160-year regional history. Pajamas are crafted of Onomichi’s traditional denim. All the surrounding elements merge to provide an experience inextricable from the culture and history of this town.

Total design / Branding

The project called not just for placement of volumes in space, but for a totality of design – of the atmosphere, of the very air. The features that constitute U2, the restaurant, bar, shops (goods, apparel, media), the bakery, café, bicycle shop, hotel, are the fundamental makeup of a community. Though each small enterprise has its individual name, Suppose was responsible for directing the overall naming scheme, as well as logos, signage, uniforms, and art direction. Our input extends to details like craft dishware placed in discreet corners, books on shelves, and other elements of detail. Designers are typically brought in to largescale projects like this to conform to a predesignated program of contents, from concept to supplier lists. We were fortunate to be asked to participate from its foundation, from the proposal stage to the selection of businesses, to stylistic fundamentals at every level. It gave us a personal insight into the aspirations of the participants and management, and enabled us to make decisions that would optimize the feeling of harmony among all quarters of the facility.


The project is continuously in development. We designed the "Shima shop" after completion. The most recent additions included a new porch space that contains furniture we designed, in keeping with the local architectural vernacular. We visit the space regularly to be attentive to its activity and see where it’s heading. Commonly, an architect is expected to complete work like this and leave management to carry a plan out indefinitely. It is the level of participation that this project grants us and the feedback it gives our ongoing work that we treasure most about it.





Onomichi, Hiroshima

Building Type

Building Complex


Reinforced concrete and Steel frame


2 storeys



Site area


Building area


Gross floor area



General contractor

Daiwa Construction

Structural engineering, Environment engineering


Facility design

Sato sekkei

Interior design (GIANT)


Lighting plan


Landscape, Plant design





Complex Universal Furniture Supply

Graphic design



Project Coordination

Office Ferrier

KTY Partners


Toshiyuki Yano

In charge

Tanijiri Makoto

Ai Yoshida

Yuji Okanishi

Toshinori Iwatake

Kinuyo Sugiura


新建築 2014年5月号

商店建築 2014年8月号

JA 96 YEAR BOOK 2014