RUR Architecture Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library project records

RUR Architecture Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library project records

Part of


  • RUR Architecture (archive creator)
  • RUR Architecture (architectural firm)
  • Nanako Umemoto (architect)
  • Jesse Reiser (architect)
  • David Ruy (collaborator)
  • Ysrael A. Seinuk (consulting engineer)
  • Yama Karim (assistant)
  • Jose Sanchez (assistant)
  • Robert Avona (assistant)
  • Marko Studen (assistant)
  • Shigeru Kuwahara (assistant)


RUR Architecture Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library project records

Dates of creation



  • archives

Level of archival description


Extent and Medium

  • 169 digital files (329 MB)
  • 42 sketches, drawings and printed renderings
  • 5 models

Scope and Content

The RUR Architecture Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library projects records document the design process of RUR Architecture’s principals, Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto, for the Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library international competition held in Japan in 1996.

Japan’s National Diet Library (NDL) was established by law in 1948 as the parliament’s library. Among its purposes, it provides research and reference services to the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the Japanese government. It also offers services to the general public. As the National Library, it collects, through legal deposit, all of Japan’s publications. The Kansai-kan facility was meant to house the ever-growing collection of the NDL and to provide access to on-line resources and data collections. An international architectural competition was launched in 1995 to build this new branch of the NDL in the Kansai Science City of Seika, a town within the Kyoto prefecture. The competition attracted hundreds of proposals and RUR Architecture was amongst the finalists. First prize for the competition was awarded to the Fumio Toki Architect Institute in August 1996.

RUR Architecture’s project is composed of two structures connected through a network of conveyors. The stacks building is organised as a vertical structural system for the storage and automated circulation of books. The library building structure shows the architects’ interest in the exploration of landscape as building structure. Internally, the different parts of the library’s program are created through the use of the three sloping floor slabs linked with ramps, the organic shapes of the auditorium and the store which spread over various levels, and the internal structural wires passing through the floor slabs. These wires, with the four “legs” passing through all levels, are part of the structure wherein the floors slabs are suspended from a stiff and deep roof. The façade itself is separated from the lateral floor slabs, but still plays a structural role for the lateral forces that could affect the building in case of an earthquake.

Computer aided design (CAD) tools were used by RUR Architecture to define shapes to be incorporated in the design for the library. This use of technology to assist the design process, and not only to reproduce what had been done manually, was a first for the firm. Realization required the collaboration of David Ruy, who had expertise with CAD software and had been a student at Columbia University’s GSAPP paperless studio, where Jesse Reiser taught. In the design process for this project, made to scale sketches were manually drafted before being transferred to CAD format and worked on. Shapes were also explored on physical models. Printed CAD files were often manually traced (inked) back in with other elements of the building on mylar sheets.

Records include physical media such as drawings, printed renderings and models. They also comprise digital files, created using CAD software (form*Z, Alias, Microstation), image editing software (Macromedia Freehand, MacIntosh Quickdraw), and publishing software (QuarkXPress). Some CAD files may have been created using Silicon Graphics machines.

Drawings comprise sketches made to scale and showing an exploration of space, topography, and shapes, as well as detailed plans showing the envisioned program for each floor of the library. Although drawings are not dated, it is possible to observe variations between some of those representing the same floor or design element. It is unclear if any of the plans correspond to the final version of the project.

Digital files are dated and may be equivalent to or variations of the design elements shown on the physical drawings. A file may show a single part of the building (conveyors, stacks’ trusses, store), floor plans, or a 3-D rendering of the whole building. Specific terms used to identify an element from the building were sometimes used as file names. “Scissors” refers to the switchbacks on the ramps allowing moving from a level to another; “pig” refers to the theater, a reference to its shape; “wrinkles” refer to the slabs; and “wood grain roof” is the rendering work to achieve the roof’s metallization effect. Files named “yama” (the name of one of the project assistants) are assumed, by Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto, to be drawings of the slabs.

For the most part, printed renderings present different elevations views that allow understanding the structure of the library building and the stacks building. Models and casts found in the fonds reflect exploration of shape and space for one of the building’s levels.

According to Reiser and Umemoto, some of the records present in the archive were actually created after their submission to the competition, for inclusion in a presentation made at Columbia University. Some of the CAD-created images were also included in various publications about the Kansai-Kan competition entry. Most digital files were created in 1996, but some bear dates in 2014 and 2015, which corresponds to the time period when RUR Architecture and David Ruy prepared the records to be transferred to CCA. It also appears that there might have been a complete physical model of the Kansai-kan library made for an exhibition. If still existing, it was not transferred to CCA.


RUR Architecture, accessed August 2017, http://reiser-umemoto.com/

“Kansai National Diet Library.” RUR Architecture. Accessed August 2017. http://reiser-umemoto.com/projects/culture/kansai.html

“Purpose of Establishment and History.” National Diet Library. Accessed August 2017. http://www.ndl.go.jp/en/aboutus/outline/purpose.html

“Services & Roles.” National Diet Library. Accessed August 2017. http://www.ndl.go.jp/en/aboutus/outline/service.html

“History of construction of the Kansai-kan.” National Diet Library. Accessed August 2017. http://www.ndl.go.jp/en/service/kansai/about/history.html

“Library design contest draws 2,300 entries.” Kansai. Accessed August 2017. http://www.kansai.gr.jp/mt51/plugins/KWCloseup/news-search.cgi?__mode=detail&lang_code=en&id=4980

“Reiser + Umemoto – Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library.” Architectural Design 67, no. 5/6 (1997): 92-94.

Reiser, Jesse and Nanako Umemoto. “Recent Work.” D: Columbia Documents of Architecture and Theory 6, (1997): 157-184.

Reference Number


Physical Description

This fonds contains a number of born-digital files in CAD and 3D modeling formats. Due to the complex and often proprietary nature of CAD formats, proper rendering and use of these files may require highly specific software. CCA’s dedicated Study Room CAD workstation is loaded with a wide but incomplete range of such software. For further information about services and software available for interacting with obsolete or niche file formats, please contact Collection Reference (reference@cca.qc.ca) and ask to speak with the Digital Archivist.


CCA archivists arranged the materials in two series reflecting records origin and organization, keeping original order of materials within series:

Series AP177.S1: RUR Architecture working files

Series AP177.S2: David Ruy digital working files

Digital files have not been rearranged and are described at the file-level. Physical items are kept in their original order, but have been rehoused for conservation purposes.

Administrative history

Reiser + Umemoto, RUR Architecture DPC is an architecture firm founded in 1986 by partners Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto. It is located in New York City and still active as of 2017.

The firm qualifies itself as a “[…] multidisciplinary design firm, which has built projects at a wide range of scales: from furniture design, to residential and commercial structures, up to the scale of landscape, urban design, and infrastructure.” It has won awards for some of its buildings (Kaoshing Port Terminal, O-14) as well as its design work: Chrysler Award for Excellence in Design, 1999; Academy Award in Architecture by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 2000; Presidential Citation from President George Campbell of the Cooper Union for outstanding practical and theoretical contributions to the field of Architecture, 2008; John Hejduk Award, The Cooper Union, 2011; USA Booth Fellowship from United States Artists for Architecture & Design, 2012.

RUR Architecture principals have also pursued teaching activities at institutions such as Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), Princeton University School of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania, and the Southern California Institute of Architecture.

Published monographs include:

Benjamin, Andrew. Reiser + Umemoto: Recent Projects. London: Academy Editions, 1997.

Reiser, Jesse and Nanako Umemoto. Atlas of Novel tectonics. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006.

Reiser, Jesse, Jeffrey Kipnis, Sanford Kwinter, Sylvia Lanvin and Brett Steele. Reiser + Umemoto – O-14: Projection and Reception,

Edited by Brett Steele. London: Architectural Association Publications, 2012.


RUR Architecture, accessed August 2017, http://reiser-umemoto.com/

Reiser, Jesse and Nanako Umemoto. “Recent Work.” D: Columbia Documents of Architecture and Theory 6, (1997): 157-184.

Conditions governing access

  • Access by appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction

  • For copyright information or permission to reproduce material from the fonds, please contact the CCA (reproductions@cca.qc.ca).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

  • Gift of RUR Architecture on 18 February 2014.

Custodial history

Most of this archive material was kept by the firm at their office in New York and transferred to CCA directly. They provided a CD – “RUR Architecture Kansai inventory 2/17/14” – with an inventory identifying the drawings and models, as well as digital images; an EZ Drive cartridge – “Reiser + Umemoto Kansai-kan National Diet Library” – containing the remaining digital files; a tube containing drawings, sketches and printed renderings; and 5 models in a box. Thirty-six digital files were transferred to CCA via network transfer by project collaborator David Ruy, who had kept the files in his personal possession following his work with RUR.

These records were acquired by CCA as part of the Archaeology of the Digital project. Selected items were displayed in the show Archaeology of the Digital: Complexity and Convention, May-October 2016.

Archivist's note

  • A single-level record for this archive was created by Digital Archivist Tessa Walsh in July 2016. The archive was fully processed and described by Mireille Nappert, Digital Processing Archivist, in 2017.

Credit line

When citing the collection as a whole, use the citation:
RUR Architecture Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library project records,
Collection Centre Canadien d’Architecture/
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal.
When citing specific collection material, please refer to the object’s specific credit line.

Other finding aids

  • An inventory for the drawings, the models and some of the digital files, prepared by RUR Architecture and included with the digital files sent to CCA, is available as a PDF document from Reference on request.

Related units of description

  • As part of the Archeology of the Digital series of exhibitions, interviews were conducted with the architects and published in an ePub format: Canadian Centre for Architecture. Archaeology of the Digital 20: RUR Architecture, Kansai-kan, National Diet Library, ed. Greg Lynn (2017), ISBN 978-1-927071-36-6. As of 2017, RUR Architecture is still an active firm and retains custody of their records for their other projects.

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