Kobe Tower

Architecture firm: Richard Beard Architects

Location: Kobe, Japan

Category: Merit

The design of this CCRC was intended to bring the high standards of design, care, and service for seniors to the Kansai region of Japan. Creating a large yet integrated urban community in this redevelopment district—that was rapidly transitioning from industrial to residential use—was of paramount importance. The commission provided a unique opportunity to design a landmark property for the client that emphasized community, care, and comfort.

After being awarded the full commission, the integrated team of architects, interior designers, and landscape architects collaborated closely with the client to design an urban solution that fosters community, internally and externally. With the 35-story tower anchoring the northwest corner of the site, a complement of ground floor public spaces are used to surround and enclose a large, richly landscaped central courtyard providing controlled views and access from a residential promenade. Public amenities such as reception, an auditorium, and a tea lounge are placed on the south side of the site.

Project goals

  • Site planning: as a high-rise residential tower, the first goal was to distinguish the building from other residential and waterfront blocks in Kobe while maintaining a sense of community among residents. This is achieved by maximizing corner units and views, stepping back the primary south and north elevations, and lastly, by creating a signature glassy lantern at the top southwest corner. The lantern element houses larger premium units as well as intimate city view and unobstructed water-view dining on the 34th floor, along with the sky-view lounge located on the 35th floor.
  • Community: to create a rich diversity and identity of public amenities at lower levels. Placing the tower on the corner of the lot allows for a large courtyard that takes advantage of light, sun, and a more expansive central courtyard. Surrounding the courtyard is a public promenade that promotes interaction and offers a variety of amenities, including a lobby lounge, library, full fitness facility, pool and spa (ofuro), tea lounge, billiards, club, mahjong, karaoke, and a 500-seat auditorium & multipurpose room.  
  • To provide quality continuing care facilities which are integrated with the community: skilled nursing functions are located on the second, third, and fourth floors at the east side of the central court, adjacent to the tower. Nursing care facilities can be accessed from ground floor public spaces or from the tower core. A private nursing care garden is accessible from public spaces on the second floor providing outdoor dining and rehabilitation.
  • Seamless integration of architectural design, landscape architecture, and interior design: these disciplines collaboratively designed the project to achieve this integration, as well as an indoor-outdoor garden feel, which is culturally significant to the targeted population. For example, the gardens in the center courtyard were closely integrated with the architecture so each associated internal room (auditorium, entry pavilion, library, and recreation areas) has its own unique outdoor space and garden view. In addition to coordinating the palette of materials and finishes the team also extended the interior flooring to the outside patios to maximize the indoor-outdoor feel.

Unique features

The most unique feature of the project is the arrangement of the major architectural program elements and the development of a significant garden space in a high-density urban context. Culturally, gardens of this nature are important to this user group. The tower is moved to the rear of the site to emphasize its residential nature; it stands away from the major public boulevard, has reduced-impact shadowing, and is positioned for the best access to public transportation. Public amenities such as reception, the auditorium, and tea lounge are placed on the south side of the site as the public face of the community, and to allow a maximum amount of sunlight into the central courtyard. The care facilities are placed to the east overlooking the courtyard, with their back to the big-box retail next door.

"Spectacularly beautiful; This project brings opportunities to connect with nature and healthcare, and the high quality landscape design is next level." - Jury comment

Sun orientation and views are both extremely important in the marketing of independent living units. South and east residential units command a notable premium, as do corner units. Consequently, floor plates are arranged with the larger units at the corner and to the south.  

Resident incomes are in the upper 70% of the Japanese senior population. Because of the scale of the project and the target market (high net worth seniors), a large amount of common space is provided (15% of the gross building area). The perception of both the quantity and diversity of common space is particularly important. The first major experience is the entry pavilion. The entry into the lobby lounge is highlighted by tall windows, a garden view of the central courtyard, and a glimpse of the tower beyond.

Design challenges

The greatest challenge was maintaining a sense of community despite the inherently detached nature of a tower. Bringing the pool and bath facilities, which are an important community space, to the sixth floor and providing direct access from the tower with a glassy bridge creates a unique experience for residents. The dining and sky lounge spaces at the top of the tower are designed to be reached quickly and easily by residents to promote more social activity outside of their units. Similarly, the large and inviting ground floor public promenade, gardens, and circulation allows residents to reach a variety of spaces and increases their interaction with one another on a daily basis.  

The strict building code (requiring wrap-around balconies) has a great impact on the towers designed in this area. Careful studies of massing, materials, and views resulted in a highly varied exterior with interlocking masses and strong verticality. Subtle changes in the material palette also help differentiate the massing of the tower.

Additional information

Project attributes

Project site context/setting: urban

Is this project a LifePlan Community? No

Provider type: for profit

Target market: upper income

Project area - GSF of new construction: 508,000

Project area - GSF of additions: n/a

Project area - GSF of renovations: n/a

Project team

Architect of Record: Asai Architectural Research

Contractor: Kajima Corporation

Design Architect: Richard Beard Architects (Portions of this work were executed by Richard Beard while he was a principal at BAR Architect.)    

Interior Designer: BAMO  

Landscape Architect: SWA Group

Tokyo Representative: MD Associates


Quinn deMenna, AIA, Chair, City Invincible, Camden, New Jersey

Steve Leone, AIA, Spiezle Architectural Group, Inc., New York, NY

Steve Lindsey, Garden Spot Village, New Holland, Pennsylvania

Dean Maddalena, Studio Six5, Austin, TX

Rhonda Spector, 2Life Communities, Brighton, Massachusetts

Image credits

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Steve Hall © Hall + Merrick Photographers

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Steve Hall © Hall + Merrick Photographers

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Steve Hall © Hall + Merrick Photographers

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Steve Hall © Hall + Merrick Photographers

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Steve Hall © Hall + Merrick Photographers