INCS Zero Factory

Nagano, Japan INCS Health + Science 86,000 ft2 / 8,000 m2

Nestled in the Japanese Alps, the INCS “Zero” Factory emerges from the earth and opens to the sky, creating a fusion of landscape and architecture. With a desire to express the marriage of art and technology, the new “Zero” Factory serves as a demonstration facility for the rapid prototyping technologies employed by INCS. Like its Swiss counterpart, Nagano’s mountainous locale is home to high-tech industries—its rugged seclusion affording the focused intensity of thought and experimentation required for precision research and development.

Comprising simple forms, the building uses glass, metal, stone, and concrete to create a structure that not only acts as a reflection of its surroundings, but also serves as an introduction to the philosophy of the company’s founder and the ongoing research contained within its walls. The composition and proportion of forms and details create a balance between interior and exterior, integrating natural light and the surrounding landscape into the design.

Two L-shaped factory floors (one built, one planned) form a central courtyard, which is entered through an abstraction of a traditional Torii gate and evokes the serenity of a Japanese Zen garden. Within this open space, an east-facing glass-enclosed pavilion, containing presentation and public functions, overlooks a stepped reflecting pool. Oval in plan, the three-story pavilion is wrapped in clear low-e insulating glass, which emphasizes the uniform massing of the complex and reflects the sky.

The presentation room, located on the second floor of the pavilion, affords views of a high-tech showroom. In contrast, the VIP lounge, located on the third floor of the pavilion, looks onto the Japanese Alps. Beneath the pavilion volume lies a large basement factory directly below the reflecting pool. On either side of the pool, concrete and flat-stone walls rise in a diagonal line, defining the approach to the factory’s main building.

The 180-meter-long diagonal path is paved with cobblestones, each 90-millimeters-square, and flanked by a wall of flat stones, each 15 millimeters in length. This intricate assemblage of stone establishes the company’s commitment to craftsmanship as visitors make their way toward the entrance of the building. The Torii-inspired gate is clad in sheets of two-millimeter-thick titanium with a crystal finish.

In contrast, the factory is contained within concrete walls, expressing the weight and materiality of the building. The courtyard is paved with gray granite to balance the cool tones of the glass and masonry. To similar effect, dark, river-worn pebbles create a soft texture below the calm surface of the reflecting pool. These textures and surfaces are further delineated by the green expanse of the building’s vegetated roof, which increases insulation values, conserves energy, limits stormwater runoff, and reduces the heat island effect.

Image 1 / 8 | © H.G. Esch