Kazuyo Sejima has created some of the 21st century’s most captivating spaces, from the distinctive metal facade of the seven-story New Museum tower in New York City to the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion, which features 75,000 feet of curving, transparent walls. Her firm, SANAA, is known for its elegant, idiosyncratic design; Sejima and her partner, Ryue Nishizawa, were awarded the field’s highest honor, the Pritzker Prize, in 2010.
But recently, Sejima embarked on a completely new kind of design project: a building that moves. The Japanese architect is the lead designer of a new bullet train created by Seibu Railway, in Japan, called the Seibu 001 series, or Laview. The project, which was announced in 2016, is now complete—and Sejima’s design may make it the most relaxing commuter train ever constructed, even as it exceeds speeds of 200 mph.
Sejima’s brief was to design something “never seen before,” a train that could establish a design language for the broader Seibu fleet and its next 100 years of transit, hence the “001” in the train’s name. As for “Laview,” that’s an acronym: The “L” stands for “luxurious living,” and the “A” is for “speedy like an arrow.” The “View” is just the view, of which there is a lot—to accentuate the train’s path through the Chichibu mountains.
True to its name, the train’s front features a sweeping, five-foot-wide curved glass window—the largest on a train in Japan. Meanwhile, each of the passenger cars is focused around expansive, 23-square-foot windows that begin at your seat bottom and stretch well above your head. To sit next to such a window must feel like you’re not riding inside a train at all. The body of the train itself is coated in paint that isn’t just silvery metallic, as it might first appear. It’s actually a custom aluminum coating picked for its exact reflectivity, which is meant to softly reflect the landscape right on the train’s exterior.
Then there’s the interior, which is really the most enticing part of the ride. Designer Yoko Ando led the textile design behind the train’s 422 velvety, mustard-hued seats. The armrests are compact and hint at necessary efficiencies built into high-speed rail. But the seat design itself harkens to the organic forms of Arne Jacobsen. It’s all topped off with a vaulted ceiling that diffuses soft light into the cabin.
All in all, the 001 series looks like an absolute joy to ride. And it makes us ever-so optimistic about the next 100 years of train travel.