torsdag 23 juli 2009

Masanari Murai Art Museum

This museum designed by Kengo Kuma displays works as well as the studio and chosen belongings to the Japanese artist Masanari Murai. Instead of making a completely new container for art, Kuma has let parts of the artist's studio remain to form a symbiosis with the added exhibition spaces. Worn out objects carrying stories about the artists life are carefully brought into the visitors focus on the minimalistic background of the modern construction in an overall informal atmosphere. Wood from the old facade and inner roof are collected and reassembled to form the vertical louvres on the exterior. The artist's beloved Toyota still stands up front now on a cor-ten platform filled with water. Inside the museum, the old wooden studio space is clearly distinguishable from the new L shaped room and completely packed with various art-pieces, rolls and old sketches in the warm evening light of a reproduced sun shining through the leftovers of the roof. A feeling of authenticity is created by the bohemian disorder of art-pieces in piles, among them an original Salvador Dali sculpture which is easily missed. This is one of my favorite buildings.

Tower House

This private house by Azuma Takamitsu in 1966 in Jingumae shows some of the ingenuity that can be found in Tokyo. This house is extremely small, only covering 11.8 sqm floor area on a site of 20.56. With streets on both sides the garage becomes a private passageway through the house that also gives it an almost threatening imbalance from certain angles. The architect with family has been living in the house for over 40 years.

måndag 20 juli 2009

Kuma, Wigley, Yamamoto and me

Not directed specifically to Tokyo but held in Tokyo was the IAES (International Architectural Education Summit) the last weekend assembled by Hitoshi Abe on the subject of how to educate the global architect. I was there on the second day that centered around the three main discussions including additional lectures and introductions by renowned architects and representatives for respected schools mainly from Japan, USA, Spain and France. India, China and Korea was also represented among others although quite few from Europe and both South America and Africa was absent.

The tree subjects for discussion was: 1. Teaching and practicing architecture in a globalized world by practicing architects with parallel research 2. Relations between local and global developments in architectural education with mainly academic researchers and school managers and 3. The future of architectural education with a mix of teachers, school representatives and active professionals. I will just list some of the interesting points that were lay out during the discussions as I remember them.

Hitoshi Abe brought up the existing gap between possibility and reality where the architects fragile visions of the future are torn to pieces in the attempts to realize them. Riken Yamamoto effectively illustrated the gap with an interesting project gone very far in the design-process that was suddenly rejected by the initiators to the benefit of a "ordinary" villa-style house that we all seem to recognize from before. Architecture is connected to history, existing social systems and the local culture and architects always must strive to overcome the will to reproduce past experiences he concluded.

Mark Wigley pointed out three important skills that a student should learn: "Absorb a high density of diverse information (preferrably not architecture-related) in order to combine it", "Mobility - the skill to be a tourist in one's own city", "Fragility/Sensitivity - to give the possibility of viewing our world differently"

The last talk had three topics to think about presented by Prof. Onoda (Tohoku University): "Strategies against Abstractions", "How do we reduce the gap?" and "How do we preserve local diversity in the globalized world?". Kengo Kuma stated that we need to go beyond the abstract to the materialized, by making ideas real we can make people see their qualities and reduce the gap. "The universities should produce knowledge firsthand, not people" said Alexandro Sacha Poro who made several bold statements. "The two ruling schools of education are the Polytechnic and the Liberal Arts and within the last decade our focus has been on the latter" and "The studio is the wrong way if we want to go deep into a subject"

söndag 19 juli 2009

Extended Streets

Extended street in Jingumae

I'd like to use the 'extended street' to denominate a phenomenon of connecting various indoor spaces directly to the street resulting in an extension which, although privately owned, is perceived as part of the public. This phenomenon appears on several scales with differing implementations throughout the city of Tokyo with concentrations around the popular and crowded areas of Shinjuku East, Shibuya, Shimokitasawa and Daikanyama. In some cases these extensions gather up next to each other in a way reminding of a tree-dimensional landscape, dominating over the original street.

Interestingly, the representations of this space idea seems to have emerged as creative responses to regulations for fire and building area in combination with building- and site preconditions such as shortage of space. There are also examples in ancient japanese architecture bearing resemblance with this pattern of movement. In a study on the occurring typologies I would like to investigate how these spaces can give a new view of the city and planning. Also, In the case of shimokitasawa these spaces are a dominating element of the citys existing atmosphere which is currently threatened by the provocative route 51 project. If you have any comments or ideas for related information please feel welcome to contact me!

Here are some more examples of the 'extended street'

The 'step house' has the street directly attached onto its facade (Shimokitazawa)

On the 'vending street' all destinations are availiable by the press of a button. (East Shinjuku)

A typical street extension used for display of content and to convey messages as well as providing access to the various shops contained by the building (Shimokitazawa)

A traditional japanese graveyard setting with a landscape of choices for moving (West Yokohama)

torsdag 16 juli 2009

Parking and the earth's pull

Noone has missed that Tokyo is tight for space and so many cars and bicycles need to be parked. A considerable amount of people commute with train + bike and it can be really difficult to find a good place to park since it is usually forbidden on the streets anywhere close to a station. A shared trait seen in the many optimistic solutions to the problem seems to be a deep disrespect for gravity, something that applies for many other areas in Tokyo as well such as highways, lifted buildings and homes built on existing rooftops.

onsdag 15 juli 2009

The Dividual Space

There is a new form of public space emerging in Tokyo supporting the fragmented life of its citizens namely 'the dividual space' a term coined by prof Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Jorge Almazán Caballero in a study (pdf) from 2006 to denominate the "Commercial settings that provide immediate public admittance to non-supervised and fully-equipped personal space by charging the user a low price by short increments of time" (definition). The four types of venues listed in the study from 2005 that fall completely within the category are the Manga Kissa, Love Hotel, Kenkô Land and Karaoke Box. The study shows how this type of setting can tranform our view on the city since we're no longer able to divide the urban life into a polemic of 'private vs. public'. The 'dividual' provides spaces where "individuals can act separately within the public realm", providing a third alternative. They also point out that these venues present a surplus of contents and experiences which makes them goals in themselves as opposed to the preconception that they are substitutes for deficient homes. Dispite the poor spatial qualities a considerable amount of people accept these environments for shorter periods of time. Rather, for these venues it is the content that is in focus rather than its container. As can be seen on their marketing sites included media and equipment are the main selling points, sometimes together with an associative "theme" to trigger the imagination.

Among the architects who have worked with the matter of fragmented urban life are Archigram in the 1960's and Toyo Ito in the 1980's.

Criterion for 'dividual space'

Network of Karaoke Boxes throughout Tokyo's 23 wards

Typical plan for a Manga Kissa (Aprecio Shinjuku Haigea Store,
Shinjuku Ward, Kabuki-chô 2-44-1)

fredag 22 maj 2009

Strive for separation

In the typical Tokyo city-block discording buildings are packed close to each other carriyng few signs of adjustment to neighbouring houses in terms of size, style or program. Instead, a typical building is autonomous and creates a internal world separated from the whole. This idea is opposite to the common practice of the west where connecting and synergizing with the outside world is commonly considered as an unquestionable necessity and is a ruling school of thought.

One example of this difference in priority is that having a view to outside seems to be of little value and the windows instead serve mainly for the transmittance of light. Take a walk in any domestic area and you see most of the curtains are closed. In a similar manner: the main function of balconies is for drying clothes and not the ability to enjoy outdoors. Even when the opportunity is there, it does not seem to be appreciated. It seems to me that a main aim for living space here is to provide a private world which provide calm and control in the otherwise chaotic, noisy and demanding city.

This inward focus also presents an interesting architectural task where all qualities has to be contained and invented within the aquired space itself. It is up to internal connections, configurations, shapes and materials to provide beauty since we can no longer rely on the outside to provide with a view.