The rebirth of a city, L’Aquila, Italian interlude

I was curios to see what was going on, after 8 years from the big earthquake that devastated this City, in the middle of Italy located just 1 hour an half by car from Rome.

I have been gratified by a positive attitude that it is spread all over the citizens. A new mayor was just been elected. The center of the city is an enormous working in progress. I think from 5 to 10 per cent of the palaces are already been repaired accordingly to the new strict anti-seismic regulation. Churches would take longer of course but at least 50 per cent of the real estate goods are under active reparation.

I am sure that in 10 years L’ Aquila will show a full renovated historical centrum more beautiful than the state it was before the earthquake.


A good point also can be made out of new seismical approach that has inundated the city. Not by coincidence at all, in 2009, just few months after the hit, the Law introducing new, more strict rules to consider the effect of seismic forces was introduced in Italy after a long deprecated procrastination under the conservative Italian forces such as building enterprises for instance. More than that, the 15.000 new houses built in less than year under the direction of the Civil Protection absolute power eventually force the Italians to take in consideration the seismic isolation mechanism so well known in Japan under the name of “Menshin”. The effect is touchable still today, the normal “aquilano” – the local citizen – is as informed as a structural engineer about construction mechanism and technologies that cannot be cheated at all.

The unexpected effect is that these days real estate values in L’Aquila are underestimated, because of the earthquake, where in reality they are far better re-built than in other part of Italy! If you zoom on the horizon you can count the number of cranes standing on the top of the centrum.



One last input: An unnecessary suggestion to the mayor would be considering to give the outskirt a new urban approach especially where it seems it never had one. To get appeal toward the northern Europe future visitors some efforts must be addressed. Bicycle lanes, clear bus schedule and limitations of traffic speed with the passive dissuaders in critical points to name a few improvements I think L’Aquila deserves.




The “alternative modernism” by Taro Igarashi

[But both Hirata and Fujimoto adopted approaches that deviate from those of their peers only a few years their senior. Hirata, whose interests lie in natural forms, has sought new architectural possibilities in convoluted structures and twisted spatial topologies. It was Hirata, who, while working in Ito’s office, came up with the foundational idea for the National Taichung Theater. Fujimoto, by contrast, creates incredibly original architecture without reference to difficult philosophical ideas or contemporary art, and through operations so simple they conjure the apocryphal egg of Columbus. As if to restart the history of architecture from its origins, Fujimoto is reconstituting the coordinate field on which all geometries are established.

If we may generalize that geometry gives order to architectural through perpendicula angles and parallel lines, then a new geometry for architecture might be simple at the same time that is capable of rendering complex and multifaceted spaces. This idea of a new geometry is one of the characteristics of alternative modernism] pg. 192

Really this post is meant to point out another book, precise the collection of an exhibition at the MOMA in New York. The tile was A japanese Constellation , curated by Pedro Gadanaho (2016). The book should be on sale online as usual. The Japanese architects showcase list is: Toyo Ito, Kazuo Sejima,  SANAA, Ryue Nishizawa, Sou Foujimoto, Akihisa Hirata, Junya Ishigami.

The book contains a selected series of picture from works from the above plus some light essays to link the whole, and to justify the choices. I imagine that Japanese contemporary architects who are not there would be furious! So they have to work even more to demonstrate their value. (Notably I name mr. Hiroshi Sambuichi who has been lately on many reviews here in Japan, but since he has not his studio set in Tokyo, he may been discarded by the capital snobbery).

The interesting point is the essay by Igarashi, who refers to himself when he wrote, back in 2005, the book: The alternative modern ( Tokyo, TN Probe). The incipt of this post comes from his writing on the Constellation book. The writing is a really good summary of the careers of that list of architects.

{by reading that I am still bestoned by the mistery of mr. Makoto Sei Watanabe: did he have some influence, or He did something to be considered a Japanese traitor since He is always set apart, away from any other? Are there out there some of his disciples working somewhere or they are just mangaka? }

History of Architecture in one man, over 90 years old

I discovered this interview with Yona Friedman, and he tell his story that has some links with the book of Arata Isozaki, a historical connection with the dutch Hertzenberger. and some affinities with contemporary postmodernism freedom. Overall is a good way to contextualize the few incipits . and why they were few, that Japanese centralized system had to carry on until 1965, and their future conquered adult architecture life.

A 37 minute interview, slow pace, with a difficult English accent, beside that it is really Amazing. I am sorry if you cannot get the relationship, it is not explicit, you have to know some of the History behind it to get it. It goes into the Japanese debate about National Architecture, their stubborness, the metabolistes. How Tange recognized his influences. This come almost last in the video interview below.



At the end one should explain why the Australian Mercutt got a Pritzker Prize and not this guy, just because he does not speak with a good English accent? Cheers.

Toshima Gakuin High School, by Atsushi Kitagawara, 2001

ToshimaGakuin1I just got a bicycle. Nice new way to find interesting works here and there, where you have not any clue about them it is really surprising, and exciting. This is the sort of things you are expecting from Japan and not likely from other countries I guess.

This was on my way to a local library. It turned out to be an awarded architect with some reputation in Japan, not so much abroad.

Here his career on wikipedia. Mr. Aaron Betsky dedicated an article on him “The other Japanese Architecture”, here. and also a monography you can find online. The official architect website, here. Although it does not have an english version it has voices in double version Continue reading

S, M, L, XL by Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau, a recension 1134 pages (1995)

Of course the book is exactly what the author negates at the beginning in the foreword:
“another book of Theory of Architecture.”
A cheating attire is necessary for a contemporary entertainer in the best of this denotation, and mr.Koolhaas is a master at it. He claimed even a sort of ancestors touch from Van De Rohe spirit like the religious writers and storytellers were doing in the previous and returning ages[φ].
Indeed the content is profound and entertaining at the same time, really continuously exciting the reader attention.
The writer progress by jumping and surprising the reader by means of not conventional thought that leap to different perspectives and solutions, which is probably the most valuable asset of the Architectural studio itself.

First really striking move: Watching the Berlin Wall as if it were an Architectural work like any of Palladio ones. Many others,…,

Another move at pg.1105, really interesting, precisely for an European like me who had to deal with the same overprotecting conditional rules of local bulding codes whose reasons are lost somewhere, but mostly inspired just from futurephobic people. He rhetorically asks:
“what would happen if, even in Europe – especially in Europe – we declare every building in the entire zone that is older than 25 years worthless – null and void – or at least potentially removable?” And this is about Paris, La Defense!

Another hand, which is not easily recognizable, from a reader point of view is Bruce Mau’s one. What is exactly his contribution to the volume? It is not clear but can be read on his manifesto here. Also an interesting episode is mentioned at pg. 1170 at the voice “Stand in“, it says:
“I heard rumors that OMA had started an office in Rotterdam, I tried to find the office, but it was so new that it wasn`t in the telephone book, and nobody seemed to know exactly where it was. So I spent an entire day just wandering around the neighborhood looking for it. Then I found it. It was a very small, and almost empty – with one drafting board in the corner and four people. I asked to work there. At first they didn`t want me, but about a month later I called, just at the right moment – they needed more people to make the office look bigger because there was a client coming. So I stood there all day, just acting like a I worked there! That`s how I got the job.” That might be Bruce Mau real voice? Who knows? The fact that all the side columns are organized like a dictionary in alphabetical order with no-strict -sense to the rest of the book, could be his signature on the edition.

Time wisely at 1995 the most important work of OMA is now world-known, and it seems the Eurolille masterplan, where they play the role of chess master with other giants Architectural firms. Unfortunately the work of a Japanese Archi theorist, namely Shinohara failed to join the project.

Things that I liked

pg.888 [It is a painful irony that the country that more than any other has fabricated itself now treats its territory as if it has the authenticity and inevitability of nature] [He is writing about Holland…]

about Atlanta architects
“Postmodernism is not a movement; it is a new form of professionalism, of architectural education, not one that creates knowledge or culture, but a technical training that creates a new unquestioning, a new efficacy in applying new, streamlined dogma. Post-inspirational, past erudition, intimately connected with speed, a futurism, postmodernism is a mutation that will be from now on part of the architectural practice”
“In Atlanta, architects have aligned themselves with the uncontrollable, have become its official agents, instruments of the unpredictable: from imposing to yelding in one generation”. Also I have to admit, I discovered the Portman contemporary style which is largely prevalent in Asia and I was unaware of.

Last the post-theorization of the Generic City, close the volume. It is a short script, between the reality and the vision. Although I never read his masterpiece, “Delirious in New York”, I guess this is the more persuasive tone he can carry on with.

On the other side is also evident why mr.Koolhaus cannot succeed easily in Italy. First very difficult to cheat, when first of all you are requested to cope with Historical facts. Second Italy is so conservative that even a penny of his thought can enter in. A rockstar life can be every difficult to keep when dealing with an obsolete system of Public bureaucracy like the Italian Institutions apt to preserve the Cultural Heritage.
A curious juxtaposition is the fact also that the studio fell financially apart on 1995, right when the book S, M, L, XL, was published.

UPDATING: To succeed in Europe he had to embrace the same old tactic of the ancients marketers: if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad. In Italian it would be read like: “Attacca l’asino dove vuole il padrone”. Indeed there is now, ongoing 2017, 22 years after the book published first edition, an Italian partner is dealing with several projects in Italy.

[φ] I do not want to doubt his ancestors, just point out the literacy parallel.

Koizumi Showroom, by P.Eisenman, 1990

One more time I was surprised to find a building design by such a foreigner in many sense, here in Tokyo.


Koizumi is a Japanese brand, now mainly known for lighting fixtures and the building could be its main office in Tokyo. There is a showroom at the ground and basement level. Unfortunately it was closed that day, probably a monday.

The building looked like it was freshly repainted.

Eisenmann is a strong Architectural theorician, the deconstructivist pioneer in USA, and notably one of the most known (Here the website page dedicated to this work) .

I stumbled upon Eisenman notably in two different ways, and surely not walking by those whereabouts. One was by studying the MOOC class, of Harward University on, still open, and free. It is worth noticing that the Harward architectural class is very close to philosophy more than they would admit.

The second time happened while I was reading a book written by an Italian researcher, Arturo Tedeschi, called Algorithm Aided Design, dedicated to Grasshopper. as pag 17, it shows an Eisenman diagram from House IV, Falls Village, Connecticut (1971).

The question is open, did Eisenman leave any traces in Tokyo but this building? Its diagrammatic style is nowadays presented in many architectural presentations (See BIG book hot to cold) nowadays.

Here they already changed the external color, in the previous bloggers there was a pink and blue sides that now are disappeared into a monotone white.

One day I have to write something about the emerging conflict between the lively colors and the current Japanese trend. Some in fact may wrongly think that the actual distaste to…. anything different than grey , belongs to the Japanese culture.

Far from there the true stands.

Speaking about grey, interesting enough to report. it is the contrast of Architecture positions between Eisenmann and the Swiss, P.Zumthor which is considered as well as the american, a master in its own role. Eisenmann declares he is not interested in details, and to exemplifies what are they details for him, he points to the work of mr.Zumthor.

More than that, between 1966 and 1972, abstraction went out, he says with regret in this 2015 University lecture.

By far the most evocative and successful work of mr. Eisenmann is the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, which is totally grey…!

Yep, it is another architectural short circuit.

The elegant Japanese House: Traditional Sukiya Architecture

This is more than a review, it is an strong suggestion. This book was introduced to me by prof.Stewart, during his MOOC class about Modern Japanese Architecture, and it is astonishing beautiful.

Authors are Teiji Itoh & Yukio Futagawa, published back in 1969, by Tankosha.

Why pointing out this book? Let me cite a passage from it, pg 107.

“It may be well to summarize here the achievements of the sukiya style that particularly enabled it to play a role in the transition to modern styles. In the first place, it began as a strongly individualistic style and was, as he have seen, the only style of Japanese architecture that develop a nomenclature based on the names of its designers – that is, the konomi which has been discussed in an earlier chapter. In the second place, the sukiya is the only style in the history of Japanese architecture that transcended the boundaries of social class, for it was applied to the houses of townsmen and the villas of the aristocracy alike and to such public buildings as restaurants and inns. In the third place, the sukiya-style building, both in its harmony of structure and in its emphasis on the natural beauty of its materials, originated a code of values that endures even today.”

I bolded the part that is indisputably holds true, since when it comes to easthetics, the core values differs from culture to culture, and grasping the japanese ones is essential to understand their realization within the Architecture field.