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 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.

Tower and Office. From modernist theory to contemporary practice, by Inaki Abalos & Juan Herreros, a review

Continuing a series of posts intending to give some theoric tools in order to understand better what it can be seen in town, this book is an amazing reading. A technical book, not for everybody. I found it better than a History of Architecture.  Despite the writers are Spanish from Madrid, it is probably a must read book for American Students of Architecture.

There are 3 parts with 6 chapters.

Part 1: High Rise Construction adn the modern movement

chapt 1 -The theoretical Contributions of Le Corbusier.

Part Two: Technological Evolution of Contemproary high-Rise Structures

chapt 2,  Structural Development

chap 3 – Evolution of Glass Curtain Wall Construction

chap 4 – The Mechanically Regulated Enviroment and its Structural Implications

Part Three: Typological and Urban Evolution of the Contemporary High-Rise Building

chap 5 – The evolution of Space Planning in the Workplace

chap 6 – Evolution of Topological Planning in the High-Rise Building

The Mixed-Use Skyscraper


A passage that illustrates better the pertinence of this book when you walk through the streets of Omotesando, or Ginza:


pg.245-6″ In another sens, the relevance of the skyscraper lies in its resemblance to the mechanism of advertising and publicity.”[…]”It would be misleading to think that this phenomen is esculisvely American, Rather, it reflects the way new modes of production and the boom in information technology are being translated into material practices that affect affect the spatiotemporal concepts inherited from early modernism. For a comprehensive view of this phenomenon it is necessary to study other ways in which building functions have become layered and juxtaposed, such as in Japan or Europe. In Japan, for example, some of the new structural forms make clear that mixed-use types are not associated excusively with large-scale buildings2 Phenomena such as the #fashion buildings# in he Shinjuku district of Tokyo are evidence of a certain automorphic reproduction, of the similarity of operations associated with the flexible flow of capital.”…

pg266 “The glass buliding skin which was a single, inert, and autonomous layer in modernist formulations, took a new technical functions within theis new balance of energy systems. The building skin itself became thicker and double layered, and it was closely linked to the building`s ensemble of energy and structural subsystems. Its transparency also became an increasingly subjective condition. No longer related to the need for natural lighting in the work space, it became associated with the idea of psychological comfort”

the book was published for the first time in Madird in 1992, but this edition is the Mit Press Paperback edition, of 2005.

The book main concept is the passionate description of the race  of American to build higher and higher skyscrapers . In doing so the detailed observation of the structural problems they were face plays a pivotal role in the story.

Mies van der Rohe is a ghost under the book, and the SOM in Chicago is in front row. When Mies conquers the front row , a fantastic description of choices of mullions details comes out!

Mitsukoshi, at Nihon Bashi an old Department Store, by Yokogawa Architects & Engineers


So this time is not about the contemporay and probably not all I am writing is totally correct.

We enter this big, well aged building and I wanted to take pictures of every detail.

So I found this historic company of architects, which works also for foreign countries as well (Kenya). Here is their enchanting website with pictures of the building back in 1914!!! It was the first department store in Japan,

The escalator made his debut in Japan with this Department.

It is a place where the upper class goes to shopping, that is what I have been told…and it is what it looks like. The tenin…es, are just amazing …it is beautiful all a round.

Time out link

the heart of Nihonbashi here

main store.


Japan – ness in architecture, written by Arata Isozaki, a book review



Since I started to plunge into the history of Japanese architecture after my touristic trip to Nara last year during Golden week, I bought some books I will write about.

I have just finished the first. It has the title of the post, it has been published by MIT press, 2006 and in the paperback edition for the first time on 2011 , translated in English of course.

It was kindly suggested my by to buy in addition with a more technical and comprehensive book, called

“What is Japanese Architecture – a survey of traditional Japanese architecture”, by Kazuo Nishi and Kazuo Hozomi, 1985, Kodansha.original japanese title was Nihon kenchiku no katachi: seikatsu to kenchiku-zoukei no rekishi, I will postpone this review since I have not finished yet.

The Japan-ness is composed by a series of essays written by the same author in a span of many years, mainly 25 years from 1960 to 1985.

The book is a must if you are interested in understanding the roots of the metabolism, the reason under Kenzo Tange works and so on. Overall the success of japanese contemporary architecture has its motivation in the struggle of many to during the postwar years which culminated, with the Yoyogi stadium in 1965 by the K. Tange hands.

While it is difficult assess if Isozaki kept his claims over the years it is possible to see an overall position on his stance in the commas. Before that,

let`s look at what is inside.

Firstly there is a persuading historical narrative of how stupid was the West (he does not write stupid, but is a natural consequence from any balanced mind) when he observed the oriental stuff coming from this new opened country. This was the birth of Japan-ness, the title of the book. A gaze from “outside”.

Then many essays are focusing in the years of modernism, how some japanese fertile minds, in particular Tange, Yamaguchi and Maruyama were addressing the problem of style. In those years the german architect – escaped from the brutal Nazis country – Bruno Taut played a paramount role in reading the Katsura Villa in Kyoto and the Ize  shrine with “new eyes” that the japanese would never had. Most of the essays address those two pivotal remnant buildings of the ancient times. How they were read by the contemporaries and how they became a paradigm for forging a national style.

This was part 1, to me a very interesting part since I did not know anything about it.

Part II is about Ise Shrine, famous even to the most mapless of the tourists as it is to rebuilt every 25 years till his foundation. Alone the essay of the description  – chapter 10 : the archetype of veiling – of the Ise shrine is worthy the price of the book!

Part three is dedicated to Chogen reconstruction of Todaiji in Nara and contains a personal apologetical admiration for the Nandaimon (southern Gate),

and an “adult” interpretation of Villa Katsura.

Luckily I visited at least the Todai-ji in Nara, and even the miwa shrine thus sometimes I had a direct experience to understand better what Isozaki was writing about. On the contrary many pivotal examples of this reasoning, like villa katsura and ise Shrine itself are to be visited. In that respect the second book that amazon suggested was very helpful.

This is a book for people who can read essays, who likes to go deep on things. It has also some precise historical references to western building, especially situated in Italy. Palladio, Vasari, Brunelleschi, Basilique in San Vitale (Ravenna) are among the others.

The pros are that gives you a fruitful look at what happened in Japan architecture and what was the prevalent attitude about style and details. On this matter, the last part of the book, where Isozaki compares the various misreadings of Katsura villa is enlightening.

I do not see outback on the book, but the fact I felt that Isozaki himself, despite his deep unraveling researches is still a Taut follower.

pg.242″  The design of the great gate is, one might say, as “compositional”  as Ise or katsura, yet Nandai-mon is unburdened by any superficial or excessive element. What is visualized is principally the load-bearing system that runs through the whole structure in order to make it stand. It is a constructive system that counters the force of gravity. It is this feature of exposed structure that has gained a hold on me”

This feeling, like Taut’s observations on Nikko, is something that could be questionable.


no picture just fuss about Zaha Hadid Olympic Stadium project being dumped

Some of the comments about the decision of the Tokyo Decisional Committe to dump the iconic and costly project of mrs Hadid, that I posted here and here, just miss the mark. I think the decision is on the Abe`s wave and it could not been much clearer. Even if japanese architects have some good points in their criticism, they should respect the Committe decision, which was leaded by T.Ando…one of the mayor architects of our time. I speak by knowledge, by loving and hating the town of Tokyo everyday. Here 99,9 % of new projects do not take in any consideration the surroundings…why they should blame Hadid for that?

Take it for granted that is a political decision, the comments should be political. Architects tend to consider themselves more important than what they really are…

Also I found this bad article about the works of Hadid and Gehry plenty of preposterous (yes it has been long time I wanted to use this english word) criticism. Architecture and arts reflect their time…is it so difficult to understand it?

Politically : really would you blame a Prime Minister who is struggling to restore a positive economic outlook to his country? And it seems he has found, on the ground of few economists when all the wall streeters were tagging him as insane, and his strategy as a losing strategy? And if his strategy entails an unconfessed negative bias for foreigners…?

…comment accepted, you are welcome.

My unmovable point is that the project is plenty of nice features even after the sized down and they are losing an Architectural opportunity, on the other side a new project, maybe is already there but they cannot say it…

Typically everybody would love to own and drive a Ferrari, but do you think are you entitled to it if your wallet let`s you buy just a wolkswagen? It looks what is happened there…

I add the architectural deepen link, just discovered by an insider in the Japan World. This is really a well documented assembly gathered in those days (October)

Tokyo bay court club, by John David Edison, Odaiba (Tokyo), 2007

Recently I was near to see the Watanabe`s work and on the opposite side of the bridge there were two towers connected from the top to combine one unified skycraper which always hits the horizon line of a tourist who arrives to Odaiba by monorail train (Yurikamome line). Wikipedia says it is only 100.5 metres tall. It seems more than that however I am not going to argue with them.

IMGP2678It is called Tokyo Bay court club, highly reserved in the luxury field. The designer is a world famous firm to that level. From their website you can have a look of the style of the rooms and all the project they did all around the world, actually only the wealthier part of the world that probably can afford their bills! They called Trusty Hotel, there must be two different luxury organizations in the same body, it would fits well.

Needless to add anything else.

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