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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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 edx.org, 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.

Beyond the bubble. The new japanese architecture, by Botond Bognar, a review


Continuing my series of readings with the intent to give it a bit of body, I suggest  this book. It is has been published in 2008 by Phaidon Press.

The writer, says the back cover, teaches at University of Illinois(here) . Every time, you take a book that says New …something and it is dated says 10 years ago, you already knows that , at his best, it can give you some hindsight of what is happening now.

The great merit of this book it is in its short essay.

Mr. Bognar explained very well to me, the crazyness of the bubble era to which, until I read this book, I just heard about but I did not realize exactly how it was.

When he describes the real building of architect Masaharu Takasaki, Crystal Light guest House, built in 1986 and demolished in 1989…it says a lot about the folie/madness of the Bubble and he also explains why. My question, of course, arise: are we heading toward another bubble? Olympic itself is triggering it? Those are not in the book, they are my personal doubts about he current situation while stock market is rocketing…instead the book is composed by 4 sections:

1 – Introduction

2- The bubble years – The epitome of Japanese Postmodernism

3 – After the bubble – New Realities, new priorities

4- Beyond the bubble ‐The Architects

The first three sections are terrific. They are well documented and well explained and if you think that one of the most venerate architects, mr Toyo Ito, has Taichung Metropolitan Opera (Taiwan) mentioned and illustrated, when in reality  the construction just finished last year, you have the idea that even if it is written before 2008 it is not yet a dated book.

At the end of the third section he write a paragraph called lightly “Assessing the future – in lieu of a Conclusion” when it reports words from a philosopher Koji Taki, that basically does not suprise.

The 4th section is a commented Gallery, closer to a well illustrated magazine that sports works from 18 Architects studio such as:

Tele-Design, Koji Yagi, Kazunari Sakamoto, Atelier Bow-Wow, Kazuyo Sejima, Shigeru Ban, Waro Kishi, Nikken Sekkei Ltd, SANAA, Jun Aoki, Ryoji Suzuki, Yasumitsu Matsunaga, Riken Yamamoto, Obayashi Corporation, Yoshio Taniguchi, Kengo Kuma, Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito.

If you do not know half of those people than the book it may worth the acquire or if you like architecture large pictures as well. The proposed works are also well explained in their main features. One merit of the book also is to mention some foreigners who are working in Tokyo competing within the tight market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gunjin Kaikan, by Ryoichi Kawamoto, 1934


It was the time of Imperialistic style, the time of the euphemistic pan-asian sphere, even so, I like it.

dsc01201His position, gives this building a sort of mysterious aura. When you enter into the Park that surround the BudoKan, in the central area, you cannot miss it.

Here the complete story of the Building.

And here another shot of a detail that needs some attention before Olympic 2020!

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I found also a guy/girl on flickr that posted a recent event. During the Tohoku earthquake (2011) a roof collapsed and sadly two people died. Since then it remained closed. This style of thirties was called Teikan Yoshiki

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!