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.

a nice facade for a Hospital, Kagayaki Plaza, by Kume Sekkei (久米設計)

kagayaki Hospital

finished in 2013, according to this article, during the Sakura week I was walking nearby.

It is interesting that with the Sakura excuse I was able to go in places where otherwise I would never step. This road was near the Budokan but just a turn that I never took before. (here the address 九段南1-6-10)

There was even a free shuttle to assist tourists…

and you know what, for the first time the people who tried to pass the lines were not Italians…I bet you know where they were from!


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!


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

Milan, Italy-Torre Arcobaleno

Since the Architectural company has offices and clients not only in Italy but also in Kyoto,

I love to share their video about a renovation of a small tower in Milan, very effective.

Here is the video.

Rainbow Tower from Point of View on Vimeo.


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.