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.

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.








Hot to Cold , a recension

These guys, BIG, are a successful danish firm around the world. They are positive, and energetic, and most important they are winning competitions, which also means in our competitive world: many are losing against them in persuading customers.

The book, I just finished to read is a well explained showcase of their work. On youtube you can see their leader, Bjarke Ingels, talking about different projects , and you may want to save the money for the book. Also another interesting video about the latest tower in New York interviewed by a mayor American Channel streaming and other videos are pretty much covering their ideas in full length.

I liked the book for different reasons:

  1. It could be used as a handbook for visual presentation for University Students
  2. It shows how they did not waste their efforts, re-selling the concepts and adapting them to different customers
  3. It is an hymn to brave ideas.
  4. It is also shows how things can go wrong for great designers and that anybody should know that is the part of the job

On the Washington project (the buried museum on the mall) I have found emerging similarities with a Japanese leader architect mind, called Makoto Sei Watanabe, in his conceptual proposal, dated 2009 called ribbons. (From his official website there is also a wonderful video hidden on youtube)

This the main reason why I posting this on my blog. The Washington BIG project present an entrance create under a ribbon (some American may prefer canopy, or a series of canopies) and I see this concepts emerging more often that not, thus for the first time I will conclude this with a challenge to the reader and to myself.

In your next proposal whether a competition or a affluent client, try to design a ribbon, it might leverage your percentage of approval!