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.









Architectural short circuit

Lately I have been exposed to some events and works that all of a sudden created a spiral of sense so fast to send me in a short circuit.

First it was to go and see a new church designed by T.Ando in Tokyo, which opened last August.

21st Century Church

Last Ando church in Tokyo 2015

It is located in the Hiroo Area that is  a residential spot for wealthy people most of whom are foreigners, Americans are the majority I would say at a glance.  The church has its own website here, their name is 21St Century Christ Church. They are a little community growing year after year, as a new independent church. The gentle guide lady was telling me they are just opened a new sister church in Oita, in the southern part of Japan.

Many pictures are also on flickr at this address.

I liked it but I liked more the one below, which hosts the baptesimal bath where I took the picture of this post.

It is positioned right below the main cross thus it is much empowered by the Christ sign.

To visit the church I sent them a request by mail and the appontment was set. The church was displayed well in the japanese mainstream architectural magazine, shinkenchiku, in the last August number, if you are interested to know the details.

Second event was the 2015 Design Week, with the good exposition of new ideas from young minds.

I may post something in the japanese section..

third was the reading of a book about the Ronchamp establishment of a monastery for Clarisse nuns order directed by Renzo Piano workshop, that took 6 years to get accomplished. The book was thick and dense and it did not miss anything about the project.

Fourth was the exhibition of Frank Ghery selection of works, “I have an Idea” in the space called Design Sight, signed by T.Ando, at Tokyo Midtown. A really enjoiable place located in a another wealthy area of Tokyo (Roppongi) where most of the expats live. It lasts until February the 7h. An absolutely astonishing tour along the whole Ghery career I am happy to reccomend, ispecially to those who don`t like Ghery`s works.

So the Circle of events has reached an end, but no… wait for a moment: it is not a circle it is a spiral that has no end, let me write you why in the next post before this will become too long too read.

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)

Omotesando Hills – Tadao Ando – a classic “aroma” for spending some Christmas moment

Despite this Ando`s work is not one of his best, it is in the central Area of Omotesando where several others cutting edge designer are proving their innovative ideas as I reported many times in this blog.
This work come from the nineties although it was finished only in 2005, here the wikipedia link.


Another source of information is this blog by a peruvian architect living in Japan. I am sure also there must be some books about this billionnaire construction. Despite this complex has a Luxury fame you feel yourself at ease without be an affluent since shops are for all ages and pockets.

The great thing is the smell, the parfume better said. I could not figure out where it came from, but I am sure it is intentionally spreaded in the air by the management, or even envisaged since the sketch. I liked a lot the railing details and the total view from the central ladder portrayed in the picture above.

Here below A splendid view from the Store upfront some months later (beginning of April). You can see also the apartments  on the higher floors and what seems a garden roof.



24 Architects in Japan, Roland Hagenberg, May 2011

this post is abouta book I recently finished.

he list of architets interviewed by mr. Hagenberg you can find in this book, is here below:

  1. Tadao Ando, 2002-2004 and 2011

  2. Jun Aoki, 2001-2007, 2010

  3. Shigeru Ban, 2001-2003,

  4. Terunobu Fujimori, 2005

  5. Sou Fujimoto, 2009

  6. Hiroshi Hara, 2000-2007, 2010

  7. Hitsuko Hasegawa, 2000,

  8. Naoki Iijima, 2009

  9. Arata Isozaki, 2000,

  10. Toyo Ito, 2000, 2010

  11. Kiyonori Kikutake, 2008

  12. Astrid Klein Mark Dytham, Kda, 2010

  13. Kengo Kuma, 2000-2007, 2010

  14. Kisho Kurokawa, 2000

  15. Fumihiko Maki, 2001, 2011

  16. Hiroshi Naito, 2000-2007, 2011

  17. Kazunari Sakamoto, 2007

  18. Kazuyo Sejima, Ryue Nishizawa /SANAA, 2000, 2010

  19. Kenzo Tange, Noritaka Tange, 1998, 2007,

  20. Takaharu Tezuka, 2011,

  21. Yasuhiro Yamashita, 2008, 2010


I did put the time the author wrote in this book because some of these interviews are not so fresh (how could the author had write to some of them such Kurokawa, Kikutake or Tange father who are already buried?). None of them seem to be done after the Tohoku earthquake and this could be a good point from a certain view.

The plan was to publish the book on March 2011 and because of the earthquake has been postponed. Before this book others were published on the same matter. The author list them. In 2001 there was a film documentary called surFACE, co-directed by Karl Neubert and Hagenber also a bilingual version was released by Uplink in dvd. In 2004 Kashiwa Shobo wrote, 14 Japanese Architects. In 2009, Garden City Publishers, in Taiwan, 20 Japanese Architects.

Other exhibitions were held by the author, and the project in Austria called Japan-Listz-Raiding, were some of the interviewed took part seems to be the background fo the book.

To my side it has been interesting to read such opposite thoughts about architecture here, and discover some personalities, such for instance Hiroshi Hara, I didn’t be aware of furthermore it was fun reading about mr. Isozaki is almost a chinese man nowadays!

This is the first book I read in english who report the architect voices and reading was interesting despite the fact I believe it’s better study their works than read their words.

The author says that all his earnings from this book will be devoluted to the Japanese Red Cross. That’s fare enough to publish this post and also it is a necesssary element of this blog.

Tokyo Midtown and surroundings. National centre for the Arts

 Around eleven this morning we were at the park for children near Shinomachi, when it happened that the wind was strongly blowing, scattering dust everywhere so we decided to change our Sunday place.

 Since the Oedo line was there, I thought to go to Roppongi station where we could enjoy Tokyo Midtown and its interiors.

 Once arrived there first we went to the near National Centre for the Art. It is designed by Kisho Kurokawa (1934-2007) and it opened in 2007. It has got a gorgeous facade and balanced nice interiors as instead of decoratives objects has iconic shapes. See the reverse cone with a restaurant on its top?


Inside are at least three different galleries and four places for eat. IN the underground floor there is the Gallery shop and a cheap eat in.

At the 3f loor a French style brasseries, they also have a menu for 2000yen which is very low price here, of course you can spend much more ordering champagne and so on.

At the second floor a cafe (patisserie) called Vogue after the magazine.

The easiest is the ground floor, just an ordinary cafeteria in a extra-ordinary space that add to your time a high comfort I believe.

Today with that strong wind, even if it was not cold, I could say it was one of the best place in Tokyo for having your meal made at home.

 His office is well known for having projected several public projects around the world (even a new wing in the Van Gogh museum at Amsterdam) since the Metabolism movement, which it’s the most innovative architectural japanese wave during the modern time. 


That was just our “bento” place for today, we’ll be back there May the 18th when the California Design Exibihition will open freely. Than we moved to Tokyo Midtown, a huge complex, finished in 2007.

Tokyo Midtown is not a name of a part of the city of Tokyo, it consists in several buildings (the Ritz Carlton Hotel is the main tower then a residence tower – the east one – a mall, resaurants, museums – one designed by T. Ando, one designed by K.Kuma, a japanese garden…), and there’s even a book about it (the link opens the amazon reference).

I would add anything more than my pictures. And a note about the exterior.

Since they are very close, Tokyo Midtown is always compared to another huge investment made by Minatu Mori (recently passed), few years before (2003) called Roppongi Hills . The two changed the Tokyo Skyline and they are a reference for all the others large investments.

On my small view I can see, even if are only a four years gap there is more than a generation, architectural talking, among them

For instance, if we are looking the exterior.

 Roppongi Hills ( the web is plenty of pictures of it. I add just one here I took from the Tokyo National art centre to let the far reader recognize it). It is here below.


seems to belong to any megalopolis or metropolis around the world. It could be in London, New York, Toronto, Bejing, Sydney or everywhere, and the architect is American (Kohn Pedersen Fox based in New York City). The transparency of the coating is something that goes back to L. Mies Van der Rohe (1922 Friedrichstrasse skyscraper) until nowadays.

Tokyo Midtown, has a singular coating, and the architects have choosed to paint it as in the sametime leaving it transparent. I am posting some pictures here below on this detail.


 tmoutdoor      tmcoatingdetail2 tmcoatingdetail tmcoating2 tmcoating1 tmgallery1

tmgallery3tmgallery2 The picture of the insides are from the Gallery (Mall) and I would add other video in the future as well as some picture of the japanese gardentmoutdoorindoor

this aside is the Ritzl Carlton Hotel concierge or main lobby.ritzcarltonconcierge1


I shot a vide of a pathway at first floor that connectthe Garden to the inside Gallery of the Mall.