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.









Wood for the Olympic stadium in Tokyo?

So the chosen options are two:

one is from Taisei corporation that follows the Kengo Kuma Design

the other one is from Toyo Ito concept backed by Obayashi, Takenaka and Shimizu corporation.

Here the link with a video with two pictures of proposal A(Kuma)  and B(Ito)

In another link you can compare the two pictures from above (the red roof is the Ito one)

I think it is a political wise strategy. First you won the competition to obtain the Omlypic in your conutry with a wonderful galactic project at the end of a pompous world wide open competition asking to design a dream….than when you have already won the right to organizethe competition you really budget everything. This time you ask for a sober project, eventually ending to a japanese firm – which are among the best of the world – and nobody is upset….but the fact that they have to go abroad to buy the wood…since on japanese land the wood industry is setting back because the Japanese Law about wood.

Would not it be hironic they say.

Lately I found a full,well written article about the whole story of the Zaha Haidi scrapping. I would encourage to click on it, it seems it is signed by a real journalist and not only a blogger.


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)

Urban Research, by Kleim Ditham, March 2015- Harajuku-Shibuya-Omotesando

The store I wanted to post is here.

The Dytham family web site instead is here.

So this post is without picture since It seems I finished the space on this blog, Will be the last?


In the meantime I decided to switch to japanese and take this as a benchmark.

For those of you who doesn`t read japanese at all…I am sorry the story ends here.

For those who wants to keep watching pictures of Tokyo, here it goes the link in japanese, hosted by wordpress again.

First post I wrote was about a museum, designed by Nihon Sekkei, (which means japanese architectture….what lack of fantasy for naming a company!) a week or so ago.

Yes japanese sometimes call things without a title.

Many times I asked my wife, how this recipe is it called, and replies were like this:

“meat and potato”, “fish and salt”, “eggs and bread”….

Would you compare those title to the Italians names such as “Spaghetti alla carbonara”, or “Lasagna”, or “Coniglio alla cacciatora”…it is not just the taste of the food. Japanese dishes could be delicious as the Italian ones. It is that we like telling stories.

When a plate has a made up title, it contains already a story…why that title you ask yourself? And you already get caught in the spirit of the Italia Cuisine…because an Italian would immediately become happy to start a conversation even if he doesn`t know why that is called Lasagna…because that let us be social which means for Us debate, deny, oppose, agree, love and hate.

We don`t call our dishes in such ways…japanese simply don`t have that.

My japanese writing would be even worst than my english I am sure about it, however it has to be a way to improve it, the only sure way is doing it…a big Hug to those of the 87 architecture lovers are currently following this blog I am to lose!!! See you! It is plenty of english writing about Japanese architecture.

Some books I am to read are:

Kevin Nute, a professor from Oregon, wrote : Place Time and Being in Japanese Architecture

Azby Brown, an associate Professor of Architecture at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology, wrote a book about the reconstruction of ancient japanese Temple in Nara, The genius of Japanese Architecture. (1995)

for Wood cratft Lovers, there is a precious handbook, by Christopher Schwarz, the Workbench design book: The Art & Philosophy of building better benches.

The ancient Conder`s book, republished in 2002, Landscape Gardening in Japan, is still a good and fashinating read.

If you read French, you`ll be happy to read about the Metabolism, in a book wrote by Charles Jencks, an architecture`s critics,

called Mouvements modernes en architecture…a bit old, no doubt you can find something else in English, but I doubt you`ll find something with that touch.

Within the pages of book written by Koolhaus or Deplazes are cool insights about the japanese contemporaries, their gold and dark sides. Be sure to read only Koolhaus and not listen him as his English speaking is worst than mine…


Tokyo Designers Week 2014, 2nd of three posts.

20141026_170029The aim of this second post is focusing to the model exhibition. Above it is a concept of the work by  Junya Ishigami (石上純也 ) called House & restaurant.

Here below the huge model;

House & RestaurantAnd here below his written thoughts

20141026_170038_001It is a captivating thought…nevertheless when it says “concrete” he should have better reflect on that word, so simple, too simple…

Here below a  妹島和世 (Kazuyo Sejima) work:

20141026_165805The architect explanation

SANAA Design WeekThe proposal is peculiar, here below an evolution into the Unity claimed by the concept

20141026_165822Let`s go to the K.Kuma model

20141026_165725It is the museum of the Chinese Acadamy of Art in thesuburbs of city of HangZhou (杭州) .


Hangzhou suburbs, was integrated into the architecture and tea plantations of the mountain, planning a new type of University Museum. When you study the architecture that utilizes as much as possible the slope of the diamond pattern appears in the contour.


IT doesn`t say anything about the materials…and this is strange, maybe I did not read enough.

20141026_165641_000If you are interested all these models they are published in the catalog (2000Yen) inside the pavillion. Maybe in few days in the libraries of the whole Japan.

If you can read japanese you might check this comprehensive blog on the same subject.

I will upload more pictures in the next post.


Tokyo Designers Week 2014 1st of 3 posts

This is the third year in a row that I go to this event, it is the reason why I am becoming picky.Design Week 2014, Sunday evening

Design Week 2014, Sunday evening

Let`s start to write the oddest thing, to raise up the evaluation at the end of the post.


Unfortunately this year we decided to not bring anything from home and appreciate the variety of different shops that the Design week was usually offering. The 2014 week offered…just one shop, I do not even remember the name. Three kind of dishes:  curry, burger and pasta plus dessert and coffe from nespresso machines (not bad at all)…but at 1`o`clock, the burger was already gone. For 2400yen we had one pasta  and one curry with three different curry sauces. Although the curry was ok, the pasta was …those kind of sweet things, sometimes you eat in the worst places in the world.

Just near this restaurant was placed a BBQ area where some special people were enyoing the weather and the braces. To my request on information how to join them, they replied to me just “go to the entrance and get the ticket”. I went to the entrance and that was not true, an invitation was needed to join the party.

Really I did not want to join that kind of people since they seemed to me more close to the Halloween atmosphere than the TDW. I got the impression they were closer to a sort of pop-AV-porn culture than a Design fair. I am still wondering what they were doing there.

Ok, the odd has gone. Now let`s switch to the positive.

An incredible exposition of kimono designed by contemporary well-known brand leaders inspiredby Hokusai. A gift to Design Week, really a big surprise.

A collection , carefully chosen of Architectural models from several japanese architect leaders ( o+h (Maki Onishi + Yuki Hyakuda) / CAt – Coelacanth and Associates (Kazuhiro Kojima + Kazuko Akamatsu) / Kazuyo Sejima / Makoto Tanijiri / SANDWICH (KOHEI NAWA) / MOUNT FUJI ARCHITECTS STUDIO (Masahiro Harada + Mao) / Sou Fujimoto / Terunobu Fujimori / Akihisa Hirata / Riken Yamamoto...) called “architectural model

20141026_165946They were all very interesting indeed! The one above is from Toyo Ito, a working name is Aoi-mori Arena Athletics Stadium. Aomori is just below Hokkaido.

The padillion from the Universities is always fun to walk through but when you pass in front of the Seoul University…well you cannot avoid to look at those hot features!

The  container exhibition was also very attractive this year.  I did 20 minutes of line to see a 3d performance from a dancer, with a very sophisticated and professional 3d video. They have succeded in having me very excited. I was floating in their world, and sometimes get scared by the Heightness. (Dance in the rain, by KodaKumi), if you go don`t miss it.

20141026_171525A good event was the planting of a symbolic tree, probably from somewhere in Africa,

in this video below a moment of the work.

And that`s it. I did not go to the supermaterial and the superrinnovation. I am sure they were good, but I had to play with my kid in the outdoor where the universities showcases some funny things.

We were running through tunnels like this, getting the students worried of the safety of their works.


And the Winner is…

It is a clear and well realised idea from Kappes. It is called MOMENTum

here below I shot some seconds

I think that “workpiece” is envisaging the power of human creativity applied to the concrete things in order to reach a superior level. Nothing less.

All the other things were nice, some of them very well realized, but this was…more.




Toyo Ito, T building, back in the 90ies


These pictures are two years old. I was seeking for it on the map, following a book rented from my town pubblic library about japanese architecture. The chapter about Tokyo was quite big. The building on this shot is projected by Toyo Ito and somehow watching those pictures again it seems the efforts to find it are worth.

It is called T building, here the link at the Ito`s official web site. It is reachable from daykanyama, then go to the left down to the river, cross the river, and ….sory I don`have the book with me anymore…I am sure somewhere the adress is known. (here somelinks 1, 2, 3

It is an office building. They let me in and get some pictures also of the interior. By those days it might be innovative as well. It was finished in May 1990.