Spoon & Tamago

If you enjoy my architectural posts, I recommend you check out Spoon & Tamago.

Spoon & Tamago is a website about Japanese design of all sorts. And architecture falls under design as well. So under the explore tab on their blog you can find categories of various architectural projects.

Since the team all speak Japanese, they can write about Japanese architecture, that has not been mentioned in any English source so far. Unlike my posts that are, due to my poor language skills, born from English and Czech sources.

When the team celebrated their 10 year anniversary last year, they made a short video telling their story.

Their project resonates with me, not only because their work is so meticulously researched and well-written, but also because I strive to make my blog into something similar. Unfortunately I don’t speak Japanese (yet), so I can’t research as well as them, but I aim for a dash of dorry to become an excellent aggregation of posts on Japanese animation and architecture.


Natural Ellipse House

Yet another work of modern Japanese architecture is a Tokyo house that looks like an egg with a hole at the top. It was conceived by two architects, Masaki Endoh and Masahiro Ikeda. Both of these architects are little known outside of Japan, but the building I want to write about today was awarded Rookie of the Year 2003 by The Japan Institute of Architects.

It’s called Natural Ellipse House and it was a built as a four story apartment building of sorts. There were just two apartments, each taking up two stories, and the basement was shared.

I’m using the past tense, because it seems the building is not occupied by the original client anymore. Instead it is used as a hotel! That means that if you’re looking for a memorable place to stay in Tokyo, Natural Ellipse House is one option. Continue reading

4 × 4 House

Tadao Ando (*1941)

Today we’ll be looking at a residential house by one of the leading Japanese architects, Tadao Ando. He is an interesting person—a former boxer with no formal training in architecture is certainly not the kind of man you would expect to win the Pritzker Prize (in 1995). His buildings embody the Japanese idea of zen. They are simple and practical, giving the mind and heart, not just the body, a space to dwell.

In this house, aptly named 4 × 4 House, the simplicity of the construction lets the concepts shine. Firstly, the concept of four. The tiny building is 4 stories tall. Every story has a square, 4 m by 4 m footprint. The structure is crowned by a cube that’s also 4 m by 4 m by 4 m. And, as if it wasn’t enough, the large window, that takes up a whole side of the cube, is divided into 4 equal square sections. (4 m is equal to roughly 13 feet.)

As you can see in the rendition above, the house is quite small. This was caused mainly by the regulations set in place to protect the shoreline, which is gradually receding. Shoreline erosion in Japan is a real problem caused by the real global climate change. Yet I don’t think this limited Tadao Ando as much as it would a Western architect, since the Japanese don’t assume a small house means the owners are poor. For some, living small means living more beautifully. Continue reading

Curtain Wall House

Shigeru Ban (*1957)

Mr. Takeshi, a photographer who grew up in a tiny space, wished for a large house for his family that would be open to its surroundings. With this project he entrusted a well-known architect, Shigeru Ban.

Similar to Mr. Fujimori, the architect and owner of Takasugi-an, Shigeru Ban is known for a very innovative approach to architecture. He is also of a humanitarian mind—designing low-cost shelters for victims of natural disasters in many countries since the 90’s. (Read more at archdaily.com.) Both of which are reasons for his receiving the 2014 Pritzker Prize.

For Mr. Takeshi, Shigeru Ban designed the Curtain Wall House in Tokyo.

It is definitely open to its surroundings. The house pretty much looks like it’s missing two walls. Instead there are two enormous white curtains! Continue reading

高過庵 | Takasugi-an

* 1946 (71 years old)

Terunobu Fujimori is a recognized Japanese architect and historian of architecture. He is more known in Japan, but after his feature as the curator of the Japanese pavilion at 2006 Venice Biennale, he became well-known to the world as well.

Having built several tea houses for his acquaintances, he decided to build one for himself. It is situated in his hometown, which has become part of Chino. Chino is a city in the mountains just east of Nagano.

As is customary with his works, the house is ecological and innovative. It is built from wood cut on the surrounding mountains. The two main supports are naked chestnut trees. The plaster is a traditional, earthy one and the roof copper, which is also a traditional material. Six meters (almost 20 ft for the Americans) above ground, in the branches of these tall chestnut trees, rests a tiny tea house.

The name Takasugi-an means “a tea house [built] too high.”

It is so tiny that one can’t stand up in it. Which is not an exception among tea houses. What is more inventive is the window—the painting that should hang in every traditional tea house and depict the current season is replaced by a window overlooking the former town of Miyakawa-mura. This therefore shows the current season as well as the city changing through the times.

The tea house is accessible by two free-standing ladders. As is good manners in Japan, shoes taken off at the midway point, the platform with a flimsy, pro forma railing. The tea house gently sways in the mountain winds.

Here the famous architect can enjoy a cup of matcha with his visitors and a beautiful view.

Japanese tea houses are a fascinating subject to study. They are bound by traditional rules and yet, since they were very often designed by the masters of tea and not by masters of carpentry, are extremely variable in their simplicity. The character 庵 [あん, an] means a hut. You can barely go simpler than a hut in architecture.

Another principle (I have already mentioned the seasonal picture.) is to enter the room humbly. In “normal” tea rooms this is achieved by lowering the lintel to under a meter above ground. Entering the room from below is the ultimate solution.

Dezeen article

Nihon Noir – Nakagin Capsule Tower Photo

Once again, the icon of Japanese metabolism architecture, the Nakagin Capsule Tower, has made it onto these pages. This time it was photographed by Tom Blachford in the nightime.

Click the image for more Nihon Noir photographs.

A rough image from night 1 of my shoot in tokyo in collaboration with @asahibeer_au. The nagakin capsule tower built 1970. We arrived at the tower to find that there were no good views possible from the ground or any surrounding walkways. Instead I somehow managed to convince a crew of highway repairmen in front of the building to stop their work and take me 20m into the air in their crane lift to get the perfect angle. Was truly epic! Can’t wait to share some more images and footage with you.

— from Tom Blachford’s instagram

Doai Underground Trainstation

I enjoy anime which teach me something. For example, fairly recently there have been several cooking anime. I loved learning about traditional Japanese cuisine in Sushi and Beyond or foods from all around the world in Shokugeki no Souma. Nevertheless as a future civil engineer I appreciate architectural trivia the most.

For me the most memorable detail from the “cute girls climbing mountains” anime, Yama no Susume, wasn’t any of the natural wonders they visited, but the Doai underground station where the girls get off the train when climbing Mount Tanigawa. Unlike most viewers I already knew of the station having seen it in a yet another anime I’ll also be drawing information from today. Tetsuko no Tabi is about a train enthusiast and a hard-to-impress mangaka traveling around Japan visiting interesting railway stations and making a manga about it. One day I might write about some of the other amazing stations they visit, but today I want to tell you about the Doai station.

Yama no Susume 2 episode 21

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1972 – Nakagin Capsule Tower photos

Do you remember that post about Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo I wrote 7 months ago?

Back then I seem to have missed a certain photography project called 1972 by Noritaka Minami. It comprises a total of 24 shots documenting the tower’s derelict condition in 2011 and 2012. See one sixth of it below or visit the project’s page for more.

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minamiThe artist Noritaka Minami is interested in applying the medium of photography as a means of investigating history and memory associated with sites. He currently works as a TA in Photography at the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University.

Website: www.noritakaminami.com

Nakagin Capsule Tower

Nakagin Capsule Tower, Tokyo is a beautiful example of modular architecture by a well-known architect Kisho Kurokawa. Simple, compact cuboids clustered around two concrete needles must have looked straight out of a science fiction story when they were built. Completed in 1972, the structure is rather old for a building and its age (and poor to none maintenance) has been becoming obvious in the past years. Not to mention worries have been expressed as to potentially harmful levels of asbestos, well-known for its numerous positive properties in the building industry and later discovered to cause serious damage to humans’ internal organs, especially lungs, upon inhalation.

Both of the towers

Both of the towers – one has 11 floors, the other 13.

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