Thursday, November 15, 2007
Due to the intense demands of space and astronomical costs of real estate in Tokyo SANAA’s Small House is an exercise in making the most with very little. Located on a 60m2 lot in central Tokyo, SANAA have managed to create a family home for a designer, his wife and their daughter.
In order to maximise the useable space of each floorplate each floor contains a single function. The partial basement level contains a bedroom and bathroom used by the whole family, the ground floor is a family room which will become the daughter’s bedroom when she grows older, the second level contains the kitchen and dining room and the top floor contains a soaking tub and terrace with city views enclosed in metal mesh.
The size of each floor plate is determined by each function creating the interesting form of the house, reflecting and making possible the internal organisation. The open stair provides the main circulation and structure that supports thin concrete slabs. Every element in the house has been reduced to a minimum to provide the maximum possible space and the organisation and construction of the house achieved with a minimum of means.
On the day I visited the house the curtains were closed and the building was unlike the pristine white renderings and models that are produced by the office. The fineness of the detailing and the thinness of the materials did not seem to be aging well. The extensive glazing on the façade makes it possible to see into most of the house and I was curious to know how often the curtains are open.
The Small House is an incredible exercise in creating such an open, spacious and interesting building within such tight constraints and it was interesting to finally see a Sejima building and how the pristine beauty of their renderings and models appears in reality.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The Nagakin Capsule Tower (1970) in Tokyo designed by Kisho Kurakawa is one of the best examples of Metabolist Architecture in which independent and interchangeable parts are connected to a permanant core. Kurokawa designed the rooms as independent units which are plugged into a concrete core allowing the rooms to be altered or replaced as necessary. Due to lack of maintenance and neglect the building is in danger of being demolished and the composition of the units has remained unchanged since completion.
The building is 14-storeys high and contains 140 units that were designed to provide economical housing for Tokyo businessmen who worked long hours.
After visiting the building it seemed to be one of the most inspiring failures of modern architecture I have seen.
Maison Hermes, Tokyo (1998-2001) by Renzo Piano is the corporate headquarters and retail store for Hermes Japan. The program includes offices, workshops, retail and exhibition spaces, multimedia areas and a roof garden. The building also includes access to the subway via a courtyard which divides the long facade in two.
It is an elegant glowing rectangular form which has been carefully crafted from specially designed 45cm x 45cm glass blocks which gives the impression of the building as a precious object containing equally precious objects
Renzo Piano stated that the building was inspired by traditional Japanese lanterns. The thickness of glass facade blurs the activity within during the day and at night the building glows from the light within whilst simultaneously providing acoustic insulation from the bustling Ginza streets outside. Clear glass boxes become display cases for Hermes products at street level.
Maison Hermes is the most elegant use of glass blocks I have ever seen.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
The Chikatsu-Asuka Historical Museum (1994) designed by Tadao Ando.
This museum dedicated to the prehistoric kofun culture and specifically it's burial mounds, 200 of which are located in Osaka prefecture, formally and symbolically references the burial mounds themselves. The building is set amongst the beautiful natural environment of plum trees, ponds and walking paths throughout the surrounding hills which the building is integrated with through its stepped roof and concrete walls that follow the terrain and form small pockets into which the landscapes extends. Despite the museums size the building plays an intergral role in the landscape without being intrusive.
The building reinforces and reminds the visitor of the role of the museum and the burial mounds which are visible from selected vantage points on the building and from within the landscape without being contrived or overtly obvious. It is the subtle handling of the cultural significance of the building that enhances both the experience of the building and of the museum.