Thursday 14 July 2011

Parallel Nippon

It has taken me two weeks to do a post on the Parallel Nippon exhibition which we saw at the Benaki Museum and which is truly remarkable. Photographs of buildings do not photograph well however, and there was no exhibition catalogue so I had to do some research on some of the buildings that were exhibited and this has taken some time.

Tomihiro Art Museum, by Makoto Ukoziro in Midori, Gumma Pref.

Laid out to a square plan are 33 single story cylindrical exhibition spaces of different diameters with light courts between them. A range of colour tones was determined for all spaces, based on the surrounding landscape. Small openings in the walls afford glimpses of the courtyards. From the surrounding hills one can see the roof of the museum in an almost abstract form.

Aomori Museum of Art, by Jun Aoki

Aomori Museum of Art / Jun Aoki

The inspiration for the Museum of Art came from the excavations of a nearby hospital site

the ground was cut in geometric style to resemble the trenches of the excavation area

so simple, and yet so effective

Aomori Contemporary Art Center

Base Valley House by Hiroshi Sambuichi. He used cypress, chestnut wood and crushed stone.

The house is situated in an extremely dramatic location on the edge of an immense 12,000 sq m river valley plain surrounded by steep cliffs and this means it has to deal with very strong winds. To make best use of the wind blowing through the valley, Sambuichi decided on a 2,260 m wide cut, a wind street, slicing the entire building in a noth-south direction; this allows the air to blow through the interior.

base valley house by hiroshi sambuichi 2 Base Valley House by Hiroshi Sambuichi, Japanese House

The slanted glazed roof follows the slope of the mountains

base valley house by hiroshi sambuichi 4 Base Valley House by Hiroshi Sambuichi, Japanese House

"A close examination on how changing wind directions and intensities in daylight influences the site, enables me to understand what kind of architecture is really needed on each location"

rBase Valley House in Japan by Hiroshi Sambuichi

He nestled four bedrooms and a sunroom in the ground utilising the earth's warmth to regulate the indoor temperature

A living area, dining room and kitchen are on the ground floor

Base Valley House in Japan by Hiroshi Sambuichi

the bathroom is as light and airy as the rest of the house.

Hakui residence in Minoh, Osaka Pref. by Akira Sakamoto

So simple and calm, the beam of light coming down from the ceiling to highlight the bowl

another interior by Sakamoto, this is an office building

a dining/refectory interior, again by Sakamoto

9Tubohouse by Makoto Masuzawa. This house is tiny and was designed in 1952. The reason for its size is that after World War II the Housing Corporation of Japan would only provide loans to build houses that were no larger than 50 sq. metres.

The house has been reintroduced to the current market by Makoto Koizumi.

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, designed by Tadao Ando.

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

The museum is located in a municipal park and is made up of five rectangular volumes, 3 short and 2 long, parallel to each other, each composed of a double-membrane structure of glass and concrete.

An elliptical shaped volume protrudes from one of the longer ones, which contains a cafe and restaurant. From here diners have a spectacular view of the three shorter volumes which contain the exhibition galleries and the surrounding water plaza whose mirror-like surface reflects the whole building.

Natural light enters through the double-height wall but also more light is introduced through skylights that is then filtered through translucent membranes

the entrance lobby

 Isn't this stunning?!

Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, by Akira Kuryu

Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims (国立長崎原爆死没者追悼平和祈念館)

The subterranean interior contains a stylized remembrance hall with 12 pillars of light to symbolize hope and peace

The top of the memorial consists mainly of a tree-lined basin of water through which the 12 pillars of light continue to rise from below. At night 70,000 fibre optic lights are illuminated across the surface of the water symbolising the victims of the bomb.

and a different view.

The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures, Tokyo National Museum, by Yoshio Tamiguchi

"A spatial play of transparency, opacity and reflections and the relationship between vertical and horizontal planes, solid and void, interior and exterior"

The approach to the gallery is indirect and asymmetrical. At first the entry to the building is seen on the other side of a shallow pool of water, its louvres and columns reflecting onto the surface of the water.

It is only when approaching closer that a concrete walkway which is at the same level as the surface of the water is revealed, leading on to the entry door which is defined by what seems to be a floating horizontal plane projecting from the glass facade.

This zone of glass allows for continuity between interior and exterior

Natural Ellipse, Shibuyo, Tokyo, by Masaki Endoh and Masahiro Ikeda

"Like a whale skin stretched taut across the bones, the face of virtually seamless fiber- reinforced polymer sheet stretches over the steel frame".

The structure is composed by flat iron ribs cut by laser. The envelope was built on site and is made of fiber reinforced polymer sheet, there are thus no seams to speak of, which enhances the plastic quality of the sheet.

This is what Rob Gregory says about this building: The work of Masaki Endoh and Masahiro Ikeda derives significance from exploring the physical and metaphysical nature of walls, e.g. how materials moderate light, regulate the environment and how solid, void and niche can bring order to the ritual of everyday life. It is a very provocative style and one that is visually striking.


The downfall of their design is its lack of any human element. They seem to have prioritised form of the building and its meticulously clean aesthetic over the use of simple comforts such as bathroom walls. 

The resulting space is extremely sterile, bare building that seems as if it was made as sculpture, rather than a habitable building. That being said, it is a truly remarkable sculpture.

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