Thursday Feature: Junya Ishigami [a new generation of Japanese architects]


The works of Junya Ishigami are arguably the most provocative and transcendental (both conceptually and visually) of this intriguing current generation of Japanese architects. Or more precisely, of his contemporaries anywhere in the world today. Born in 1974, he delves into and straddles the ambiguous boundaries between art and architecture.

He takes apart conventional notions of the materiality, scale, structure of architecture. But it is not for the mere vanity of doing so, but rather to create a new scale of architecture that returns to the natural and elemental. For him, “in nature structure and space are not divided. Air is space but it also has a structure. But architecture divides these things.” Thus, Ishigami’s works push the norms of structure and material to the extreme, resulting in almost invisible structures that blur the distinctions between architecture and nature.

Although his built repertoire is currently small with the majority being architectural/art installations and, the depth of experimentation and imagination that his works entail separates him from the rest. Here’s a sampling of his genius:

“Architecture as Air” | The Curve, Barbican Art Gallery | London, UK | 28 June 2011 – 16 October 2011

                                                                                                                               Image: aestheticamagazine.blogspot.com

In this very recent work he presents an oxymoron – a nearly invisible structure. On first glance one merely sees the curved gallery space. Closer scrutiny reveals a sequence of extremely fine vertical “columns” along the length of the gallery. 4 metres in height, these 53 “columns” are a slender 0.9mm thick and hand-rolled from carbon fibre sheet. They stand braced by a series of 2756 diagonal members, and beams run between the columns as well. The entire structure weighs in at a shocking 300g, a piece of virtuoso engineering accomplished with the help of Jun Sato Structural Engineers. Beyond the engineering, it takes architectural possibilities and understanding of scale, structure and material into a new dimension.

It is an extension of his earlier installation “Architecture as air: study for château la coste” which was first shown at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2010 where it won the highest prize – the Golden Lion.

“Another Scale of Architecture” | Toyota Municipal Museum of Art | Nagoya, Japan | 2010

The title of the exhibition is self-explanatory.

                                                                                                                                                     Images: Fomal Haut @ Flickr
http://www.flickr.com/photos/fomalhaut/sets/72157625119007922/

“Balloon” | Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art | Tokyo, Japan | 2008

                                                                                                                                              Images: http://www.architonic.com

This installation takes the form of an aluminium parallelotope that weighs about a tonne. Filled with helium, it floats freely and randomly within the atrium space, constantly changing the quality and nature of the interstitial space. Ishigami makes allusions to nature again in this installation, essentially juxtaposing the weight of a mountain and the lightness of a cloud. An intriguing interplay of perception, scale and material.

Yohji Yamamoto Gansevoort Street Store | New York, USA | 2008

                                                                                                                                              Images: http://www.architonic.com

Located in the transient Meat Packing district of New York, the angular geometry of the building was informed by the footprint of the brick building that previously sat on the site. Ishigami spliced the architecture into two parts – the tip of the wedge as a product display space; the other part as the shop proper – to create street of activity through the spaces.

                                                                                                                                              Image: http://www.architonic.com

In terms of crafting perception, the starkly acute angles give the impression of a depthless building as if it was a stage set. This is fortified by the break in the facade, which lend views of the urban landscape beyond. Unfortunately, the store has since closed.

Japanese Pavilion | Venice Biennale 2008 | Venice, Italy | 2008

                                                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

                                                                                                                Image: http://www.guardian.co.uk

Essentially a series of ephemeral greenhouses infused with plants, it challenges structural norms and dissolves the stark divisions of architecture and landscape into an environment where the two are nearly miscible. The interiors are filled with Ishigami’s intriguing drawings.

                                                                                                                                                 Image: http://www.architonic.com

Kanagawa Institute of Technology Workshop | Kanagawa, Japan | 2007

His most important architecture work to date, this design workshop presents an open plan sprinkled with random groupings of slender tree-like columns that provide support to a flat floor. Filled with plants and coupled with an overall sense of lightness and transparency, the whole spatial atmosphere is like a “boundless landscape” as Ishigami has described it.

                                                                                                                                                          Images: http://www.iwan.com

                                                                                                                                                 Image: http://www.architonic.com

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Thursday Feature: Sou Fujimoto [a new generation of japanese architects]


Sou Fujimoto is amongst the frontrunners of the emerging new generation of Japanese architects. Born in 1971, his works have come to international attention in recent years. The intrigue of his works stem from their questioning of the fundamental essence and meaning of architecture – what is architecture? what is the relation between architecture and nature? He delves into the primordial condition of architecture, one that is raw and unconstrained – exemplified by the notion of the cave – where people have the freedom to explore and use the spaces creatively.

Fujimoto’s approach is an optimistic one, where he sees architecture’s role as to “continuously re-imagine enriching places for people”. While his works appear highly minimalistic and abstracted on the surface, they are far removed from merely seeking the reductive beauty of the 20th century Miesian aesthetic. Rather, his architectural experiments seek to create spatial experiences that prompt various degrees of human interactions and also restore the primitive relationship between people and nature. Thus both his conceptual models and actual projects implode spatial conventions, piquing one’s imagination and senses to pursue the possibilities of the architecture.

A selection of Fujimoto’s works for your exploration…

House N | Oita, Japan | 2006 – 2008 

                                                                                                                                                   Images: http://www.archdaily.com

Group Home in Noboribetsu | Hokkaido, Japan | 2006

                                                                                                                                                   Images: http://www.archdaily.com

Tokyo Apartment | Tokyo, Japan | 2006 – 2010 

                                                                                                                                                       Image: http://www.dezeen.com

Final Wooden House | Kumamoto, Japan | 2006 – 2010

                                                                                                                                                   Images: http://www.archdaily.com

Musashino Art University – Museum and Library | Tokyo, Japan | 2007 – 2010

                                                                                                                                                   Image: http://www.archdaily.com

                                                                                                                                                   Image: http://www.archdaily.com

                                                                                                                                                   Image: http://www.andifitsreal.com

                                                                                                                                                   Image: http://www.archdaily.com

The Wednesday Muse: Its All In the Eyes


I am a pseudo Francophile. I love the language, love Paris, love everything about France but I can’t speak French, have not dated a French man and will probably never live in France. But this isn’t about my passion for French/France.

It is about Why French Girls are so Hot.

The other day I was in a café at MBS waiting for an interview and started talking to this lady who turns out to be the sales manager who also turns out to be French.  I was having a somewhat normal conversation with her and we weren’t covering the most engaging of subjects when I suddenly realized that my captivity was disproportionate to the substance of our Re-par-tay.

That is when it struck me. (Warning: you may not agree with this rather far-fetched theory)
There exists a secret weapon of the French;  Madame de Pompadour may even have deployed it.
The French blink a split second slower than the average non-French person.
 I have only noticed it in girls though (a very good example is Melanie Pain http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Retl499FhEU  at 0:40s)
This theory is still in its raw stages but I’m very optimistic about it so next time you talk to a French girl, watch out for those eyes.