Architecture and Graphic Design

I received my copy of Bldg Blog Book Saturday but this article is not its review: I've not finished to read it. Also, I will write an article soon. Today, I would like to speak of the relationship of graphic design and architecture.

The influence of Archigram in BldgBlog Book's graphic design.

When I looked at the book BldgBlog Book, in particular, the cover, I firstly thought of these 60's 70's radical little magazines/fanzines of architecture — I wished I had a copy of these fanzines —, especially Archigram magazine, but also Bau Magazine (in particular the color of the cover). The book was designed by MacFadden & Thorpe, and illustrated by Brendan Callahan of Semigood Design. It is certain the author Geoff Manaugh, blogger, writer, lecturer, editor, etc., is influenced by, not only Archigram, but also the whole 60's culture — novel, cinema, science fiction, art, architecture, design, illustration. This book gives me the opportunity to collect some articles on magazines and books published in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

We all know that the emergence of these magazines has participated in the transformation of architectural practices as well as the conception of magazines of architecture, and of course books of architecture. Magazines such as Le Carré Bleu, for instance, was an example of innovative designs.

The issue I found on Internet, issue #3, September 1968, — Canadian Center Architecture (CCA) has welcomed, in 2007, the exhibition entitled "The Radical Little Magazines of Architecture: 1960s-1970s" curated by Beatriz Colomina and a group of PhD student of Princeton University — is typical of these socially-engaged magazines. It was launched 4 months after May event, with the will to translate students and workers' protests. This Paris and Helsinski-based magazine, in fact, was created in 1958 by a collective connected to Team 10. Texts of Giancarlo de Carlo, Alison and Peter Smithson, Candilis-Josic-Woods, to quote but a few, as well as illustration were published in this double-sided pamphlet. Another magazine is Form, a British-made magazine, with a great graphic design that makes clear the editorial line: architecture combined with art, and a deep political influence. The particularity of this magazine is its interest for the 1920s Avant-garde, in particular Soviet Avant-garde magazine LEF which has probably influenced the graphic conception of the magazine.

French Magazines, Le Carré Bleu aside, were very productive with L'architecture d'aujourd'hui, to choose an example among these magazines. Of course, a magazines-of-60s lover will not forget Archigram as one of the most important magazines of architecture that is still cited as example of the best designed magazines. Archigram used illustration, precisely comics universe, to draw imaginative and narrative cities — or cities of future.

Another example with these illustrations

Of course, and this is one of the comparison that can be made with The BldgBlog Book, architecture was left behind in favor of speculation, futuristic stories on cities, with a narrative style, were. This is probably this disruption with formal style — magazines that only focuses or discussing on buildings, to choose an example among many others — that made the success of Archigram Magazine in the 1960s and, today, in 2009, in a certain way, makes the success of The BldgBlog Book.

Geoff Manaugh is not the only one who is influenced by these radical magazines. I discovered two years ago a London-based American-Swiss graphic designer, born in 1984, raised in LA, before installing in London: Zak Kyes. Zak Kyes, independent graphic designer, also Architectural Association's art director, probably influences young architects as well as he is influenced by these architects with whom he collaborates — the particularity of these architects is to be not only architects but also theoreticians and editors, and, and, and — such as London-Based Germand architect Markus Miessen, Shumon Basar, Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, Eyal Weizman, to quote but a few. To introduce Zak Kyes's work needs more space that this article can propose. Zak Kyes decided to attend CalArts after dropping out of double major business and history of art that he learnt in New York. He then moved to London, and now works as an independent graphic design. Zak Kyes takes an experimental position in graphic design field. He is interested in various fields from graphic design to architecture, and history of art. Research, writing and editing are the core element of his practices. He regularly collaborates with fashion designers, artists and architects. His relationship with architecture seems be normal for, architecture is a language close to graphic design. As the medium of architecture, design must be "informed by the world around it" and for those who seize the important legacy of art, graphic design and architecture of 20s and 60s, it can be understood by his interest for avant-garde art and conceptual art. Since 2007, he worked as teacher for Architectural Association where he teaches graphic design and its relation with architecture. He, in fact, uses teaching as expanding space in which he can experiment with students various research on form, typeface, etc. The graphic conception of AArchitecture, a magazine established in 2006 by Architectural Design, that he's in charge of with AA Studio Print is an example of his research on the relation of architecture and graphic design. This magazine has been, in fact, established in 1960s but, after, approximately 30 years of break, has been relaunched in 2006. Zak Kyes reappropriates, if not recycles, graphic strategies of the first period of AArchitecture: each issue has its own color, its typeface, its organization of images and texts, says, its own language. He, for instance, appreciates organizing body text around a color and a typeface. AArchitecture issue #5's body text is typeset in Sabon Bold and either red or black, depending on his will of playing with the content: interview, information, essay, probably as these architects of Archigram have done with their magazine, this desire to play with the limit of the relation of architecture and graphic design. Otherwise, graphic design is the extension of architecture. Books The Violence of Participation and East Coast Europe are other examples of his work. Both books were edited by architect Markus Miessen, architect and theoretician who explores the relation of politics and spatial practices.

For the book The Violence of Participation, he uses color — yellow for the dustjacket and blue for the text of the cover, and certain texts such as the introduction and Hans Ulrich Obrist's text, black for the main body text —, incorporates use of white space, and, combines juxtaposition of images, illustrations and texts.

I am very happy to see and read these new energy. I haven't talk of other fascinating editorial projects such as Verb that I love reading. Let's these for another article to come. For those who hare interested in AArchitecture but can't find it in his favorite bookstore, you can find it here.


Field Guide to Emerging Design Talent 2007

Geoff Manaugh, BldgBlog Book, Chronicle Books, 2009


Markus Miessen, The Violence of Participation, Sternberg Press, 2007

Markus Miessen, East Coast Europe, Sternberg Press, 2008

Mimi Zeiger/Loud Paper

Mimi Zeiger, "Fantasy Lands", Architect Magazine, August 2009

Z.A.K. Group

Studio Miessen

"The Radical Little Magazines of Architecture — 1960s-1970s", arttattler.com

MacFadden & Thorpe


Bike, Design bike, eco-friendly bike…

I finally found my Icon #075 Saturday. Yesterday, back from a 1-day trip, I was reading my mag in the train — globally this issue is very interesting, in particular SANAA's Sepentine Pavilion and of course François Roche and Warren Ellis's interview with Geoff Manaugh, Sam Jacob's article on this wonderful object, the 360° chair designed by brillant designer Kostantin Grcic (I don't really like using "brillant" to qualify a person, even though I truly consider him/her as such). My eyes were suddenly attracted by an article: Johanna Agerman's article. Johanna Agerman is Icon Magazine Deputy Editor. I won't discuss the article, because it is very interesting, I recommend its reading. I consequently have nothing to say or add on it. I was just interested in the phenomenon of bicycle, particularly these trendy well-designed bicycle. Let's start…

She starts as follows: "In the 1950s, Roland Barthes described the car as the 20th century's equivalent to the Gothic cathedral — a supreme creation consumed, at least in image, by a whole population. In the 21st century, the reputation of the car is much dented and the bicycle, in cities at least, is taking over as a status symbol." I was very proud in the train which is not adapted to welcome bicycle, especially mine, an object of desire. Even though we are shifting into a bicycle era, I notice that trains and stations, particularly in France, are not equipped for bicycle. I have to carry my bicycle to climb up and down stairs. If you know Dutch bicycle, you know how heavy it is. Furthermore, I am such a kind of straight homo urbanus, as one says: a straight punk (so I am), you can now say a straight homo urbanus: I don't drive a car, I do not have a driving license. I respect my environment. I love riding my bicycle because it is healthy, emission-free…, but my friends no longer tolerate my strictness (!!). Of course, I am carrying away…

Back to Johanna Agerman's article. "It is the ultimate guilt-free consumer product and the retailers are cashing in" —> Well, my retailer will confirm with happiness. "Manufacturers are falling over themselves to create exclusive editions with all the mod cons", Ah? (In French in the text), I said (in my head, of course, you will understand).

Then, because I didn't pay attention to the picture, when I suddenly look at the picture, I discovered: a beautiful British-made bicycle, the famous "gocycle".

It is an electric bike that can be adapted to an urban, daily use. Compared to my old Dutch bicycle, this gocycle avoids the Lance-Armstrongsian-way of riding a bicycle (rouler à la manière de Lance Armstrong), every day, of course, to go to work or, the week-end, to go to party (well, one must manage sweat. Imagine me riding my bike when it rains!!!). I've never ridden an electric bike because I love old-style one. I might be extreme: but I love riding fast, using my poor muscles, in spite of slope. My funniest experience is riding bicycle at Tôkyô (in spite of pollution, and people who look at me with curiosity due to the fact that I am a gaigokujin, say, a foreigner), in particular, traditional narrow streets. Needless to say how happy I am to ride in Tokyo streets.

Other particularity: this bike is nothing but an œuvre d'art, with beautiful lines, and compact.

The designer is an ex-car designer, a former MacLaren car, Richard Thorpe. I am not a specialist of design products, but just a fan, and if I had money, I would certainly collect design. According to Gocycle, this bike is "a revolutionary, lightweight electric two-wheeler designed to shake up the urban cycling industry with its sleek design and pioneering technology." Johanna Agerman adds that this bicycle parts "are concealed underneath a chunky white frame, injection-moulded in the light-weight magnesium alloy magflow", say, as these F1 cars, in a certain sense. I wish I have the opportunity to try this bicycle in order to see how it functions, to have a great urban experience with this bicycle. It could be interesting to compare conventional bicycle and this sleek designed-electric one. I would certainly agree (no: for sure) with Johanna Agerman that this bicycle misses, as she says, "one of the biggest benefits of cycling: fitness." For instance, according to Helen Pidd, a blogger and journalist of The Guardian, there is no dynamo type thing that will convert pedal power into electricity and charge the battery. So if you want to pedal as you usually do with a conventional bicycle, it seems not be handy.

But, afterall, these users, that I imagine as young-trendy-professional/fashioned gentlemen and ladies (ces jeunes très tendances), or, to sum up, iPhone generation (I am an iPhone user, a well, but…), do not care of this point. They will miss, with happiness, I am sure, Lance-Armstrongsian-way of riding bicycle, especially, when you're late, or else, you're afraid to miss your train. Accordingly, using an electric one will be the most appropriate. And you won't have to carry it to climb up and down stairs (!!! I can confess I am exhausted) because it is portable. But where can put my heavy bag with, inside, my Macbook Pro? no case to put my heavy bag...

My opinion, to conclude, will be: this beautiful bicycle, is very portable, compact, handy, but it is more an œuvre d'art "to-be-admired-in-my-living-room" than an urban bicycle for an daily use.


Agerman Johanna, "Gocycle", Icon Magazine #75, September 2009, p. 89.

Pidd Helen, "The gocycle electric bike makes going up the steepest hills an easy ride", The Guardian, posted: 18 June 2009.

Gocycle website



What is green what is not green

I just want react to Inhabitat's tweet on these five greenwashing towers. I admit to have been very astonished to discover these 5 buildings, especially the Antilla Green Tower, a housing project proposed by Perkins & Will in collaboration with Hirsch Bedner Associates for a Indian client, based in Mumbai, Mukesh Ambani. This client is announced to be the fifth richest man in the world. He wanted a green home for his family. Great idea. But things now are going to get nasty, if I may say. The architecture firm, indeed, has proposed a 27-storey tower for the family, say, only one family — husband, wife and children, maybe grandparents — who will live in this huge tower. I myself give my opinion both on Twitter and Facebook. I do not mind that a rich family needs have her own home.

Perkins + Will's Antilla Green Tower, © image from Inhabitat website

The problem is the relation between sustainable and this project. Collective housing is now well-appreciated if not approved, for it is more eco-friendly, more respectful to environment; it is also a tool for managing density. In fact, collective housing does not waste land in comparison with detached-housing (by comparison, a 27-storey collective housing, with more than approx. 50 households, corresponds to approx. 50 detached-houses, that is, an economy of approx. 50 lots. I have already read such argument, which is not false, but people need alternative type of housing as well. This is the debate in Japan, and more recently in Paris. By the way, an interesting conference on this topic is announced for October in the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine (I will confirm the date as soon as I will have more information). back to the theme of this article, last year Bordeaux-based Arc en Rêve Centre for Architecture proposed a very fascinating exhibition that addressed collective housing in Europe, but, one may have understood, that beside Europe, collective housing is now considered as the 21st century dwelling — I am sceptical concerning this viewpoint.

This debate launched by Inhabitat demonstrates that sustainable which is now well-accepted, if not approved, turns into fashionable, if not marketing. This is the risk that you must take if you want to protect the planet. But it can fatigue those who are sceptical (just take bio food which is now in the heart of French debate. For many people, bio food is just marketing, while…).

This is maybe, if I want to take only one example, the recent project I'm lost in Paris, realized by French architecture firm R&Sie(n) and its charismatic leader and founder, architect François Roche, which is the most positive and interesting example of eco-friendly, recently. I won't say more because I'm still waiting for my Icon #75 copy (I hope it is now available in my bookstores, that of Centre Pompidou and that of Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine! I'm getting impatient to read it!!!) with an interview of François Roche.

R&Sie(n) I'm Lost in Paris, © Images from R&Sie(n) website

This digression apart, just the reading François Roche presentation of the house, as follows:

"It s the story of an urban witch living behind a rear windows designed as a duck cabana. As alchemist, she feeds the plant with drop by drop hydroponics system watering liquid substances coming from the bacterian chemical preparation in 200 beakers disseminated in the ferns surfaces. The neighborhood is both attracted by the green aspect and repulsed by the brewage and the process to produce it."

… gives an outline of the project. "I'm lost in Paris" house is an example of typical 21st century-eco-friendly-reactive-house, project that emanates from R&Sie(n)'s fascinating research on reactive, unfinished, interaction of resident and city (or habitat, or environment). I am impatient to buy my copy to tell more on this project.

Whatever, you will see more and more project, in terms of architecture, and urban design, that will be considered as eco-friendly. Recently, Seoul announced its first ecoville (or ecopolis), or U-City "ubiquitous computing" New Sangdo City, an artifcial island/city that deals with New technologies (computing) and sustainability. Tokyo has just announced a shift into zero-carbon-city up to 2016, etc. Yet many observers do not believe that these city will be specifically eco-friendly, for you cannot deal with these issues as a whole.

None the less, these initiatives, whatever one may think it is fascinating or, in contrary, a delusion, or just a manner to do marketing with sustainability, illustrate efforts for shifting from issues such as sprawl, land waste, etc., into a more respectful attitude to our habitat, i.e., our planet.



Improve your existing building, your lot, your residential area, or what else

The Reburbia Project directed by Inhabitat, and Dwell Magazine, gives me the opportunity to discuss on different points that these proposals deal with. First, let me vote (I've already voted via Reburbia website, but I want to revote just for this blog) again: my favorite, and I assume that it seems not be the favorite of others, is Brian Alessi's project. I will attempt to explain the reasons of my choice. I confess to having hesitated between Entrepreneurbia's and Brian Alessi's proposals, say, respectively "Entrepreneurbia: Rezoning suburbia for sustaining life" and "Regenerative Suburban Median". But I have in fine chosen Brian Alessi's.

Why? Both of these projects address sustainability as key issue: producing city now requires an integration of sustainable issues — housing, infrastructure, sewerage, roads, transport, and so forth. Here this is the question of suburbs that is posed, and in terms of sustainability: sustainable suburbs, sustainable neighborhoods. This project is very interesting as it questions the urban space in its micro-scale: the suburbs, as entity of Metropolis. How to conceive suburbs today, is the question that is currently posed to everyone who works on urban renewal. Reburbia, WAP 2.0 organized by Los Angeles-based City Lab, etc., are among others of projects that function as tool to examine our urban space. Of course, but in a larger scale, 2000s is the decade of urban renewal. Kyoto Protocol has elaborated new issues that will transform cities. Before examining these both proposals, let us list 3 major keys of Cities in the Post-Kyoto context:

  1. Best quality of life
  2. Mixed-use
  3. Density

    > I recommand the reading of Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners/Arup/LSE's report for "Le Grand Pari(s)". But I do not know if a English-version of this report exists.

I will not discuss on Density. I will only focus on the concepts of best quality of life and mixed-use, then I will add another important factor, that of reusing vacant derelict and under utilized lots and existing building.

First, best quality of life and mixed-use now are keys of the Post-Kyoto city. Best quality of life: architecture critique Kira Mariko has noted that physical living condition is an important issue and more significantly, that "people are becoming more conscious of their living environment and are starting to plan their lives accordingly". One, who has the opportunity to have visited suburbs — in France, in America, in United Kingdom or in China —, knows that building and living conditions of these areas, physically as well as socially, are neglected. Both projects, that of Entrepreneurbia and that of Brian Alessi take account of these factors and propose to revitalize these areas. But, this is probably Entrepreneurbia who appears to be the most precise on this issue of best quality of life. Entrepreneurbia calls for abolishing the current zoning that lead to most of the major problems in suburbs — I will add, not only in suburbs but also in Metropolis. I am thinking of Teddy Cruz, one of the most interesting architects of his generation who claims for a revision of zoning. Most of his projects such as Ysidro Pilot Village in collaboration with Casa Familiar, or his research such as Formal/Informal developed with theoretician Mike Davis — they examine the impact the politics of discriminating zoning in San Diego deal with this issue of rezoning. According to Entrepreneurbia, revising zoning laws can permit to improve neighborhoods areas. Most of areas are separated into residential areas and commercial areas, or, residential areas, commercial areas and industrial areas — even though industry tends to disappear, and so are industrial areas. The result of this separation — Entrepreneurbia uses the term "segregation" — is: a lack, if not to say an absence, of build balanced communities, consequently, a major handicap for a residential area dynamic and effective in one hand, and long distance between each activity: living, working, shopping and dining, in the other hand. Entrepreneurbia proposes mixed-use communities as the solution. The issue of mixed-use can be a tool to reduce the environmental footprint of not only suburbs, but also Metropolis. Mixed-use makes suburbs more compact, and, as Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners/Arup/LSE noted, compacity (or this neologism "Compa/city" that I appreciate) appears to be the only sustainable form of development. As the team noticed, mixed-use areas can be a process to attract people who live in crowded metropolis, and still have a negative vision of suburbs due to the long distance between these districts and Metropolis, say, home and workplace, hobbies, etc. Accordingly, it is not surprising that mixed-use is now viewed as THE TOOL to revitalize urban environment. Mixed-use and polyfunctional areas (another tool to promote compact city) promote a better energetic efficiency, and a better social cohesion. Mixed-use creates proximity between home, workplace, hobby, shopping and dining. In this way, mixed-use is now the new spatial factor for best sustainable development — a city such as Tokyo has already integrated this factor but, as urban planning theoretician Andre Sorensen noted, one must be more critical about this tool, particularly in the case of residential and industrial mixed-use areas. The same Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners/Arup/LSE, for Paris, have claimed for rethinking zoning laws but — and this is why I haven't voted for Entrepreneurbia due to the fact they were not precise enough on this point —, by starting with existing zoning.

Entrepreuneurbia: Rezoning the suburbs for a sustanaible future, image © Entrepreneurbia/Reburbia, 2009

The issue of recycling constitutes the other side of Post-Kyoto cities and suburbs. Brian Alessi considers this aspect as one of many keys for a sustainable development of suburbs. I will convoke Interboro Partners' project Improvement Your Lot! to complete this analysis.

> See Interboro Partners' essay, case studies and interview for Verb Boogazine "Crisis", 2008

I was deeply interested in Brian Alessi's concept of "recycling" existing lot, say, these under utilized space, as he wrote. Once again, I will turn to Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners/Arup/LSE's research, that I consider as one of the most powerful tool for regenerating 21st century urban space. Recycling vacant, derelict lot necessitate the elaboration of management tool. Unfortunately, he has not precise this point. But, recycling these lots permit to maximise their potential. By reusing them, these lots will be unvaluable in the future.

Regenerative suburban median, image © Brian Alessi/Reburbia, 2009

This concept of "recycling" vacant, derelict lots as well as existing building in order to improve urban fabrics pose the question of 1. the state of suburbs; 2. the state of top-down urban planning. I will use the concept of "New Suburbanism" that Interboro Partners have developed for their study on Detroit suburbanization to qualify Reburbia. What is it? The New Suburbanism, according to them, is the process of 'bottom-up' suburbanization that "happens when vacant lots having been abandoned by their owners, taken by the city (or state) [here, I add, suburbs] and generally neglected, are taken, borrowed, or bought by entrepreneurial landowners nearby. What results — a de-densification, but also a "replatting" that undermines official property boundaries." My use of "New Suburbanism" is limited to the will of reusing vacant, derelict lot and existing but under utilized building and space. I do not know if Alessi will consider that inhabitants will contribute to this process, but, I found his idea of re-suburbanization as closed to that of Interboro Partners.

Whatever, what I noticed here, and this is the same reflection I had after reading Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners/Arup/LSE's report, and various research such as Tsukamoto Lab, among others, we are shifting from a top-down urban planning to a bottom-up urban planning, say, to a participation — real or not, I still don't know — of inhabitants in the process of revitalization of the community (Even through, Interboro is more critical concerning this opposition of top-down planning and bottom-up planning). Interboro Partners proposed for their project Improve Your Lot! that the planner's role is no longer to create visions of what should be, but rather help a city to improve what is already is.

To conclude, I will add a last but important point: even though I have not voted for Entrepreneurbia, after examining the whole projects, that of Entrepreneurbia, that of Alessi and that of other participants, it seems that Entrepreneurbia and Alessi are the only participants who have taken into account that as societies and cultures change, use of space changes.

Clichy-sous-Bois: Create a mixed neighborhood, image © Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners, 2009


Ruburbia, Inhabitat, Dwell, Rogers, Stirk, Harbour & Partners, Arup and LSE, Interboro Partners, mentioned above, apart:

Kira Mariko (eds.), Toward Totalscape Tokyo, NAI Publishers, 2002

Interboro Partners, "Improve Your Lot! The New Suburbanism", in Verb Crisis, Architecture Boogazine, 2008, Actar Publishers

© Pictures are from Reburbia, Le Grand Paris official website



Arakawa House (Atelier Tekuto)

Arakawa House is the latest Atelier Tekuto/Yamashita Yasuhiro's Houses project. Arakawa House has been built in Arakawa ward, one of Tôkyô 23 special wards. Arakawa-ku is densely crowded ward with an estimated population of 199,321 and a density of about 19,540 inhabitants per km2. The total area is 10,20 km2.

Building in Tôkyô is hard due to the conditions of plots, the high density of residential areas, and other internal problems. Yet, recently, demand for small houses— kyosho jûtaku — increases, in Tokyo. Atelier Tekuto is among others that has developed, for a decade, research on the issue of plots in big Japanese cities. Lots are very expensive compared to the price of a house — house is less important than a lot. Due to inheritance taxes, subdivision of land lots (not only residential lots, but also small-scale commercial lots) increases progressively. Heirs have to pay an inheritance tax so high that they have to sell a portion of their inherited lots in order to pay the tax. Other reason is proposed by Tokyo-based Ishikawa Jun "Once the bubble period ended, land owners thought that the easiest way to sell large properties was by subdividing them into smaller sections." These two factors are among a large number of reasons that explain the increase of is one of tiny plots, and eccentric houses implanted into these microscopic plots. Despite of site conditions, "it is [the architect's] job to satisfy the customer's needs regardless of the site conditions."

Arakawa House is one of these famous small houses that are recently the theme of a large number of publications.

Arakawa House is located in a quiet residential area, just 10-minutes-walking distance from the Yamanote line Nishinippori. The family, composed of 5 members, wanted to build a house in Arakawa ward, a district where they have been living for a while.

The House has been built in a 56.06 square-meter lot. The building itself has a surface of 39.67 square meter.

Due to constraints of urban legislations, Yamashita Yasuharu has to find solutions to take account of the building environment — the relation to adjacent buildings, the relation to the street — and the lot itself. Fors instance, architects must do with the distance — 50 cm — with adjacent houses. The simple volume consists of stories and a terrace, with a total floor area of 104.16 square meters. The terrace of the third storey makes light and ventilation easier to penetrate and circulate in the house. These factors of light and ventilation are imposed by the construction regulation are among these manifolds urban constraint that Tôkyô faces with.

Windows play an important role to make the quality of life of such house easier. Here, rhythmical distribution of large windows (placed in the second story) and small windows appears to be appropriated from neighboring buildings. The large openings seem at odds with the modestly-scaled elevations. One will notice that windows of Japanese small houses resonate with the scale of the cityscape outside. Yet they maintain an intimate scale on the interior.

Building a kyosho jûtaku (small house) necessitates to have a complete mastery of plan and section. According to architect Ishida Toshiaki, "As the scale becomes smaller, considering both plan and section in planning, one must simultaneously develop it in its totality." From this viewpoint, due to the narrow spaces, entire floors of kyosho jûtaku (small house) are limited to one function. Architects must find solution to propose flexible space for many uses. KSA (Kazuyo Sejima Architects), Office for Nishizawa, Atelier Tekuto/Yamashita Yasuharu or else Atelier Bow Wow are among these architecture firms which have a complete mastery of the distribution of interior spaces and functions. Their spaces are never limited to one function: they let the inhabitants decide themselves for the function and the distribution of space.

I am now waiting for more information about the interior spaces. Consequently, this article is not fnished. More information can be found in their website.

© photo by Haruka Otani. Images are found in Atelier Tekuto's website

Atelier Bow Wow, Bow Wow From Post City Bubble, Inax Publishers, 2006

Ishida Toshiaki, Chiba Manabu, Sato Mitsuhiko, "Small. Fragments of a conversation", Japan Architect, n°43, Autumn, 2001, pp.4-5.

Bull Brett, "A small revolution in urban architecture", in Small House Tokyo. How the Japanese Live Well in Small Spaces, Cocoro Books, 2008



What can storytelling bring to architecture and urban planning?

I spent a lot of time, saturday, on finding books and magazines for August. I knew Holidays wouldn't help me. I found nothing, except New Volume issue: the # 20.
This new issue focuses on "Storytelling", "Storytelling" in Crisis time. This is not the first issue which questions the issue of crisis, for those who do not remember: check the issue # 9. A quick remind will give us the direction of this article: The # 9 issue wondered what architecture can do facing with crisis.

Here is the following: examining crisis by "fiction." But let me start with discussing on the concept of "storytelling." For French, what I am, the notion of "storytelling" is quite new, if not "strange." Storytelling is common in America where, to take an simple but logical example (other examples can be chosen such as sport, everyday life), politics is linked with storytelling, as French politics specialists Christian Salmon reports in his essay "Storytelling." In France, it is not. What does "storytelling" mean. In French, storytelling means "conte", "fiction." So, for French, it is hardly impossible to link politics with fiction. It is no sense, in a certain way. But time goes, and society changes. Now, even in France (for many journalists, and thinkers, this new tendency is viewed with horror), it is not "reality" that is important but, "fiction", say: a story that you "create" as a receptacle in which people can inscribe their own story/reality in order… to escape reality. Or, else, to live your life "differently" than in reality. in few word: Fiction permits to forget everyday life problems. Yet, if we follow Christian Salmon's point of view, associated with fields such as politics, news, etc., "storytelling" is used to "format people" in order to alienate. And in this case, "storytelling" is no more "fiction", but a way of managing the world, he writes. Often associated with Storytelling is the emergence of new technologies, and Internet, early 1990s — communication between individuals change — that have transformed, not only politics, news, but also common people everyday life, if not to say lifestyle. This says: our perception of the world has been changed. According to Christian Salmon, Storytelling does not help to accept or to do with crisis. Rather it helps to envision it in a positive way: change is possible.

Now let move from politics to architecture.
I haven't yet finished to read Volume # 20. I only read three essays, that of journalist Nicholas Lemann, that of blogger Geoff Manaugh, and that of Imaginario Constructivo. So the aim of this article is not to review Volume, but to engage a discussion on the concept of "storytelling" as it used in terms of architecture, and urban planning.
Before buying Volume #20 — I usually read editorials before buying a magazine — I've read carrefully Jeffrey Inaba's editorial. Jeffrey Inaba begins to write as follows "Storytelling communicates facts, but it also builds upon real-life accounts to enrich public expectations and elevate beliefs. To these ends, it is worthwhile to get reacquainted with the children's story. Although regarded as a vehicule to escape reality, the children's story, and in particular the fairy tale, could again help to elucidate larger social and political storylines." His viewpoint is not too far from Christian Salmon. Yet, in contrast with Christian Salmon who denounces the fact that the border between reality and fiction is erased, Jeffrey Inaba examines the issue of storytelling as a possibility, or as a "means of understanding our time and constructing a narrative of response". #20 guest editors were invited to consider crisis in these terms — as a strategy to construct a narrative of response.
Architecture, as Inaba writes, is linked with story, as story is the foundation of architectural proposals. In this case, architecture can be a tactictal tool to build the after-crisis city. Do not imagine that guest editors deals with "storytelling" in naive manner. Some, as journalist Nicholas Lemann in his very instructive essay entitled "News Report," invite us to consider "fiction" with indulgence, otherwise: narrative is ok when you view it as a tool among others, and not as The tool, say, the solution, or "The Promised Land" to quote Robert McLeman's title.
Reading the first articles of this issue makes me think of a book I read 4 years ago: Mori Minoru's manifesto "New Tokyo Life Style Think Zone", he edited in 2002. The main aim of this book was to write new "scenario" for a new-Tokyo-as-a-global-city. Different propositions were drawn with precise case studies that could have helped urban planners to draw new urban renewal plans. Destruction of old wooden-built single-detached houses and small and medium-scaled condominiums, in particular those built in tiny plots, as it is usual in Tokyo and Japanese cities, I summarise, seems to be the response to recover city land uses errors and envision a Tokyo more respectful to its inhabitants and its urban environment. This strategy of destruction permit to reuse and transform these tiny plots into a large plot (fitting tiny plot together into a large-scale plot increases FAR) for macro-scale projects (see also Atelier Bow-Wow Tsukamoto Yoshiharu and Almazan Jorge' response "Scrap and build"). To what extent can we speak of "storytelling"? As we know, Fiction is one of the foundation of architectural proposals. Here, using "storytelling" help to make Tokyoites dream a brand new Tokyo. One can consider it as an urban marketting. But whatever: the aim is to offer hope and dream to inhabitants who regularly denounce Tokyo bad urban conditions, and, in extenso, Japanese cities. Otherwise, It, in a certain manner, helps to adhere to the project.

I would like to finish off with this: What If?… Cities, a blog-project, directed by Madrid-based young Architecture firm Ecosistema Urbano. Let's start: What if? … cities can be feed in real time by its inhabitants, say, a city reactive but not proactive.



evolo #1 (New magazine)

A new magazine that I need to find and purchase. I don't have it yet. I was checking Storefront for Art and Architecture and I found this article on a new magazine launch. As I don't have it in my bookcase, and I can't appreciate the content, I quote the article of the Editor-in-Chief Carlo Aiello.

" eVolo #1

by Carlo Aiello, Editor-in-Chief

It is with great pleasure that we introduce you to the premier issue of eVolo. This architecture and design journal was initially conceived in 2004 by a group of graduate students at Columbia University in New York City. Following graduate school, inspired and idealistic, many of us felt the need to reach further and look more closely at ourselves and our specific strengths to figure out what we could uniquely contribute to the field of architecture. Unfortunately entering the work force revealed a scary truth; the world of architecture is a tough place, making little room to accommodate all the unique contributions that so many brilliant young architects were so eager to make. This, specifically, is the inspiration for eVolo; to provide a forum for showcasing the most innovative, the most avant-garde designs that will define architecture in the twenty-first century.

So I introduce to you, eVolo, a work in progress with a clear mission, but no other rules. We have in mind a desire to examine the relationship between architecture and the natural world, architecture and the community, architecture and urban living; but this is an open investigation, welcoming all questions with a willingness to entertain any and all possible answers.

As a part of our mission, in 2006 we created the annual Skyscraper Competition, whereby architects, students, and designers shared their ideas about the future of the skyscraper. The outcome was extraordinary, and in 2008 we published a book with the most innovative projects of the last three years. In September of 2009, there will be an exhibition in New York City to display the brilliance that was uncovered by this competition, brilliance and creativity beyond what we had imagined. Such investment in the work, such innovation, such freedom of thought and expression – we feel confident that there is endless creativity just waiting chance to shine.

So we hope you enjoy the first issue -Housing for the twenty- first century is what we have chosen, and have made it a collaboration between thinkers from diverse fields attempting to understand our current habitation necessities; an exploration of where we are and where are we heading. We start off with the analysis of the economic, social, and architectural causes and consequences of the largest and fastest migration event of human history; the exodus from rural to urban China.

‘Opinion’ is a collection of essays on the broad topic of housing, reaching broadly, from discussions about the use of new technologies, ecology, and global warming, to the transformation of a house into another ‘member’ of a family. This section also includes a reflection on the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and his architectural sensibility to make house and context one single entity. In this section you will also find critiques on some of the most forward-looking housing projects designed by world-class firms such as Steven Holl Architects, Asymptote Architecture, Herzog & de Meuron, Bjarke Ingels Group, and Office for Metropolitan Architecture.

Central to this issue are the winning projects of the 2007 Housing Competition organized by eVolo, which consists of twenty proposals that, through the use of new materials, technology, novel spatial organizations, and combinations of programs, present a glimpse of the possible world to come. You will find examples of underground housing, the regeneration of existing neighborhoods, the exploration of new aesthetics from mathematical algorithms, and the studies of biogenetic materials used for environmentally responsive claddings.

The final section spotlights a young firm of designers known as Nervous System, who are producing an ingenious jewelry line based on patterns of organization in the natural world. Some of their pieces mimic the growth of coral and other branching structures, while other collections are created with the simulation of particle aggregation and diffusion systems.

The first issue of eVolo is the beginning of a long journey, along which we intend to search and discover, unveil and promote, in a collaborative format that welcomes anyone that wishes to take this journey with us.

eVolo- to study, to develop, to evolve, to fly away… "

It sounds interesting, isn't it? I hope my bookstore will get it... The most interesting bookstore on Architecture is the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine one. So let me wait for September. I will check new books and magazines, hoping to find a copy of evolo. evolo magazine




François Roche (R&Sie(n)), Giovanni Corbellini and Alessandro Rocca will publish the book entitled Bioreboot: The Architecture of R&Sie(n). The book will be published by the Princeton Architectural Press. Publication date will be approx. 11/1/2009. It will contains 224 pages, 132 color illustrations and 105 black and white illustrations and will cost $40,00, and £25,00. No euro price is currently available.

New Book review in preparation

This post is just to say that several new book review will be posted : ECE edited by Markus Miessen, and The BLDGBLOG Book, that I just ordered.


Japanese and French Pavilions for Shanghai Expo 2010

Pavilions for the Shanghai Expo 2010 look like, for most of them, wonderful architectural objects. My focus will be on two pavilions, the Japanese one. the main Shanghai Expo 2010 theme is Better city better life. All participants are invited to conceive projects based on this theme. Next article will present the main axis of the French Pavilion.


The theme of Japan is Better life from Japan, otherwise the linkage of technology and the quality of life. Otherwise, technology will play a role that can help humans achieve a more comfortable and confident life. In this shrinkage country — decreasing demography and aging population are two parameters that are taken into account when talking of quality of life. Other aspects are the increasing of tiny plots, this says, tiny houses, pollution and the lack of green spaces and open spaces — Japanese experts believe that After-Kyoto Metropolis will be a Metropolis of technology, ecology, and quality of life. Japanese Pavilion is an illustration of ecological technology, a "huge breathing organism which would express the harmony" between Humans and technology. According to Commissionner general of the Japanese section Tsukamoto Hiroshi, technology can be a tool to a cleaner world and a better life.

As for the concept, three themes have been selected as follows: "Reuse", "Space" and "Pulse". In substance, and as mentioned below, the Pavilion illustrates Japanese ancient reusing philosophy. It will display various space structure seen in Japanese mountains, rivers, streets, houses and garden — the base color of the building is a reddish violet viewed as a natural color that arises from the harmony of red, symbolizing the sun, and blue, symbolizing water —, as well as demonstrate time management methodology that represents the pulsation of Japanese culture.

The choice of the location

The location was previously the site of Jiangnan Shipyard Plant. It is now implanted on the eastern side of the site, boasting 4,000 square-meter in exhibition area. According to the Japan Pavilion official page, the location was three reasons:

  1. Convenient location in close proximity to the entrance gate near the city's main subway line;
  2. demonstration of the Pavilion's environmental-conscious philosophy is feasable through reusing construction;
  3. appealing exhibition potential is available through the immense space consisting of approximately 100,000 square-meter

Building design

Around 2010 edition producer Tsukaiya Taichi, Architects and designers team, composed of Kita Toshiyuki, Nakamura Yûgo, Ban Shigeru, Fujimoto Sô, to quote but a few, challenged the 6 000 square-meter plot to build a 24-meter-high box. The building area is approximately 3,900 square-meter with a total floor area of 7,200 square-meter including semi-enclosed outdoor spaces approximately 8,200 square-meter.

The construction aims to demonstrate Japan's philosophy to recycle resources and will be built with reusable single-pipe structuring. As the for the building structure, it is made of steel frame. One will understand the participation of Ban Shigeru one of the most famous architects who developed for decades a sustainable architectural approach, and Fujimoto Sô who develops also an ecological architecture — nature is in the heart of his philosophy. It combines traditional Japanese knowledge for living in harmony with the environment, such as En no shita (this says: the utility space under verandas) and uchimizu (the sprinkling of water by hands to reduce heat) with the latest environmental control and materials technology.

Other aspect is the building skin. The goal is to make use of natural resources with solar energy collection batteries and a double-layer membrane that can filter sunshine, all part of Japan's vision of, as mentioned above, how technology can improve our lives.

Interior space

The Pavillion articulates 3 floors above ground, this says, past, present and future exhibits. The plan shows the distribution of interior spaces wichi looks like a 3-D canvas. Visitors will experience Chinese elements, this says, Chinese characters and traditional Chinese architectural styles.

The Pavilion will welcome approximately 1800 visitors at the same time. The construction started on February the 27th, 2009.

These different images show the color of the skin, this famous reddish violet.

P.S. : Pictures are from different website



OURS: Methods for Habitat City


I am now reading OURS: Methods for Habitat City. This book has been edited by Mariko Terada (Yokohama Graduate School of Architecture Studio Manager. See also Japan. Towards Totalscape edited by NAI Publishers). Ours: Methods for Habitat consists of essays, case studies, interviews, drawings, graphics, pictures, all written in both English version and Japanese version. OURS is most fully addressed to those who are not new to urban design, architecture, urban planning. The main object of this book is regeneration of and fresh reading of Yokohama city, a city of 3 646 890 inhabitants on 437.38 square kms. As usually, Yokohama City, as all Japanese cities, is densely inhabited with a density of 8 340 inhab./square kms.

Guest participants are mostly of Yokohama Graduate School, a school where Nishizawa Ryue, Kitayama Koh, Yamamoto Riken, to quote but few, teach. Apart these participants, Tsukamoto Yoshiharu/Atelier Bow-Wow, also foreigner architects such as Felix Claus and Mark Michaeli, share their approach of designing 21st century cities.

I regularly go to Tokyo, the city that I work on (I do research on Tokyo urban form, and I am currently interested in residential and commersidential areas) but, I curiously never go far from Kawasaki, a new town between Tokyo and Yokohama, and Kamakura, also between Tokyo and Yokohama. As I am planning a study on Tokyo's residential areas, and I need to go to Tokyo for this vast project, I will go and visit Yokohama. As I have not yet finished reading it, I will only present some of these texts and projects.

I just read Fujiwara Teppei (Teppei Fujiwara in western way of reading and writing names) entitled Towards the Half Natural Landform, Half Built City: Yokohama Atlas. Fujiwara Teppei microtopography and landscape of this city. He draws Yokohama's history, and explores its famous places, urban patterns. For instance Tobe (Nishi Ward), residential areas that have sprawled here as though following the contour lines of the gently hilly landforms. One of the aspect of this residential area is that follows the contour lines, which seem almost like the fine lines in a miniature painting. According to Fujiwara Teppei, Tobe Residential area's clusters of structures on a humans scale, adhering to small changes in the landforms, create an environment that is delightfully rich in changes of line of sight. There is a clear geometrical distinction between the main roads crossing the area and the smaller roads within it that seems to protect the territory of this rich residential environment. A kind of typical landscape very common that you can find not only in Yokohama, Tokyo, or other towns in Kanto, but also in Kansai, and other Japanese areas. Pictures give you an outline of these landscapes, in which you see these highly-densed residential areas, and these rôji (Japanese typical small road).

Yamamoto Riken is interviewed on the concept of "habitat city". He calls for a declaration of Habitat City, that is a city for quality of life of inhabitants and environment. Japanese cities has been designed not as a city to live in but a city for speculation, for business, that is an economic space. The result is a desorganized city that calls to be reorganised. Yamamoto Riken says that "we have not yet found the principle of 'city', nor the space for inhabitants who should be the masters of these cities". For him, and for most of these architects, reorganisation of city can be done by starting with existing patterns: existing building, vacant plots (even those that are irregular, and with constraints), existing infrastructure. New challenges must be taken into account such as: demographic changes characterised by population shrinkage, dwindling birthrate, and aging population. Besides population shrinkage, environmental problems and the inevitable danger of earthquake are also key-patterns that should be taken for granted. But this leads to many questions that need to be posed such as: "How does a residence relate with others? What kinds of community systems are possible? What is the position of the old and the children in a city? Do we have any methods to reconstruct a city as a place for residing?" Another question that Yamamoto Riken has not posed, but a question that needs to be posed as well: "what to do with the vast number of housing lots that have already been subdivided? Because these pictures of Yokohama residential areas all show single-detached houses built on small plots, in one hand, and, Japanese cities face with a considerable increase of the number of tiny plots, a bad zoning, etc., etc., Yamamoto Riken's studio presents 12 keywords for the idea of new cities and habitat cities. If you don't read Japanese, you will be limited to the title of these propositions. 1. Global warming gas: After-Kyoto cities must find solution to control global warming gas. And I include that this will have impact on buildings. 2. Residential unit/Pattern of assembly. Yamamoto Riken calls for an area based of mixed use of functions. Residential and office can cohabited in an area. This idea is not new for, one can find it in all urban renewal of international cities (for instance Grand-Paris rapport written by Rogers Agency also calls for a mixed use of functions), and also 3. Traffic (roads must be improved to control car traffic, but despite of expanding car traffic (car ownership is relatively increased), car is not the most relevant characteristics of mode of transport in Japanese cities, Train is still the most favorite and efficient mode of transport, this explains why roads are less developed than railroads; 4. Energy ; 5. Disaster Prevention ; 6. Aging/Fewer children; 7. Helper; 8. Security; 9. Public facility; 10. Expenses of management and others; 11. Natural environment; 12. Garbage.

Other propositions are made by Kitayama Koh's Kitayama studio that focuses on environemntal unit of urban city. Nishizawa Ryue is interviewed two times. His first interview deals with his vision of the place of city design in his architectural approach. Nishizawa doesn't use the word 'city', because it must be approached on acts of experimental design. This is, according to him, imagination that produces architecture and city. Imagination extends to the hole of urban lufen from furniture, accessories and interors to buildings, streets, the city and the environment. In the second interview, he presents his activities within the framework of Y-GSA teaching. With his students, he analyses urban patterns. Main two themes are developed at Nishizawa Studio : 1. Make an environment — think about architecture and the city at the same time That is to examine and analyse existing urban problems, environmental problems and community problems targeting the main areas of Yokohama, and envisage urban and architectural suggestions for them. What is the necessary environment for our rich urban life; 2. What should the New Architecture be? That is What is the value of this new era and its new architecture? Can we gave it form? These are the main issues that he debates with his students. One of my favourite projects that this book contains, is Nishizawa studio's project entitled "Site Trace". This project investigates the transition of the 'site', based onto 4 main factors: Site Condition, Site Scale, Layout and Use. Degree of urbanism, topography, subdivision process, historical periods, transition of the site scale, macro plan and social background, typology of layout, type of the building use…, are among themes that are explored. As I mentioned above, I have not finished to read this book yet, because it is full of information I need for my own research on Japanese cities. Even though some projects have not been translated into English, I warmly recommand to get this book.

Ours: Methods for Habitat City
Edited by Y-GSA
INAX Publishers
240 pages

Pageviews last month