Monday, 4 November 2013

Tomohiko Yamanashi, architect

On the 17th of February, 2012, I went to the offices of Nikken Sekkei, a major architectural firm, in downtown Tokyo to interview Tomohiko Yamanashi, the main architect of the Hoki Museum for an article I was writing for Architecture Week. The interview took place in a windowless meeting room and lasted around 75 minutes. Mr. Yamanashi spoke English throughout. Here are the first 54 minutes of the interview.

CBL: Hello.

TY: Hello. Nice to meet you.

CBL: Nice to meet you.

TY: Maybe this size is better for you. [exchange of business cards]

CBL: Oh, thank you. This is my magazine in Japan that I write for, em, but this article that I'm writing is about, erm, is for Architecture Week, which is an American-based on-line magazine.

TY: I see, I see, thank you very much. Anyway I should say thank you very much for having an interest in our work.

CBL: Oh, very interesting. Yes.

TY: Maybe this side is better to communicate. If I sit there...

CBL: Oh. sure, yes, fine, yes. Just move that there. [moves recording equipment]

TY: Anyway, I'm sure, I'm not... I don't have enough English command to communicate, so if you speak slowly maybe I can understand.

CBL: Well, I think we'll manage one way of the other.

TY: Oh, OK.

CBL: Oh, by the way, this is, em, let's see, oh, almost two years ago now. I did an article, a brief article about the museum so I thought I could present that to you. [presents Yamanashi with an old copy of Metropolis magazine]

TY: Thank you very much.

CBL: And this is also about the art as well. Not just the building, but the art, because of course, the two are equally important.

TY: Aha, yeh, when we start to design we thought he's a collector of a super realistic art but also our work is one of the his collection, because this start to, started to design this building, we designed Mr. Hoki's headquarters, his building, and that one, our first time to get together, and in the process of designing the headquarters he started to be like us and so when he announced his reso... resignation from his position – he was the chairman of the Hoki medical, but his, he plan to retire, so that time we had a meeting and as a kind of joke I said why don't you make your own museum or something because you had a lot of super-realistic paintings. Also, it's a kind of little bit different from the ordinary so-called, so-called art, because, as you know recently, all the people think about only abstract art exhibited in the museum is the real art...

CBL: Yeh.

TY: And this kind of art ordinary people dislike and also...

CBL: Well, yeh, critics and curators don't really favour it. They don't like, but the ordinary people seem to like it very much...

TY: Yeh, Mr. Hoki said so, always so.

CBL: Yeh, em, now, eh, that's a very interesting point though because the art is quite traditional and people would say old-fashioned...

TY: That's right.

CBL: That's why the curators don't like it. They want always something new and dangerous (cough* cough*). Eh, but the museum building itself is very, very futuristic and innovative...

TY: Yes

CBL: And so it's very avant-garde.

TY: Thank you very much.

CBL: So there's this contrast between the art and the building. Was... Is that on purpose?

TY: Uhu, yeh, um, when I, uh, yeh, anyway I talked to him, why don't you make the realistic paintings edifice halls, such kind of painting, and he said it's a good idea. After two months he called me and "I decide to build such kind of museum" and we talk about that, but, for me, as you say, it's a very... It looks very old fashioned art, but when I heard his idea very carefully I realized if we looking very carefully we realize the technique or something. All the people when people see this kind of painting at a glance they say it's like a photograph.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: But if it's a photograph people cannot attracted but if you look at it very carefully, you realize it done by hand.

CBL: Yes, you can...

TY: So, and you start to realize the pigment itself, very well-controlled pigment, but if we see the modern art we realize also it's not an illusion it's a kind of combination of a pigment and such kind of materials so if you look this kind of picture very carefully you realize the same kind of thing happening on the canvas.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: So once I realize...

CBL: (Cough*) Excuse me...

TY: ...that aspect, we make a very well coordinated museum for this kind of painting. Maybe people can start to realize the, ah, this kind of painting has some aspect of the very modern sense.

CBL: So, in a way you're trying to stop people looking at it like "Oh! It's a photograph"?

TY: Yes, first, at a glance it's a very normal way to see this kind of painting.

CBL: But you want to take them beyond that point?

TY: That's right. If we make the very abstract space - no light, no joint, so similar space without shadow, if we succeed to make that kind of space, maybe people can concentrate on the canvas.

CBL: Aha!

TY: At a glance they look at only the illusion, but next few minutes they start to realize, um, existence of the pigment.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: At that point those work change into the very modern artwork.

CBL: So, if you try to make a very traditional building...

TY: Uhu. CBL: ...that would interfere with this process of... It's a kind of abstraction of the mind because you're taking the picture outside of the museum. The museum is stepping back...

TY: Uhuhm.

CBL: ...and the, just the viewer and the picture.

TY: Yeh.

CBL: So you're trying to emphasize that close connection?

TY: That's right.

CBL: So, so it's very important for the architecture not to be showy...

TY: That's right, that's right, as you say.

CBL: ...not to have neoclassical columns and pediments.

TY: Usually this kind of art appears in a very classic and decorative situation. In those case people cannot realize the real 'art' aspect of this kind of thing, but if you put, as you say... or if we succeed to erase the architecture itself maybe people will realize real aspect, the real artistic aspect of this kind of painting, so that's why I try to erase all the architectural things like join...

CBL: OK, let's look at that in a bit more detail because of course Architecture Week is read by lots of architects.

TY: Yes, that's right.

CBL: And they're very interested in the details.

TY: Yes, the details. That's right.

CBL: So very detailed.

TY: Yes, that’s right.

CBL: Can you talk about the different ways your try to erase the architecture?

TY: OK, OK. First of all. I thought to erase the joint is very important, because all the architecture element usually have a joint, because we cannot make a continuous real space, but if you look at a ship it is a very continuous thing.

CBL: Uhu.

TY: Because it's made by steel, parts, melted and jointed and you can't it... Maybe you can make a very continuous space.

CBL: Yes, on a ship a joint's a very weak point.

TY: Yes.

CBL: Yeh, so you have to... If you can avoid joints then you can create strength, yeh?

TY: So if we use same kind of technique, aarh, if we succeed to make the architecture itself like a tube maybe we can erase the joint. That was the first idea. Then we asked the ship manufacturer, "You can make? If you can make the architecture or not," and some ship makers accept that idea. So that was first idea and next, usually when we install the picture or something there appear the strings from the ceiling to the paintings.

CBL: Umhu.

TY: And I want to erase that kind of thing also because it's very, ahm, subjective, so I want to erase all the things we can call a name. I mean if you... This is book [indicates a book], but if we make this thing very attractive it's very difficult to call it book or something so I want to try, try erase all the things inside architecture. First is joint, next is I don't know to say in English, a string from the ceiling to the picture to support the position of the...

CBL: Yeh, suspension wire.

TY: Suspension wire, that's right. And so to erase those kind of things I used a magnet.

CBL: Uh?

TY: Magnet.

CBL: Magnet? Aha, yes.

TY: Behind picture those all the pictures inside the museum have a magnet...

CBL: Uhu.

TY: ...and directly it stick to the wall because the wall is made by steel panel.

CBL: Aha.

TY: So we succeed to erase the, suspend...

CBL: Suspension wires.

TY: Suspension wires, and next we start to think about the lighting. Usually if you go to the museum you can see the very, very large lightings. Before the fore, people of the museum and for architects, to architects, those kind of things look very normal, because to show up the painter, the painting itself, is very important for those kind of people, but if you go to the museum, maybe ordinary people realize the existence of light at first. It's not abstract. It's a very real thing.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: If the lightings appear on the ceiling in this museum it disturbs the very sensitive feeling of this kind of picture, so I try to erase that.

CBL: Well, that enhances the kind of realism aspect as well because when you see the light shining then you know the painter is not creating the light but when the light source is invisible then the light seems to come from the painting more.

TY: Yeh.

CBL: So, it's actually working in favour of realism, so, which is a little bit different from the other idea that you mentioned, which is when you look closely at the painting there's a kind of element of, eh, more abstract or essence of painting, y'see? So there's two different things happening maybe.

TY: Yes, that's right, so, as you say, the light, not the light gadget, I want to say the light.

CBL: The light itself.

TY: Yes, the light itself. It's very important to light up the picture itself, but the existence of the gadget of the light, I mean the casing of the light, is needless.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: So I try to make the light only light itself. So I use the LED light, but the ordinary engineer and, um, people around this kind of art say LED is not suitable for lighting up the paintings itself, because, I don't know how to say in English, if we use the LED light the LED light has a very narrow ahhh...

CBL: wavelength?

TY: frequency.

CBL: Uhu.

TY: So, when we see a picture lighted up with a LED, it not looks, um, bright and unnatural, so usually people dislike to use the LED light to light up the real paintings, but I had some idea because now we have many, many, many kinds of LED chips. Each chips has each characters. I mean the very limited frequency of the light.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: But if we, we multi-lighting or if we use the LED very so many LED to light up only one picture...

CBL: So, you can broaden the spectrum of light?

TY: that's right that's right, so, uh, if you see the lighting system of the Hoki Museum you will realize that each lighting dot has a different colour a little bit.

CBL: Uhuh.

TY: So it means that we equipped with the two kinds of LED tips to widen the spectrum of the LED

CBL: (Cough*) So the lighting is located in the ceiling?

TY: Yes, that's right.

CBL: Let's have a quick look then. (Cough*)

[Yamanashi opens his lap-top computer]

TY: Just a moment. Maybe it's a very... [mumbles]. Just a moment. Oh no, I... Yeh, for example so...

CBL: Oh yeh, I remember now cos I...

TY: We have very small holes.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: Inside holes we install a very small lighting. Just a moment.

[brings up images on the computer]

TY: Yeh, like this kind of thing. Like the eyeball, you can control the position of the light very easily.

CBL: SO, there's a switch to, to control that in the control room?

TY: That's right, because LED light has a characteristic point. It... The light of the LED is very narrow so when we light up the very large scale paintings we have to equip 10 or 20 LED lights, but...

CBL: As much as... As many as 20 lights on one painting?

TY: Yes, that's right. Usually, um, curators and museums they think pictures should be light up homogeneously because each... For those kind of people each part of the picture has each brightness, uh, same brightness, but I ask the painter, this kind of painter. They say they want to express the light, when they want to express the light they use a pigment named "white" but it's not real white. It's a very, very bright grey, so, but always painters think about how we can express the real light with the greyish things.

CBL: Yes (cough*). Sorry.

TY: And at the same time, if you see the dark shadow part they say we want to make the real dark, but only one we can use is pigment named "black" but it is not black. It is a dark, dark grey.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: So, wide range of the spectrum is very limited, but if we use this kind of light, painter can gather the light on the highlight part.

CBL: Aha, yes.

TY: So white, very bright grey thing will change the light like a co...

CBL: So it makes the paintings look even better, even more real?

TY: That's right! That's right! It's a very important concept. When I started to design this lighting system I thought what we have to do is erase the existence of the light, light casing itself, but during talking with painters I realized painters want the light, uh, new light to express their own idea so... and I added a very adjustable gadget on it.

CBL: Yes.

TY: So, if you put like a laser pointer on light and you can point at which part you want to gather the light or which part you want to get rid of the light.

CBL: Yes.

TY: And we... Each, each... When we said the each paintings we talked with the painters how...

CBL: "How do you want your painting to look?"

TY: That's right. That's right. And we, all, control each light, twenty lights on each painting, so finally we can attain the real lighting conditions for the painters, so that is, I think, very brand new system.

CBL: Uhu, yeh.

TY: Also, each light has different...

CBL: (Cough*) Excuse me.

TY: ...different spectrum, so, when you see the picture, it looks very natural, and we compared with the, uh, legacy lighting system and this new kind of lighting system in front of the painters, and all the painters accept this new idea, so that's why we decide to use this...

CBL: So, it's an extension of the painter's palette?

TY: Yes, that's right!

CBL: Basically, yeh.

TY: It's very important because...

CBL: And also the way that the lights are set in the ceiling. That's also painterly.

TY: (laughs)

CBL: You see, it's, it's, it's like a painter: dib, dib, dib, dib, dib...

TY: That's right, yeh. To decide...

CBL: Quite irregular pattern...

TY: Yeh, that's right. Yeh, I want... I should explain then, yeh, when we designed this building we used a very brand new design system called BIM, Building Information Model.

CBL: Uhu.

TY: Usually when we design architectural theme, usually we use a two-dimensional drawings, but if you imagine... Maybe you can easily understand we... What we have to make is a three-dimensional, but the drawing is a two dimensional. Always there is some conflict or misunderstand or something, but, in our case, we made the three-dimensional model in the virtual space, in the computer first, and next we change it into the two-dimensional drawings, so our drawings are always accurate, and also we can make many many computer simulation, for example, uh, this, ahhh, this museum, not only LED light. We use the natural light also. But as you know to control the natural light it is very difficult, so we made many, many simulations, computer simulations, and we decide the wide of the windows.

CBL: Yes

TY: And finally, ah, we did it and the... Maybe you realize even in the daytime there are lot of light but you can see each painting very clearly. Maybe ten years or more old ages architect, architects, for them, they don't, they didn't have this kind of techniques, so only instinct they decide the height of the window. But, for us, we can control this kind of simulation beforehand, so we decided the height of the window according to this kind of simulation.

CBL: Uhu.

TY: So we decided very accurately.

CBL: Now the... Yeh, but the light changes throughout the day. Em, how do you deal with that?

TY: Because, um, with this kind of simulation software, can control how the human being can see the light, so it, it automatically adjusted. In daylight, daytime there are rich light but as far as we gather natural light, much natural light our eye becomes smaller so we can automatically control so in this simulation we estimate our control of the eye itself, so, uh, usually the most easy way is to control the light itself but when we think about the human beings nature itself deeply we don't need to do that because if you go to the very old gallery like a Vatican City or something, those gallery has a light and a window, a very legacy system but it is very controlled by the curtain or something.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: By year they change the position of the curtain or something.

CBL: So, if you had a very, very sunny day with a lot of light coming in, eh, the, eh, people's eyes would adjust?

TY: Yes.

CBL: But the museum itself doesn't adjust?

TY: Doesn't adjust.

CBL: The windows don't adjust? That allows that to happen, and the same thing, if it's a very dark, gloomy day...

TY: Yeh.

CBL: ...then the eye will compensate?

TY: That’s right, That’s right, so...

CBL: So you just allow nature to take its course?

TY: If we think about that kind of the range maybe we don't need to control the light itself, but if we make the window too wide we cannot control. It exceeds our control, so we think about that. We deeply study about that.

CBL: OK, so the dimensions of the window are related to the capabilities of the eye to adjust...

TY: That's right! That's right!

CBL: fluctuations in light.

TY: That's right! That's right!

CBL: So, the window kind of, em, moderates the extremes?

TY: That's right.

CBL: Aha!

TY: And we talk about the setting of the light itself. Just a moment maybe we have...

[brings up images on his computer]

CBL: Yeh. I think, em...

TY: Yeh. Because of when we put the light very systematically, it looks start to strange. It mean, I want to say, ah, if we are light, set the light in ceiling serially maybe we can see, start to see the pattern and we start to realize the existence of the light.

CBL: Yes.

TY: So I want to set the light like the Milky Way, so to set those kind of things I also use the computer because inside these steel pipes there is a beams or something.

CBL: Umh.

TY: So, and we decide the position of the lighting...

CBL: Based on where the beams are?

TY: Based on the beams and the ahhh...

CBL: Usually, yeh?

TY: Yeh. But usually without computer we decide the position of the light very systematically. In that case...

CBL: Mechanically?

TY: Mechanically. That's right! That's right! And the pattern start to appear. But we use the computer and we add some fluctuations of the pattern and it start to be like, like a Milky Way.

CBL: Mmh.

TY: For me it's very important. For example like this. Little bit changed shifted.

CBL: Yes, again, so that's to help erase architecture. A lot of people might think it's a nice aesthetic touch.

TY: Ha ha! I see! I see! It's a very interesting, but it's very interesting from the viewpoint of the manufacturing, because once in old days, because if you changed the position of the light, every position of the light, it means it becomes high price, because we have to ask the manufacturer to change each lighting position or something, but as you know, as you say, as I say, we decide each position of the lighting with using the computer. It means we have a... When we decide the position of the lighting, we also have the very rigid coordinate of a each lighting and if we hand it to the manufacturer, they use the computer too to just make the hole. It is, I don't know how to say in English, but turret punching system.

CBL: Turret punching system, yeh, yes, aha.

TY: It, it... That kind of machine is controlled by computer, so we decide the digit position of the light, and if we make those kind of data in a digital way, if we pass it them, they can automatically make it.

CBL: That's right. So, as long as everybody knows beforehand, it's, it's not so expensive to do.

TY: That's right. That's right. And also the price decide on the number of the hole, not the position of the hole, so maybe ten years before it was very difficult but now it's very convenient to use and also it's a very reasonable price, so we decide this kind of system to decide the position of the lighting.

[brings up another picture on the computer]

CBL: Now, in this picture here...

TY: Uhu.

CBL: have the lighting on the ceiling, and you have the window under the painting. This is something that probably, y'know, surprises people to find the window under the painting.

TY: Yes, yes, yes.

CBL: Can you tell me a little bit about why you decided to design it like that?

TY: I see, I see. Because, um, as already realized all the space inside this museum is like a tube gallery style, but the dimensional of the sections is different. If you go deeper the larger the size of the gallery.

CBL: Uhu.

TY: And if you go deeper, the size of the window becomes small, and it means you can feel the very [lacuna] sunlight if you go to the deeper inside.

CBL: So, there's three levels isn't there?

TY: That's right. That's right. So, in first...

CBL: Could I just ask you about the size dimensions of the three levels?

TY: Yeh, I... Actually I didn't remember exactly, but the first one, the height is 3 by 4 [meters], and the next is 3.5 by 5, and the third is about 3.8 by 6 or something.

CBL: Aha, roughly.

TY: So, gradually it become wider, so relatively human beings become smaller.

CBL: Umhu.

TY: So, in first gallery if you [lacuna], if you in the, uh, space with the natural light you can see the more, more details of the architecture itself and maybe the natural light makes you very comfortable relax image. Usually this kind of paintings is very relaxable, so people start to see those paintings very relaxed mood, and maybe people will talk about in front of the paintings in first gallery. Next the space is a little bit wider, natural light becomes smaller. They start to concentrate on the pictures. Next space more bigger and natural light is almost nothing and the final gallery our scene becomes a dark space. People concentrate on the picture only, so, in the process of walking through this, ahhh, museum, first, people, all the people is very relaxed mood and should start to see the paintings and gradually they start to walk through the galleries people start to concentrate on the painting itself, and finally he's deep into the picture.

CBL: So, it's a gradual process?

TY: That's right.

CBL: And there's a process of increasing architectural erasure.

TY: That's right. That's right. That's... It's very important because if you go to the natural, very modern art museum, in first stage you start to feel some, uhhh, some very constraining feeling because, uh, every time I went to, I go to the very famous museum. In first... From the first step I have to feel that I'm in a very...

CBL: Great architecture?

TY: Great architecture – wow!

CBL: Are you talking about the National Art Centre in Roppongi?

TY: Yes, yes, wow! In that case we lose a very sensitive, but in this gallery, in the first gallery they look the paintings like the home or something very relaxed mood, and gradually they start to concentrate on the paintings, so, and, ah, the quality of the paintings little bit change according to this system, so in final position artwork is become a... Yes, first gallery normal paintings, but if you go to the... This is second one [gallery]. It's all still very normal and, and, and the natural light is very limit. In the final gallery very limited.

CBL: Oh yeh, down the stairs, yeh.

TY: And things will be changed. People start to concentrate the picture itself. It's the aim of Mr. Hoki. In this museum, there is no curator, but Mr. Hoki himself is the curator. All the location of the paintings decided by him, and when, when we started this museum, he had the origin, original allocation of the paintings and I ask why you decide this kind of thing. Usually in this kind of museum curator categorize the painting.

CBL: Oh yeh, like baroque or neoclassical.

TY: That's right That's right, but he mixed all the things. He has the one story. First is the very relaxed mood and gradually he try to make the constraining images, so...

CBL: So, his curatorial principle is based on changes in human psychological reaction.

TY: That's right. That's right. That's right.

CBL: Yes.

TY: So every people or every... Most of the guests who come here is a very normal people. For them it's a just art. So at first glance they accept this kind of paintings as a very normal art, but gradually waking inside this museum he decide to, he start to realize the existence of the pigment and the...

CBL: Details, the essence?

TY: Yeh, those kind of things.

CBL: The deeper qualities of the painting?

TY: That’s right.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: To deeper understanding of this kind of picture is main aim of Mr. Hoki, so he decide...

CBL: He's trying to recreate his own process, I think.

TY: That's right. That's right.

CBL: Yeh, cos that's how he, probably, as an individual, y'know, reacts to paintings.

TY: That's right.

CBL: When he comes home from some business and then he, y'know, sees some paintings at home and then he gets deeper and deeper into the painting.

TY: That's right.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: It's like a simulation of his life, or his relation between he and paintings, because, as you say, when he started to buy, he just chose the paintings as a very, very normal way, but after seeing many, many pictures, he decides he realize the existence of pigment, and next he become more deeper understanding of the picture itself, so he decide to, ahh, show this kind of thing to the guests of the museum, so he want to make the very serial coordination of the painters.

CBL: So, that's why the basic overall structure of the building is a very linear...

TY: That's right.

CBL: ....pattern, so that people can follow this, em, this one narrative, this psychological narrative?

TY: That's right. That's right. That's right. That's why we decide this museum and why the reason the final room is black, because inside this room people concentrate very much on the picture, and maybe you realize in first gallery many people talking about something, but next gallery people start to be quiet, and final gallery no one speaks.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: It's our aim.

CBL: I see, yeh, cos, y'know, normally a museum, it's, it’s... An art museum, it's based on the (cough*), it's loosely based on the, the idea of a place or a large house, where you have interconnected rooms...

TY: That's right.

CBL: ...and that creates a pattern where people tend to wander a little bit aimlessly from room to room, and of course a lot of museums in Japan they kind of, em, prefer to have a route.

TY: Yes.

CBL: But the route is superimposed on this traditional museum plan, so you have all the rooms but "please go this way," "please go this way," "finish," y'know, like that, and so this museum it's sort of, em, really streamlines the progress of people through the museum.

TY: Yes, without thinking.

CBL: Yes.

TY: Briefly, if you... The deeper you go, the deeper you absorbed in the pictures.

CBL: Yeh. One problem with the design I have to say...

TY: Uhu.

CBL:'s difficult to go back.

TY: Yes, that's right. That's right. That's right. Maybe next time I have to solve that problem.

CBL: Definitely. It's something to think about. Yeh.

TY: Yeh.

CBL: Em, now, also I guess the other thing is the, em, well, I mean, the... On one hand you're trying to erase architecture but on the other hand you're also trying to extol or exalt architecture and there are certain elements which are quite impressive to look at. I mean there's the cantilevered end...

TY: Yes, That's right.

CBL: ...which is floating there. That's obviously has a big impact. Em, and also I think, em, the view from above, the museum viewed from above, there's a kind of symbolism isn't there?

TY: Um, it's very difficult. When I started to design this museum, I started to think from the inside, so first I decide the very seamless gallery. It's very suitable for this museum. And next deciding to use the gallery's style I think about the outside - elevation or something. Usually architect try to put in bold space and strong vista or something as an architectural amusement or...

CBL: Yeh.

TY: But this time the picture is very so delicate. If I install such kind of architectural amusement inside at this museum, it appeared too much and it disturbed the sensitiveness of the painters so I tried to erase those kind of things.

CBL: In the museum?

TY: In the museum, but outside the museum...

CBL: Outside the museum it's a different story.

TY: Yeh, but all the private museum has the same kind of problem. They cannot get enough guests, enough visitor, so outside should be attractive. Beside this museum there is a very rich forest. To that forest there are so many visitors in a year. Maybe more than, ahh, 300,000 people over a year or something, so... But if we put a very normal museum then maybe no one realize that so it's beside of the road to the park of the museum, no forest itself, so people will go through. There are so many people go through besides the road, so if we make the attractive museum maybe part of the visitor will come to this museum, so I decided to make the attractive outside, but only what we should use is the gallery. So, from outside, the only one you can see is the gallery. No other architectural element.

CBL: So, there's nothing just added on to...

TY: Just to...

CBL: ...grab attention? Everything is part of the functional structure?

TY: That's right. That's right. It's a very not functional cantilever, but we, what we use is a very reasonable functional gallery only.

CBL: Yes, the thing that's cantilevered is not unnecessary.

TY: Ah, yeh. Maybe, if you think about the from the viewpoint of the outside view, it is needless, but, as I told you, we had to make the gallery with the steel pipe. It has enough strength like make a cantilever very easily. That's why. Yeh, some architects will erase that kind of thing, but for me architecture itself has enough strength to make the cantilever.

CBL: Uhu.

TY: So, you know the Torii? The Japanese old structure?

CBL: Oh, yes.

TY: This has that kind of system. Usually when you make the building, columns and beams... In this case, column become like this. At the same time beams like... [draws sagging cross sections]

CBL: They bend and...

TY: So, to stop that we have to make the column strong enough. But in torii case [sketches a torii, a traditional Japanese gate structure], this part and this part is vast, so there is no, ah, power to the horizonal way, only the vertical power.

CBL: So, everything's channelled down the vertical so you don't get this sagging with the beam?

TY: So this case, Hoki museum is a steel strong tube, and under there is another tube.

CBL: Yes.

TY: If you, um, lay the arcs... Always arcs contact with the two points, and now Hoki museum is like that. Only two point, and if you see this kind, side, it like this. So if you make a cantilever we can make a good balance and we can try to erase the horizontal power.

CBL: Aha!

TY: That's why we make that kind of the attractive cantilever.

CBL: So, it's a kind of elegant and economic solution...

TY: That's right.

CBL: ...rather than a showy solution?

TY: Yeh.

CBL: Yeh.

TY: So, without any attractive architectural element, like a void space or strong vista or something, we can make the very attractive architecture only with using the, um, tubes, galleries.

CBL: Well, you mention tubes a lot, and there is such a thing as Tubism which is a kind of architectural movement. I think, Toyo Ito is very interested in Tubism. Eh, is there... Can you tell me about some of the influences that have gone into this design and what kind of architecture has influenced you personally?

TY: I see. Um, usually I designed, um, office or something, so all the time I have to be a very, ahhm, functional. Basically I want to say my design's not influenced by a very famous architect, but if you see the very daily product like a chair or like this kind of thing [indicates a pen]. Those kind of thing is very well designed from the viewpoint if the functional - functionalism. So I, I think it looks very impressive volume, but for me it's a very functional so my mentor of the designer is those kind of product designers mainly.

CBL: So, functionalism if it's done elegantly it's very beautiful?

TY: Yes, that's right.

CBL: You don't need to worry about adding aesthetic elements.

TY: So, if you see the architectural world, all the functionalist functional designer is very square, not interesting, but if you see these kind of product design world, functional design can attract the people's eye so I'm very influenced with, aw, aw, product designers.

CBL: So the kind of possibilities that these product designers had are now being transferred into architecture because of some, certain advances in, y'know, computer design and materials?

TY: That's right.

CBL: Now, also, you mentioned that, em, the building was constructed by a ship maker.

TY: Yes.

CBL: Which company was that?

TY: Ahh, I forget the name of the company, um, I'm sorry. It's located in Chiba or something.

CBL: Don't worry I can maybe email you later for that...

TY: Yes, yes, yeh.

CBL: ...cos I'll probably have to email you about images as well, because Architecture Week...

TY: Now, this... Now they open eye so now they start to make another architecture things.

CBL: Yes, because Architecture Week is also interested in lots of plans and design materials and things like that so I'll probably have to ask you to send me lots of...

TY: Yeh.

CBL: Now another point about the elegant design, because when I went there I was very impressed by the elegance of the design.

TY: Oh, thank you very much.

CBL: And, um, probably, even though I wasn't conscious of it, I was probably impressed by the fact that it was all done with very functional elements, y'know. Em, now if you look at the design from above, it also seems to resemble a lens.

TY: Lens?

CBL: Like a lens in a camera or in the eye.

TY: Ah, I see. Oh this is my first time to have a mention like that.

CBL: Really, cos, cos I thought it was very obvious and there must be an intent behind that.

TY: Oh it's very real simple – actually the site is like this.

CBL: Uhuh.

TY: Site, the shape of the site. Maybe I should show you. Just a moment. Just a moment. This is a wider so more convenient... Just a moment.

[looks for image of site plan on computer]

Recently I designed a new research and development centre of the Sony, so that's why I use Sony's computer.

CBL: Aha, you have to use a Sony.

TY: Yeh, that's right. It's very important. Just a moment. Yeh, site is like this.

CBL: Slightly curved, kind of long site.

TY: In first day, I and other three architects talk about how we put the basic volume. One people say we have to follow the shape of the site like this.

CBL: Umh.

TY: But I said, this side there is a forest so if we make this kind of shape, we can enjoy only the forest sight itself, because behind this facility there are a lot of the normal housing units.

CBL: Yeh, normal kind of...

TY: Yeh, basically, we try to get rid of those kind scenery.

CBL: Erase them!

TY: Yeh, that's right. So we talked about this, should we this should we...? Which is better? And finally we realized if we put like this, we can this two columns and all the things can support only two points, and if we make this too with the steel panel we can attain the very smooth continuous seamless space very easily, so these kind of, during these kind of things, talking we decided the shape itself, so it's not a lens. It comes from the shape of the land or the shape of the environment.

CBL: Aha, I see, well that's, um... I'm surprised. It's a much simpler explanation than mine.

TY: All the shape have, all the thing have a meaning and a functional reason but, but we add some instinct or something.

CBL: It's interesting that when you pursue an objective in a very kind of pure way...

TY: Yes. CBL: ...with a very, y'know, simple objective, you sometimes, eh, unwittingly create other kind of symbolism like this, because you're focused on the land, but at the same time, without realizing it, you're creating a symbolic lens shape...

TY: I see.

CBL: ...which is very appropriate because it's all about light and looking and perception and so... Yeh. And also with the houses, the normal kind of typical suburban sprawl, you've... How did you deal with that? I think there's a wall isn't there?

TY: Ah yeh. It's a very difficult point, but this is the very, the view of the very first stage when we started the design. Mr Hoki said... He's originally born in Tokyo, but he 10 years, 10 or maybe 15 years ago he decide to move to the Toke. Toke is a...

[he writes down the town's name in Chinese characters]

Toke is... If you use the Chinese characters like this. It means soil. This means air.

CBL: Soil and air, Uhu.

TY: Very architectural name.

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