Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Architecture | Japan’s Unmodern Architects

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Sou Fujimoto, House NA, Tokyo, 2007 > 11
Image © Iwan Baan



A Japanese Constellation:
Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond
Museum of Modern Art
NYC | USA
13 March > 04 July 2016



Toyo Ito, Tod’s Omotesando Building, Tokyo, 2002 > 04
Image © Nacása & Partners Inc



Perhaps the Museum of Modern Art should consider temporarily altering its title. For the duration of this forthcoming contemporary Japanese architecture exhibition, Museum of Unmodern Art – or even Unmodern Architecture – might be more appropriate.

If modernity is about simplification, clarity and the stripping away of ambiguity, the work of Toyo Ito, SANAA (Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates), and the younger generation of Japanese architects who all share a similar philosophy doesn’t conform to this ideal. While at first glance the overall whiteness of their architecture might provide a reminder of rationalist perfection, it is soon apparent that here, humanism has been playfully nudged aside for the sake of humanity.

When Toyo Ito (b 1941) was still at school in the 1950s, the world had been boiling over with all manner of individuals and movements, not only in art, design and architecture, but also in the performing arts and in literature, all seeking a new way forward. By now the spatialist ideas formulated by Lucio Fontana in Milan during the previous decade, had been mixed in and melded with those of the Zero artists, who took light and space as their palette and exerted a global influence. At around about the same time, Gutai, the first radical, post-war artistic group in Japan became established. Emphasising the relationships between body, matter, time, and space, through conceptual, performance and painting, stressing freedom of expression, Gutai challenged the prevailing notions of art itself. Published in 1963, Niikuni Seiichi’s Zero-on, long considered the best individual collection of Japanese concrete poetry – in which the meaning or effect is conveyed partly or wholly by visual means – focussed avant garde ideas that had been around since the 1930s. It’s not surprising then that Ito and his peers, graduating from Tokyo University’s Department of Architecture in 1965, would draw upon this heady mix of influences to create a new kind of architecture.

Ito, established his first office in Tokyo, Urban Robot (Urbot), in 1971 – renamed Toyo Ito & Associates in 1979 – and won his first architecture award for his Silver Hut in 1986. Designed to function as his own home it was nevertheless an expression of his desire to create architecture that ‘felt like air and wind’. Ito has become one of the world’s leading architects and has received dozens of prestigious awards, including the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Attacking strict adhesion to rationalism, he has described how the system of the grid was established in the twentieth century, but that while its global popularity allowed a huge amount of architecture to be built in a short period of time, it made the world’s cities homogenous, making the people living and working in them homogenous too. By modifying the grid, as in such projects as his critically-acclaimed Sendai Mediatheque, one of the most identifiable characteristics of which is its structural columns, comparable in shape to large trees in a forest, rising up through the layers of the almost transparent building, Ito says that he attempts to find ways of bringing buildings closer to their surroundings and the natural environment.

SANAA, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art,
Kanazawa, Japan, 1999 > 2004
Image © SANAA



Gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones described the 2009 reflective aluminium Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London by SANAA, as ’strange and gorgeous’. Representing a later generation of Japanese architectural practices, SANAA was founded in 1995 by Kazuyo Sejima (b 1956) – who had served an apprenticeship under Ito – and Ryue Nishizawa (b 1966), and won the Pritzker Prize – two years before Toyo Ito was awarded his – in 2010.

Echoing Ito’s unmodern sentiments, the architects themselves have referred to their Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne (2010), where the building’s library, restaurant, exhibition areas, offices, etc are differentiated by undulations of a continuous floor, which rises and falls to accommodate the different uses, while allowing vistas across this internal spaces as a ‘landscape for people.’ In line with their belief that buildings should never lose the natural and meaningful connection with their surroundings, SANAA have recently completed a sinuous concrete, steel, wood and glass walkway that winds across the landscape of a nature reserve in Connecticut.

Akihisa Hirata, Showroom H Masuya,
Niigata, Japan, 2006 > 07

Image © Nacása & Partners Inc



Akihisa Hirata, Foam Form (Project),
Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 2011

Image © Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office
and Kuramochi + Oguma



Junya Ishigami, Kanagawa Institute of Technology
Workshop, Kanagawa, Japan, 2005 > 08

Image © Junya.Ishigami + Associates



Currently ranked among the hottest architectural practices in the world, with a string of much talked about projects behind them, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, in Sydney, and the Louvre Lens, and many more – such as the new national gallery in Budapest’s City Park, won against fierce competition from Norway’s Snøhetta architects – in the pipeline, the company is enjoying exponential success.

A Japanese Constellation: Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond at the Museum of Modern Art offers a retrospective of recent works by three generations of internationally acclaimed designers, including Sou Fujimoto, Akihisa Hirata, and Junya Ishigami.

All images courtesy the Museum of Modern Art


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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Home | Not Living Alone

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Villa van Vijven, Almere,
The Netherlands, 2008,
by NEXT architects
Photo Iwan Baan



Daheim – Bauen und Wohnen in Gemeinschaft /
At Home – Building and Living in Communities
DAM Deutsches Architekturmuseum
Frankfurt am Main | Germany
12 September > 28 February 2016



BIGYard, Berlin, Germany, 2010,
by Zanderroth Architekten
+ Herrburg Landschaftsarchitekten
Photo Michael Feser



For those who are middle-aged and beyond, the new buildings of the world’s 21st century cities closely resemble, and may even exceed, the promise of those portrayed in the futuristic drawings in the science fiction comics of our youth. New housing, however, in many suburban areas of the UK and in towns and villages, more stylistically homogenous than ever before, while aspiring to deliver a reassuring message to the masses that nothing in the lifestyle and tastes of the average Brit has changed, misrepresent reality. Due, not least, to the reconfiguration of our lives as a result of technological advancement, climate change and the need to conserve natural resources, global living patterns are slowly but surely altering.

Since 1980, when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government passed legislation making implementation of their Right to Buy policy possible – for the first time, allowing council house tenants to purchase their previously rented homes – Englishmen and English women have commonly believed it is their right to own the property in which they live, and very often these are houses, as opposed to apartments.

Studio building,
Yokohama, Japan, 2009,
by
ondesign & partner
Photo Koichi Torimura

The Roof Top, Vienna, Austria,
2012, by
PPAG architects GmbH
Photo Roland Krauss



In 2004, the last time the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s figures were updated, Spain at 83% had the largest number of owner-occupiers in the world, with Ireland at 81% coming in a close second. The UK was 6th on the list following Mexico, Greece and Belgium. Australia, the USA and Canada all scored fairly high. At the other end of the scale, Germany, at only 41% ranked among the lowest in the developed world for homeownership, with only the Swiss buying less. Germans, it would seem, aren’t interested in buying a home, and prefer to rent. There are specific reasons why this should be so – suffice to say that, in fairly quick succession, during the first half of the 20th century, the country went through two ruinous wars, in which hundreds of thousands, if not millions of homes were obliterated, later to be replaced by privately-owned apartment buildings, and that the government does not offer any tax cuts to homebuyers. According to the OECD, more than 93% of German respondents said they were satisfied with their current housing situation, which for the vast majority means apartment living in rented accommodation.

Nevertheless, there is evidence that the trend is beginning to change in Germany, across the rest of Europe, and elsewhere in the world, toward resident-owned community living in purpose-built, or reconditioned property.

Meanwhile, in the UK, house prices have risen so steeply that young people can no longer afford to buy them, so they rent. But, because the demand for rental properties far outstrips their availability, rents have risen to unprecedented levels, forcing many to search for alternative ways to live. In the past, community living here was seen as something quirky, for those wishing to lead an ‘alternative’ lifestyle, and we have a talent for sneering at our compatriots who choose to depart from the norm. Housing projects like Bowden House Community, near Torquay in Devon, earnestly describing themselves as, ‘A group of families and individuals aspiring to compassionate and eco-mindful living’ were previously dismissed as ‘hippies’. The UK co-housing Network, however, is growing steadily and now lists over fifty such projects, including Coflats Stroud, which, ‘partly inspired by the 1930’s Isokon Building in Hampstead’, albeit sounding rather retro, is at least more in tune with contemporary tastes.

Spreefeld, Berlin, 2014,
by
ArGE Carpaneto + FAT Köhl
+ BAR Architekten + The co-workers

Photo Ute Zscharnt

Hillside Housing Complex,
Kaltern, Italy, 2010,
by
feld72 Architekten
Photo Hertha Hurnaus



To discover what forms of the cooperative housing phenomenon are taking shape, and what role architecture is playing in this context, At Home – Building and Living in Communities, opening next week at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt, examines 26 case studies, taking in co-op and housing association building projects in countries such as Germany, Spain, Austria, Italy and even Japan.

The different concepts for the diverse projects included can be seen as responses to the needs of those who live and work in diverse locations. Through their involvement and contributions made during the genesis of each project, innovative, custom-made solutions are developed that are geared directly to the owner / residents’ requirements and desires. The idea of living in individual apartments, and often under one roof, nurturing neighbourly relations and friendship, as well as sharing space and social responsibility, reflects living concepts that are capable of combining traditional as well as modern living models.

All images courtesy Deutsches Architekturmuseum, © the photographers


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The Blogs publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Interview | Philippe Garner on Aram on Kuramata

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Solaris, 1977
Set of drawers. Original production by Ishimaru Co Ltd.
Painted wood
with metal base in anodised aluminium.
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000



Mouth to Mouth Interview
Philippe Garner, Christie’s International Head of 20th Century
Decorative Art & Design interviews owner / manager of
the Aram Store, London, UK – established in 1964 –
Zeev Aram OBE




Born in Israel and having relocated to London in 1957 to study design, Zeev Aram opened an office and retail showroom in London’s King’s Road in 1964. It was the first in the UK to sell the work of iconic modern designers including Achille Castiglioni, Marcel Breuer, and Le Corbusier. Aram also holds the worldwide licence for Eileen Gray. Mostly gathered by him in 1981 on the occasion of the first exhibition dedicated to the Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata in Europe, the 19 pieces in the forthcoming sale at Christie’s in Paris come from Aram’s personal collection, where they have remained for more than 30 years

Philippe Garner | This packing list of the Shiro Kuramata pieces shipped from Tokyo to London in 1981 for your exhibition reminds me of how many years ago it was that you connected with him. How did you meet him?

Zeev Aram | I was introduced by a mutual friend, the architect John Pawson, who had been working in Japan. I met Kuramata when he came to London in 1980. Then I went to see him in Tokyo; we spent four days together. He was a wonderful host. We went to Kyoto and all over the place. And I chose whatever we should show; the exhibition was the result.

Was that his first showing in Europe?

Yes.

And what sort of exposure had he already had in Japan?

Quite good but not enormous. People like Isozaki and Issey Miyake – the guys at the top of fashion, design, and architecture – knew of him because he was really exceptional, the way he designed things, especially interiors, the most fantastic interiors, which was unusual. On my visit to Tokyo, we went to a small, perfect sashimi bar he had created. It could only accommodate a very small number of people. It was so pure, a wonderful space.

Kuramata was received there like a God – in the nicest possible way. It was the same in Kyoto, because they don’t give private rooms so easily to people in these very old inns, with the Geishas serving you. So he was known, but within a certain community.

So it was within a relatively small, informed circle. He wasn’t a commercial success at that stage.

No, the bigger recognition came later. I have an invitation to his exhibition at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in 1996, fifteen years after my show.

So was your exhibition the most extensive exhibition of furniture that he had put on at that stage?

Abroad, certainly. It was anyway the first substantial one.


OBA-Q lamps, 1972
Set of drawers. Original production by Ishimaru Co Ltd.
Painted wood
with metal base in anodised aluminium.
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000

Furniture in irregular forms, side 1, 1970
Set of drawers. Original production by Aoshima Shoten Co Ltd.
Painted birch, Formica and aluminium, mounted on casters
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000


You have kept for over thirty years the majority of the pieces that you showed in 1981. Was it because you found no takers, and would you have staged it anyway, for the furniture’s sake, if you had realised it would not be a commercial success?

Was it a commercial exercise? In a roundabout way, like my initial interest in Eileen Gray. I took my chance, and I said I like it and if I like it, hopefully some people will like it. We re-ordered some pieces from Japan, but I knew that I could not produce these models. I rely on manufacturers and because of the complication of his designs I knew it would be horrendously expensive. Anyway, to give a short answer, my prime interest was in his designs and his products; we sold some, but by no means a significant quantity.

Did you then make the conscious decision that, having tried, enjoyed the experience, realised it wasn’t the right commercial moment, you were just going to put the collection out of sight?

Well, what also happened, unfortunately, is that he died. He died quite young, in 1991. He wrote me the most wonderful letter in 1988 – by then he allowed himself to call me Zeev; before that it was always ‘Dear Mr Aram’ He wrote, ‘In the oriental expression, you dug a well for me. I’m very grateful for your kind collaboration. The exhibition triggered a new book, with an essay by Ettore Sotsass. Interesting. My exhibition was well received.

So you had a good critical response. I love the reference here, ‘On show at Aram Designs is a collection of furniture… in the middle of the great Anglo-Japanese love affair which has been consuming London,’ The Architectural Review, September 1981. Do you have any particular favourites among the collection?

He had a period when he was obsessed with drawers. Then he produced the 49-drawer cabinet and I said, ‘This one is very odd.’ I could see the mathematical progression, because the diagonal is made of squares that change proportion sideways. And he said, ‘That’s the only way I could solve it to make it attractive. Every time we face drawers we decide what to put where, but in this instance the drawer also has a say, because if I want to put in a shirt here, I can’t, but if I want to put the pants, I can put, you know? So the size matters.’ So I say, ‘OK it’s very, very Zen and interesting,’ and we laughed.

But that was a period when he was really obsessed, literally obsessed with containers, drawers, and how we live our life in them. You put things [in them] from your own momentary intimacy, which are sometimes left there for years and it becomes a memory bank, a part of your biography. And we are not doing it consciously. We are just putting things in there and forgetting them.

So he invites the drawers themselves to play a part in the process?

Yes.

Can you recall other interesting comments that he made?

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this – I said, ‘Listen, the Japanese are so well known for joinery joints because of all the houses and beams so beautifully pieced together, almost like a puzzle, and they just put the peg in and the whole thing is held together, so how come the furniture, especially the drawers, [are] made in such an unusual way?’ And he said, ‘What do you mean, unusual?’ And I replied, ‘Well, we don’t do drawers like this, with nails and so on.’ And he asked, ‘Oh, how do you do it? At the exhibition opening, he was accompanied by three gentlemen, and they were the managing directors or the owners of the glassworks, the joinery, and the metalwork companies, respectively. And they came out of respect for him. In the evening when we prepared the layout, each of them had an apron on; they put them on over their beautiful suits, and they were handling the furniture. I said ‘My God, if these were Italians they would be stood a mile away.’ So he said, ‘Do me a favour; please see Mr Aoshima tomorrow.’ And I said ‘OK, “OK, but I’m not a joiner.’ And so we had this quick session the next day, when I went and showed him [Aoshima] how you use dovetails – he didn’t know what a dovetail was – though once I showed him he understood. Or secret dovetails, where you don’t show the ends. When it came to modern furniture they kept absolutely to the design but the details of manufacturing went back almost to model-making.

So what was visible was impeccable?

Perfect.

But I think the story is worth telling, because that’s what distinguishes your pieces from the later production pieces.

Yes, then of course there were the pieces produced by Cappellini, which people I suppose should know. The licensing to Cappellini came later, from 1987, but I don’t think Cappellini is doing it anymore.

Tell me about the 1985 ‘Homage to Hoffman’ chair

It’s very simple, the story is very simple. He considered Thonet to be one of the initiators of modern design and he knew that Joseph Hoffman designed the famous armchair for them. Not the coffee-house chair Model 14, which was the famous model, but this one. So he said, ‘Well, how can I somehow involve the spirit of Hoffman, pay homage to him, and at the same time tell everyone that this was the beginning of the beginning?’ So he took an original Thonet chair, wired it up and he set light to it. He incinerated it. Then he just polished it [the wire], that’s all.. And what remains is the wire, and just a trace of the original.

Where did this happen, where was the event?

In Japan. Also he says that only Issey Miyake and I have this chair. There are only two because he doesn’t want to produce any more.

So presumably, because they’re wrapped in wire in a very spontaneous way, the two chairs will not be identical?

No, they couldn’t be.

So the chair was an artistic happening, a conceptual event.

Let me tell you a story about the wiggle form of the tall drawer cabinet. Apparently Isozaki had two made. And Shiro went to visit him and saw that Isozaki put them symmetrically against the wall, not near the wall but with drawers facing the wall, not facing into the room. And he asked Isozaki why they were facing the wall, did he not want to use the drawers? Isozaki said, ‘Because I want to experience the shape going around it.’ Such a Japanese expression! Just to go around it to experience the shape. Because it was two different shapes, if you go this way or that way.

Had he made a mirror pair?

No, two of the same.

I love Solaris; on those long legs it looks like an alien spaceship that has landed.

Yes, or like an oil-drill platform.

It’s wonderfully illustrative of the over-riding importance to Kuramata of the imaginative, metaphorical, and philosophical dimension of his creations.

Exactly. It was those qualities that made his designs so attractive to me all those years ago; and they have lost nothing of their exceptional character. Shiro Kuramata was a unique figure and I am very, very fortunate to have known and worked with him.


This is an edited version of an interview of 8th January, 2014, published in full in the catalogue Christie’s Design sale, Shiro Kuramata: Collection Zeev Aram, on 20th May, 2014, at their showroom in Paris, France. The pieces can be viewed there until May 20th

All furniture designed by Shiro Kuramata (1934 > 1991)
All images © Christie’s Images Limited 2014



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Books | The Op-Art of the Invisible

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Singular Point


Poemotion 2
Takahiro Kurashima
Designed by Takahiro Kurashima
Lars Müller Publishers / 2013
64 pp / 30 images / hardback
170 x 230 mm / 6 3/4 x 9 ins
ISBN 978-3-03778-351-1
English text

Red Square


When this beautiful, finely-crafted little book arrived we thought ‘Yes, isn’t it nice,’ but we’ve been looking at op-art since Josef Albers started playing around with it at the Bauhaus, closely followed by Victor Vasarely. In the 1960s and 70s Bridget Riley’s mind-bending compositions made us woozy and weak at the knees. So what’s so special about these images?

Covers of Poemotion 1 and Poemotion 2


Had we seen Japanese advertising art director Takahiro Kurashima’s black and white bestselling Poemotion 1, prequal to the all colour Poemotion 2, we would immediately have realised that something was missing. As it happened, the all important sheet of etched black film – required to make the images interactive – that must be laid over the graphic abstract patterns to create the moiré effects that set them wildly spinning and vibrating, was accidently left out of the package.

Untitled

Penrose Triangle


For all its small proportions and lightness of touch, the concept of Poemotion 2 is based in philosophy. Kurashima quotes Galileo, who in 1623 wrote: ‘The universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language. The letters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word.’ The design of the book is both minimal and warm, which makes it feel very much of the moment, but Kurashima was strongly influenced by Hans Knuckel and Jurg Nanni’s Seesaw (1994), also produced by Swiss masters of the modern book, Lars Müller Publishers, which he says taught him about the sense of invisibility.

All images © 2014 Takahiro Kurashima & Lars Müller Publishers


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Architecture | Future Spaces

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Merisiers School Group | Mantes-la-Ville | France
‘What identity should be given
to the
school
to reveal the identities that compose it?’
Architect: Vincent Parreira




Stories of Spaces for the Future
Villa Noailles | Montée Noailles | Hyères | France
16th February > 23rd March 2014

Architecture, design and education go hand in hand. My elder brother, who began his education in a single-sex, red brick Victorian building, took me to start mine in the adjacent, brand new, single-storey, detached, mixed-sex infants block, with brand new light-coloured wooden furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on a playing field surrounded by tall trees. On sunny days, my class and I would enjoy lessons sitting outside on the grass in a semi-circle around the teacher. When my family re-located to another provincial, northern city, I was taught in a simple, pre-fabricated wooden hut, which wasn’t new but for me infinitely preferable, to the main – again – old red brick block my brother was put into, in which the windows were so high it was impossible to look out. While in winter the older children had to suffer clunking and rattling radiators that – when they were working – only heated the person sitting beside them, we had a large wood-burning stove that gave out heat so efficiently that none of us were ever cold. I looked forward to going to school there, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun. All the same, next door, down a grass-covered hill, set at an angle, with playing fields all around sat a completely new modern infants’ school that was affiliated to another religious denomination. I would climb up and hang on the metal grill fencing that surrounded it – meant to keep us out in my mind, rather than them in – watching the comings and goings with envy in my young boy eyes.

When I progressed to senior school, the school had just been built. It was modern, clean, warm in winter, cool in summer, with wide corridors, and large well-lit classrooms that had big windows, with unblemished beech wood desks, and large, innovative blackboards that, rather than standing on easels, like those I was used to, were on rollers and set into the wall. I liked the atmosphere. I felt comfortable there. Pupils of the school tended to do well.

My elder brother went to another senior school then into a trade. Like many of my peers, I elected to go into further education – this meant, however, spending a foundation year in a miserable, converted Victorian red brick school, every room of which the beery fumes from a nearby brewery permeated. Then I struck lucky once more, becoming one of the first year students in a brand new, purpose-built building on a new university campus. Afterwards, going to London to do a master’s degree at The Royal College of Art, I found myself in scruffy graphics department studios, alongside the equally, or perhaps more scruffy fine art and printmaking studios, housed in a rear red-brick annexe of the Victoria & Albert Museum. Luckily for me, however, the course was so loosely structured that I was able to spend much of my time in the inspiringly modern Darwin building on Kensington Gore, with its leafy quadrangle, light and airy library, open-plan refectory and the cool Art Bar, where students and staff from every department interacted and intermingled.

Maria Grazia Cutuli Primary School | Herat | Afghanistan
‘It came out of the blind cruelty of war but offers a vision of peace’
Architects: 2A+P/A, IaN+, maO/emmeazero

Fuji Preschool | Tokyo | Japan
‘A place for observation, experimentation, where they [the children]
acquire confidence in their abilities and manage their daily life
Architects: Tezuka Architects

Makoko Floating School | Lagos | Nigeria
‘A reflection on how to respond to the living conditions
in this territory of 100,000 inhabitants who live on the water’

Architects: Kunlé Adeyami Nlé Architects



Stories of Spaces for the Future, a new exhibition at the Villa Noailles, explores the concept that designing schools equates to ‘founding tomorrow’. It looks at how, by encouraging children to discover, experiment and imagine, each one can be offered the possibility of constructing themselves. Taking as its premise that education was first established as a uniform and carefully calibrated system that took place in standardised buildings, it describes how in recent decades it has changed to allow each child to be himself, to lead him into the outside world in order to encounter and interact with others.

The organisers have selected four teams of architects from France, Japan, Africa and Afghanistan, all of whom have been involved in creating innovative schools, and examines their work under the headings: Schools of desire, Schools of enchantment, Schools of openness, Schools of the possible, in terms of the benefits that can be gained from re-imagined educational environments.


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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Design | Japanese Posters in Situ

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Mitsuo Katsui
Air – I’m here,
1993



Japanese Poster Artists
– Cherry Blossom and Asceticism
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Zürich | Switzerland
12 February > 25 May 2014

One of my most treasured books is Japanese Graphic Design by Richard S Thornton (Laurence King Publishing, 1991). Delving deep into the country’s complex cultural history and traditions, it puts the entire subject – of which Japanese poster design is an extremely important ingredient – into clear historical perspective. But graphic works shown in books are one thing: seeing them, and especially posters – which ideally should to be viewed at full size to be properly appreciated – is an entirely different and sometimes surprising experience.

Having looked at some of them on the the Designboom website, on a recent trip into central London I made a wide detour to take in the OSPAAAL (Organisation in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia and Latin America) Posters Show of Cuban posters at the Kemistry Gallery, near Old Street, which specialises in graphic design-related exhibitions, and which I hadn’t previously visited. Entering, I found myself in a space not much larger than a double garage, albeit with a higher ceiling. I had expected the bold, colourful, politically-charged designs to hit me like a series of sledgehammers, but, equally-spaced on three walls, all in the same odd, elongated vertical format, the diminutive framed posters sang out like brilliant stained glass windows in a small side chapel, their power uncompromised by their compact dimensions. I had thought that perhaps, at the time of their production, paper was in short supply in Cuba, however the small poster format derives from their being folded magazine inserts in Tricontinental, OSPAAAL’s quarterly publication. The experience taught me something about the importance of context and strengthened my view that making the effort to see posters (and all art) in the flesh, rather than simply evaluating them at reduced size in books, magazines or on internet sites (as here), is infinitely more rewarding. As Ernest Hemingway wrote ‘it’s very hard to get anything true on anything you haven’t seen yourself’.

Shigeo Fukuda
Victory 1945, 1975

Draft Co Ltd
Une nana cool, 2002

Ken Miki / Shigeyuki Sakaida
Snow – Hokusetu Snow Mountain, c 2002


Dedicated poster museums are few and far between. There isn’t one in the UK. There’s the London Transport Underground collection at the London Transport Museum, and the collection at the V&A. (A poster which I designed with Phil Carter in 1979 for the RCA Automotive Design degree show is amongst this collection, but, for whatever reason, and despite my enquiries, no image is available on the museum’s website).

Abroad, it’s better. In New York City, you can visit Postermuseum.com – an actual gallery, as opposed to the virtual one the name suggests – established in Manhattan in 1973, which with 100,000 unique posters from 1870 to the present, claims to be the largest vintage poster gallery in the world. The Dutch Poster Museum at Hoorn, in the Netherlands, opened in 2003 and has around four different exhibitions per year. Founded in 1968, in 1999 the Musée de l’Affiche, renamed Musée de la Publicité, with a collection of 50,000 posters, was installed in permanent exhibition rooms designed by Jean Nouvel at Les Arts Décoratifs, rue de Rivoli, Paris. The Wilanów Poster Museum, a branch of the National Museum, is the world’s oldest, and hosts the Warsaw Poster Biennale, established in 1966. (Another of my posters, designed in 1977 for The New Contemporaries Exhibition at London’s ICA was accepted for the 1978 Biennale). There’s also the Ogaki Poster Museum in Japan, and the collection at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, in Zürich, Switzerland, where the forthcoming show happens to be Japanese Poster Artists – Cherry Blossom and Asceticism. Here, contemporary posters and works by three ‘old masters’, Shigeo Fukuda, Kazumasa Nagai and Ikko Tanaka – all of whom feature in the aforementioned Richard S Thornton book – plus work by the renowned Tadanori Yokoo are amongst the 300 examples on show, covering the period from 1950 to the present.

Tadanori Yokoo
Japanese Culture
– The Fifty Post-War Years
1945-1995
, 1995


Rikako Nagashima
Be noisy. Laforet, 2012


The selected period is particularly apposite. While early Japanese posters were contiguous with traditional wood-block prints and were often hand-painted on paper, once lithography was introduced, posters in Japan began to resemble or mimic those of Europe and America. And when modernism swept though the country and took hold in most areas of design, commercial poster designers followed suit. However, when the rubble was cleared after World War II, a re-evaluation was made of traditional Japanese design principles. This was especially apparent in relation to poster design, where the commercial aspects began to be toned down, and the medium became the domain of artists. These printmakers, fused modern reproduction processes with Japanese craft techiques, and an intuitive sense of composition, to produce iconic printed creations that have earned their place in galleries.

I also own a copy of the book 100 Posters of Tadanori Yokoo by Koichi Tanikawa (Big O Publishing, 1978) which has an introduction by US design legend Milton Glaser. Its format is just under A3 (297 x 420 mm), which means that although Yokoo’s posters, typically 728 x 103 mm, were far bigger, at least one gets some feeling of their scale.

Japan – Nippon, with 122 pages and 120 illustrations, a preface by Bettina Richter, and an essay by Kiyonori Muroga is published with German and English text by the much-respected Lars Müller Publishers at CHF 35 / £24.00 / $40, to accompany the Museum für Gestaltung’s exhibition. It will undoubtably be a beautifully presented book, but the miniscule 165 x 24 mm format will demand a considerable feat of imagination from anyone who does not visit the exhibition, to understand how the posters were intended to be seen.

All posters courtesy Museum für Gestaltung Zürich Poster Collection


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Design | Gio Ponti: Surface & Light

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Giving Warmth to The Building’s Skin
– The World of Gio Ponti, Father of Modern Italian Design
Inax Museums (Lixil Group), Tokoname, Japan
Until 18th March, 2014

A now-famous photograph of Gio Ponti’s super-light Superleggera chair, held up in the air with a single finger by a female model, appeared in a 1952 edition of Domus magazine. The chair itself (second exhibition picture, below) and the way it was presented can be seen as symbolic of Ponti’s pursuit of the light and the slim in his design and architecture.

Earlier in his career, from 1923 to 1930, Gio Ponti (1891-1979) had worked at ceramics company Manifattura Ceramica Richard Ginori, in Milan and Sesto Fiorentino, where his life-long obsession with the interior and exterior skin of buildings was kindled. Under his strong influence the entire output of the company would dramatically change.

To communicate texture and character, seeking to add a tactile quality to his buildings, Ponti incorporated both handcrafted and machine-made ceramics. Torafu Architects, designers of the current exhibition, Giving Warmth to The Building’s Skin – The World of Gio Ponti, Father of Modern Italian Design, at Inax Museums in pottery town, Tokaname, Japan, created a framework that gives an illusion of floating volumes, allowing for a sense of lightness, reflecting Ponti’s original aesthetic.

In the show, many of Ponti’s sketches and architectural drawings appear alongside items of his furniture, and, so that visitors can better experience his architectural style – with the full support of the Gio Ponti Archives (Milan) – Inax have reproduced many actual tiles to Ponti’s authentic designs.

Photos
Top: Balcony balustrade and decorative
floor tiles at the Gio Ponti-designed
Hotel Parco Dei Principi, Sorrento, Italy
©Pedro Silmon

Exhibition images: Daici Ano
Original sketch by Gio Ponti
©Gio Ponti Archives

Bottom: Gio Ponti-designed upholstered
version of the Superleggera chair
at the Hotel Parco Dei Principi
©Pedro Silmon

Exhibition images: Daici Ano

Original sketch by Gio Ponti
©Gio Ponti Archives


Exhibition curated by Kaoru Tashiro
Design: Torafu Architects
Sponsored by Lixil Corporation in special
cooperation with the Gio Ponti Archives



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Architecture | Design | Objects des Architects

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Arts Décoratifs du XXe siècle & Design Contemporain
Sotheby’s
Paris, France
Exhibition: 22nd, 23rd, 24th & 26th November, 2012
Sale: 27th November, 2012

If it isn’t a contradiction in terms, the phenomenon of modern architects creating furniture, and sometimes decorative items, for use in the buildings they design and elsewhere might well be termed a ‘tradition’. And the importance of this tradition is confirmed in the upcoming Arts Décoratifs du XXe siècle & Design Contemporain sale at Sotheby’s, Paris, which features items by, among others, Le Corbusier (with Pierre Jeanneret), Gio Ponti and Tadao Ando: architects whose work overlapped in a time span stretching from early 20th century modernism, through mid-century modern to whatever label we’re currently attaching to 21st century contemporary.

Sir Norman Foster, and Foster and Partners, responsible for many of the world’s key buildings of the last 30 years have designed sofas, lamps, bookcases, door handles and even sanitary ware for a range of clients, including Knoll, Molteni & Co, Acerbis and Nomos. There’s even a Gherkin lamp available from Kundalini. If modernism hadn’t already caught up with the future, Zaha Hadid’s and Amanda Levete’s respective oeuvres might still be referred to as futuristic. Zaha Hadid ArchitectsZ-Scape Furniture, designed in 2000 and produced by Sawaya & Moroni, is an ensemble of lounge furniture, whose forms derive from geology, glaciers and natural erosion but the company has also created equally-arresting and sculptural vases, lamps and tables. At Future Systems and currently, at AL_A, Levete has produced sinuous benches for Established & Sons and, in collaboration with Phillips, lighting, notably the Edge light. Always keen to control every aspects of the furnishing of his interiors, John Pawson, too, has had several of his spare furniture pieces produced by Driade. Common amongst all of the products created by these architects is quality design and a high degree of craftsmanship.

The fine, glazed earthenware Classical Conversation/’L'architetto’ bowl included in the Sotheby’s sale was produced by him around 1924, just one year after Gio Ponti began his career as an architect, during a period when he was influenced by and associated with the Milanese, neo-classical Novecento Italiano movement. Ponti would go on to become one of his country’s most important 20th century modernist architects, industrial designers, artists and publishers – he founded and was twice editor of Domus magazine. Building offices for Fiat during the war years, the attention attracted by his Pirellone/Pirelli Tower (completed, 1960), in Milan, earned him worldwide fame and international commissions, including the Denver Art Museum, 1971. His renowned furniture designs for Cassina include the 1957 Superleggerra/Superlight chair, and he produced lights for, among others, Artemide and Fontana Arte.

Le Corbusier – still probably the most famous architect in the world, and certainly of the 20th century, his array of built work too vast and familiar to list here – and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret’s wood and partially grey lacquered free-standing cabinet, was made in 1927, having been designed for The Poplars/Maison Guiette residence. Built by the practice in Antwerp, the house is an early and classic example of the International Style. Having been joined by Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Jeanneret presented their new concepts in furniture design at the 1929 Paris Salone d’Automne. That same year, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whom Le Corbusier had probably met, along with Walter Gropius during a sojourn in Berlin, created the Barcelona chair for his avant garde German pavilion at the Barcelona Exposition. Although only two Barcelona chairs were made for the exposition, the design was put into production and became so popular that, with the exception of a sixteen-year period, it has been continuously manufactured. Earlier, In 1908, Le Corbusier had studied architecture under Joseph Hoffman in Vienna – himself an architect who loved to design furniture – and would have been familiar with Hoffman’s designs, based famously on the square, and particularly the Kubus chair, 1910, which was almost certainly an influence on his and his co-designers’ very cubic Grand Confort armchair, albeit the construction is entirely different. Centre-piece of the Salone d’Automne show, the famous design was reissued by Cassina in 1965. The company makes some fourteen other Le Corbusier furniture items, including the equally familiar LC4 chaise longue and LC6 dining table.

In a kind of reversal of the process, in 1924, furniture-maker, Gerrit Rietveld built the Rietveld Schröder house and filled it with objects he designed. When Eileen Gray, famous for her sumptuous Art Deco lacquered screens suddenly became a modernist convert, she built her exquisitely modern home, Villa E1027, designing for it radical, but equally luxurious pieces that required production by skilled craftsmen. Her Bibendum chair, originally created for the the rue de lota apartment in Paris, in 1925, lay largely forgotten until an original re-surfaced in a 1972 auction, which prompted a new production of the design classic. Eero Saarinen, studied sculpture in Paris and architecture at Yale before working on furniture design with Norman Bel Geddes and practicing architecture with his father, Eliel. His furniture for Knoll includes dining and low tables, the Executive chair, the Tulip chair, and the Womb chair and ottoman.

During the 1980s, when Alberto Alessi took over the management of the Italian Alessi kitchen utensil company, he began collaborations with designers, and especially with architects, to produce high-end, exclusive products. Among the best known of the company’s product range from this period are Richard Sapper’s kettle with a two-tone whistle and Michael Graves‘ kettle with the bird shaped whistle.

By 1941, when future Pritzker Prize winner (1995), Japanese architect Tadao Ando was born, modern architecture was firmly on the world map. Having taken no formal training Ando travelled the world visiting buildings by Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn, then established Tadao Ando Architect and Associates in Osaka, in 1968. Strongly influenced by his traditional Japanese background his architectural style emphasises empty space to represent the beauty of simplicity, placing the inner feeling of a structure before its appearance. Working primarily in exposed cast-in-place concrete, from a formidable list of 154 completed projects, Ando is best known for The Church of Light in Osaka, 1989, The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St Louis, 2001, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 2002. Current projects include a mausoleum for fashion designer, Tom Ford. His minimal buildings are designed to contain little in the way of furniture, however he has lately collaborated with Danish furniture company Carl Hansen & Son on a project to develop a prototype chair honoring the aesthetic of the late Danish designer Hans Wegner, which will be available in 2013. In 2011, to mark their 90th anniversary, he created a limited edition vase for leading Venetian glassmakers, Venini, established in Murano in 1921. At an estimated sale price of €35,000-45,000, a set of three of these vases, all signed and dated and coming from a private collection in Germany, is included in the Sotheby’s sale.

Objects included in the Sotheby’s sale, from top
Tadao Ando
Set of three coloured glass vases in anthracite, red and ochre, 2011, for Venini
Estimate €35,000-45,000

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret
Wood and partially grey lacquered wood, double-sided cabinet, circa 1927
Estimate €12,00-15,000

Gio Ponti
Glazed earthenware bowl, Classical Conversation/’L'architetto’, 1924
Estimate €15,00-20,000

Photographs ©Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

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Art | Tokyo 1955-1970

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde
Museum of Modern Art
New York City, USA
18th November, 2012 – 25th February, 2013

Somewhat pushed into the sidelines these days as a result of phenomenally growing interest in the new art emerging from its mighty neighbour, China, Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde provides a timely reminder of a period where Japan enjoyed a great surge in globally-influential creativity, concurrent with its own exponential economic growth in the late 20th century.

Following the surrender of the Empire of Japan on September 2, 1945, which brought the hostilities of World War II to an abrupt end, many Japanese artists used painting, drawing and printmaking to represent and document the traumatic after effects of the apocalypse, to highlight the difficult lives of the working classes, and to point out social injustices. Surrealism, which had thrived in Japan in the 1930s, re-emerged, mutating into bizarre and sometimes abstract forms. Artists freely crossed disciplines; the 14 members of the collective Jikken Kōbō/Experimental Workshop – very active during the 1950s – comprised visual artists and music composers, a lighting designer, an engineer, and a musicologist. In reflection of the country’s increasing industrialisation, they experimented with fusing art and technology.

At the 1960 World Design Conference in Tokyo, metabolism, one of the most significant movements in 20th-century architecture, would emerge with plans to tackle Tokyo’s by now urgent need for systematic urban growth and infrastructure. As its biological name suggests, the movement contended that buildings and cities should be designed in the same organic way that life grows and changes. The metabolists new ideas – that must have appeared, at the time, fantastical – envisioned flexible, expandable, and technologically advanced megastructures built along linear axes. Leading light, Tange Kenzō’s ambitious A Plan for Tokyo, 1960, a three-level megastructure that combined transportation systems, offices, and commercial and residential spaces projecting into and spanning the Tokyo Bay was never realised, however it can seen in large-scale photographic reproduction at the MoMA show.

Founded in 1958, Tokyo’s Sogetsu Art Center was an extraordinary hub of experimental arts, presenting an ongoing series of avant-garde cinema, jazz, and classical music events. From 1961 to 1964, in particular, the center functioned as a nucleus of interdisciplinary experiments and international exchanges, where numerous visiting American artists including John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg, performed or exhibited with emerging Japanese counterparts, such as Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik.

Since the pre-war era in Japan, there had been an established tradition of newspaper companies organising and sponsoring art exhibitions. By 1963 the annual Yomiuri Indépendant exhibition (1949–63), where installation and performance art featured strongly, had become so radical – with artists creating provocative, body sculpture or installations often made out of detritus – that the work of the young exhibiting artists was widely refered to as ‘Anti-Art.’ Guerilla-style art events were common; rejecting the decorum and hierarchies dictated by the mainstream art establishment, one collective, Hi Red Center – the incendiary activities of which occasionally provoked strong police reaction – sought to bring art out of institutional or commercial spaces and into the space of everyday activities. One of the better-known actions by the group was Shelter Plan, an invitation-only event at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, staged in January 1964. Guests, including Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik, were subjected to meticulous and bizarre physical examinations for the purpose of creating custom-fitted, single-person nuclear fallout shelters.

Greatly attracted to American art, in the 1960s, Ushio Shinohara along with Tateishi Kōichi (Tiger Tateishi) and Nakamura Hiroshi, were the leading figures in what is sometimes defined as Japanese pop art. Tateishi’s painting Samurai, the Watcher (Kôya no yôjinbô), 1965, and Shinohara’s sculpture Coca-Cola Plan, 1964, are included in the exhibition. But, in the final years of the decade the Mono-ha (School of Things), loose, informal group emerged, who were deeply engaged with the relationship of matter in space and experimented by combining organic and industrial materials.

Photography, a traditionally strong discipline in Japan, experienced a breakthrough in the 1960s. Modelled after the Magnum Photos collective, Vivo (The word means ‘life’ in Esperanto) was formed in 1959 by six photographers, who, though their individual styles and subject matter differed greatly, shared a belief in photography as an art form. In 1968, marking a stylistic departure, a small group of young photographers – including Moriyama Daidō – formed Provoke, with the aim of seeking a new photographic language that could adequately respond to the chaotic social and cultural changes exploding in urban Tokyo. Also traditionally important, graphic design was an extremely fertile Japanese field during this period. Experimenting with a hybrid mix of collage and montage techniques, Yokoo Tadanori (better known in the West as Tadanori Yokoo), and others, rebelled against prevailing modernist aesthetics. Crossing boundaries, painters, too, such as Nakamura Hiroshi and Tateishi Kōichi, intermingled what was be regarded as high and low art, producing a large number of graphics and illustrations.

Bringing together over 200 items, including significant loans from collections in Japan and the USA, and drawing from its own collections, the MoMa exhibition focuses on the transformation of Tokyo into a thriving centre of the avant-garde, in which cinema, too, was a vital element. In conjunction with Tokyo 1955–1970, the museum is therefore also presenting a comprehensive retrospective devoted to the Art Theater Guild, the independent film company that radically transformed Japanese cinema by producing and distributing avant-garde and experimental works from the 1960s until the early 1980s. Art Theater Guild and Japanese Underground Cinema, 1960-1984, will run from 6th December, 2012, to 10th February, 2013.

Images from top
Kojima Nobuaki. Untitled (Figure), 1964
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously
© 2011 Kojima Nobuaki

Yokoo Tadanori. Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (Sōzōsha) (Shinjuku dorobō nikki [Sōzōsha]), 1968
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the designer
© 2012 Yokoo Tadanori

Nakanishi Natsuyuki. Compact Object (Konpakuto obuje), 1962
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Frank Crowninshield Fund
© 2012 Nakanishi Natsuyuki

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Ceramics + Architecture | Ceramica Cumella

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Ceramica Cumella: Shaping Ideas
Architectural Association
School of Architecture
London, UK
29th September – 27th October, 2012

AL_A’s Amanda Levete chose to work with Barcelona’s Ceramica Cumella on her design, constructed from overlapping ceramic tiles, for Established & SonsBench Years installation at the V&A during the 2012 London Design Festival.

Among a long list of current projects, Ceramica Cumella is working with Renzo Piano on his massive Botin Arts Center Project in Spain’s Santander, slated for opening next summer, as well as with Spanish architect Enric Ruiz-Geli on the elBulli Foundation in Roses, near Gerona, also in Spain. Another important project is also underway with Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

Son of a ceramicist, Toni Cumella, after first studying industrial engineering, dedicated himself to ceramics in 1970. When his father died in 1985, he decided to focus the company, founded in 1880, towards large-scale artworks and collaborations with architects. His idea was to associate an evolved craftsmanship with serial production to re-instate its place in history and culture, and to revive the concept of  identity in a world dominated by global architectural styles. The artistic and scientific innovations – extruding, casting, pressing and revolving – developed by his company have been an inspiration to architects and artists alike and are proving that ceramics are one of the 21st century’s most versatile construction materials.

Ceramica Cumella were a natural choice for the restoration of Gaudi’s Casa Batlió and Parc Guell, which the company undertook as early major commissions, and which established its expertise in the field. There followed projects with Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue on their Parc Diagonal Mar and Parc Dels Colors, and in 2005, the astonishing Santa Caterina Market. The same year they collaborated with AZPA’s Alejandro Zaera-Polo on the Spanish Pavilion at Expo 2005 in Japan, and in 2007 worked with Jean Nouvel on Placa Sardana (Barcelona). Since then their work has taken them all over Spain, their ceramic skills used extensively in the development of surface treatments for exclusive apartment buildings, a major police headquarters, a prominent bridge, an underground railway station, university faculty buildings, a prestigious bank, but they’ve also had involvement in important projects in Portugal and also in France.

The AL_A/Ceramica Cumella bench should be considered as just a tasty hors d’oeuvre before the main course of the new V&A Café and the transformation of the courtyard areas on which the two companies are currently working.

Images from top
Pluja de Llágrimes (Raining teardrops), 2010, a permanent installation at the Teatre Lliure de Gràcia in Barcelona, Spain, created in collaboration with artist, Frederic Amat

Undulating, multi-coloured ceramic roof of Santa Caterina Market, Barcelona, Spain, 2003-4, produced with Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue. Detail and ariel view

Honey-comb tiled exterior for the Spanish Pavilion created with architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo at Aichi Expo, Japan, 2005

Exhibition curated by Mis-Architecture

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