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Augmented Field Conditions Networked Architecture in Contemporary Japan’s Artificial Landscape


Thesis Supervisors

Andrea Samory Kengo Kuma Professor, Head of Kuma Laboratory, Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo

Luca Emanueli Pofessor, Head of Landscape Design Final Studio, Department of Architecture, The University of Ferrara

Assistant Supervisors

Manabu Chiba Professor, Head of Chiba Laboratory, Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo

Kaz Yoneda Adjunct Assistant Professor, Keio University

Master Thesis in Architecture Graduation Session March 2017, Academic Year 2016/2017 Ferrara University of Architecture, Italy

I dedicate this thesis to all the versions of me that don’t reside into my body and that define me before my body

The sentence you are reading is the mirror image of a sentence that appears elsewhere, a mirror image that, in turn, has been reflected in another mirror so that the word sappear here in their proper order, except that – because of an imperfection in the mirror (an imperfection that, moreover, because of the reflection, can move from day to day and that become, hence, two imperfections, or three, or four) – certain letters in the original sentence have changed and, thus, appear here as letters still similar to, but not quite the same as, those that were written Vito Acconci, 1969


Abstract - English and Italian versions Introduction PART 0 – RESEARCH 0.1. A study of composition in Japanese contemporary Architecture ● Introduction ● Gradation in Contemporary Japanese Architecture 0.2. Building as a Process: Global Structuralism ● Mat Buildings, Team 10 and the Metabolist Movement 0.3. Field conditions ● Process ● Scale ● Surface 0.4. Superimposition of fields through time ● The relationship between Architecture and Landscape Urbanism ● Augmented Field Conditions ● Design project introduction

PART 1 - ANALYSIS 1.1. Introduction ● A three-dimensional Field ● Overview ● Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway ● Urban characteristics and Void Metabolism ● Designing quality POPS in Tokyo ● Design project intents 1.2. Area analysis ● Bunkyo-ku: a central ward ● Area analysis ● Location form analysis ● Location program analysis ● Large scale strategy ● 1.3. Site analysis and Masterplan ● Atmosphere ● Program, form and combined analysis ● Masterplan: a comprehensive set of localized conditions


PART 2- PROJECT 2.1. Introduction ● Reprogramming elevated infrastructures ● Infrastructure projects in Tokyo 2.2. Concept development ● Strategy ● Surface as Urban Composition ● Composition 2.3. Structure ● Design characteristics ● Building process 2.4. Project management and spatial features ● Economic acquisition and site management ● Plans ● Energy management, construction sequence and expansion

PART 3 – A CRITICAL STANDPOINT 3.1. Detailed Project Visualization ● Plans and renderings 3.2. Composition ● Learning from the process itself ● Networked Architecture 3.3. Style ● ●

Merging different cultural identities Dirty realism

Attachments: ● ● ● ● ●

Bibliography Interview with Sou Fujimoto Endorsement letters Acknowledgements Presentation Boards

2.5. Overall Project Visualization ● Axonometry and sections



through the superimposition and accumulation of partial interventions over time.

This thesis primarily focuses on understanding and developing contemporary design methodologies. It aims to create theoretically and practically sustainable compositional methodologies for the contemporary metropolis. The research unfolds through the study of the relationship between object and field. In doing so, it extensively cites Japanese contemporary buildings and architectural theories, proposing a formal reconciliation between Japanese Architecture and specific Western compositional theories. In particular, this thesis explores object-to-Field relationships through a longitudinal analysis of the notion of Mat Building, from its conception to its possible future iterations. The procedural, programmatic and spatial effects of this architectural typology are then compared to the theory of Field Conditions by Stan Allen.

Tokyo appears as a natural application site for testing Augmented Field Conditions: given its characteristics of density and interconnectedness, this city is the perfect environment for the formation of three-dimensional urban Mats. This thesis sets a project in a void space underneath the Expressway n.5, in Bunkyo-ku. This multi-purpose center for leisure, culture and work scatters its program throughout the existing site, making use of an architecture of intersecting walkways and clusters of indoor spaces. This “Networked” composition intends to balance partial, local necessities with the need for overall coherence. The project aims to reduce conventional architectural elements to their simplest possible form, reconfiguring the disciplinary boundaries of Architecture. Augmented Field Conditions wants to be the most global, a-specific, and unobtrusive architectural methodology to react to the specificities of local socio-cultural organizations.

After thusly establishing its theoretical frame, this research focuses on the dialogue on the operational possibilities and limits between Architecture, Landscape Design, Infrastructural Design, and Urbanism. This thesis extends Allen’s concept of Field Conditions to program-less artificial landscapes such as urban voids, neglected building complexes and infrastructures. Building upon this new formulation, the thesis finally proposes “Augmented Field Conditions”, a method to magnify the potential of any existing Field


Abstract - Italian Version

sovrapposizione e l’accumulazione di interventi parziali nel corso del tempo.

La tesi si concentra sulla comprensione e lo sviluppo di metodologie di design contemporaneo. Essa ha lo scopo di creare metodologie compositive teoricamente e praticamente efficaci per la metropoli contemporanea. La ricerca si sviluppa attraverso lo studio del rapporto tra oggetto e Field. Nel fare questo, si citano ampiamente edifici e teorie architettoniche contemporanee giapponesi, proponendo una riconciliazione formale tra architettura giapponese e specifiche teorie compositive occidentali. In particolare, la ricerca esplora le relazioni oggetto-Field attraverso un’analisi longitudinale della nozione di Mat Building, dal suo concepimento fino alle proprie possibili iterazioni future. Gli effetti procedurali, programmatici e spaziali di questa tipologia architettonica vengono poi confrontati con la teoria di Field Conditions di Stan Allen.

Tokyo appare come un sito naturalmente atto all’applicazione di “Augmented Field Conditions”: date le sue caratteristiche di densità e di interconnessione, questa città è l’ambiente ideale per la formazione di Mat urbani tridimensionali. Nella tesi si imposta un progetto in uno spazio vuoto sotto la Expressway n.5, nel distretto di Bunkyo. Il programma di questo centro polifunzionale per il tempo libero, la cultura e il lavoro è disseminato lungo il sito preesistente, attraverso una architettura di passerelle intersecantesi e cluster programmatici. Questa “Networked Architecture” si propone di conciliare le caratteristiche parziali e circoscritte presenti nel sito tramite l’osservanza di una coerenza globale. Il progetto mira a ridurre gli elementi architettonici tradizionali alla loro forma più semplice, riconfigurando in tal modo i confini disciplinari dell’architettura.

Dopo aver efficacemente delineato questa cornice teorica, la ricerca si concentra sul dialogo sulle possibilità e i limiti operativi tra architettura, Landscape Design, Infrastructural Design e Urbanistica. La tesi estende il concetto di Field Conditions a paesaggi artificiali non aventi programma, come vuoti urbani, complessi di edifici negletti e infrastrutture. Sulla base di tale nuova formulazione, essa propone “Augmented Field Conditions”, un metodo per ingrandire il potenziale di ogni Field esistente attraverso la

Augmented Field Conditions vuole essere una metodologia architettonica il più globale, aspecifica e incospicua possibile, attraverso cui rispondere in maniera locale e specifica alle caratteristiche socio-culturali del luogo d’intervento.




This book features theoretical research and a design project that I developed during a one year-long stay in Tokyo (between October 2014 and October 2015). During this period I studied at the Kengo Kuma Laboratory in the University of Tokyo. I had the occasion to directly study Japanese contemporary buildings, and I participated to several academic programs in which students were able to interview key Japanese figures such as Hiroshi Hara and Fumihiko Maki. Other experiences were significant for the development of the research: I worked as an intern at Sou Fujimoto Architects and Riken Yamamoto & Fieldshop, which I both interviewed, and I was able to speak, among others, to the tenants of Moriyama house, by Ryue Nishizawa, and House N/A, by Sou Fujimoto. I completed this book in Ferrara University, Italy, in 2017. The book is divided into four parts: 0-theoretical research, 1-context analysis, 2-project description, and 3-a critical standpoint on the previous parts. Part 0 starts with a study on Japanese contemporary Architecture. It then introduces the concepts of Mat Building and Field Conditions. Afterwards, it presents a study on the relationships between Architecture, Landscape Urbanism and Infrastructural Urbanism. This section also introduces key projects on the redevelopment of urban infrastructures, along with the concept of “Augmented Field Conditions” - a theory on how to create Field Conditions by the superimposition of interventions on existing

fields. Next, Part 1 presents a design project that directly builds upon the problems and possibilities emerging from the theoretical research. A urban void under an elevated metropolitan expressway in Tokyo is chosen as the development site for the design. To this end, the beginning of part 1 analyzes the city of Tokyo under several points of view. Then, Part 1 focuses on the characteristics of the chosen site, looking at in at increasingly smaller scales. Finally, after having thoroughly explained the features of the urban void, part 1 concludes with a general Masterplan. Part 2 starts with an analysis of existing projects that deal with conditions similar to the one in this research. Afterwards, an exposition of the design project details aspects ranging from the description of the site management to the explanation of structural and technical details. Then part 2 continues with explaining the design concept, and in particular proposes a general theory for the composition of Architecture through intersecting walkways and programmatic clusters. Part 3 makes a critical review of the project, in the light of the theoretical research introduced in Part 0. First, it draws implications of such a design under a compositional point of view. Then, it gives a stylistic analysis of the project is made. The design is seen through a confrontation between Japanese culture and “Global” culture, which relates the project to the concept of “Dirty Realism”. The attachments in the end of the book report my interview with Sou Fujimoto, and include a reduction of the two scrolls I used as a visual support to present this thesis. p.11

PART 0 - Research



A study of composition in contemporary Japanese Architecture

This research began as a study of compositional methodologies in Japanese contemporary Architecture. However, the Western compositional theories of Mat Buildings and Field Conditions came to me as a natural and well-fitting principle for explaining contemporary Japanese Architecture. I will expose the research in the same chronological order it developed, first introducing Japanese Architecture and its theories, and then putting them in the perspective of Western theories. It is important to appreciate contemporary Japanese Architecture as a movement in and of itself, with its evolution through time, its distinctive genealogies, its specific preoccupations and unique characteristics. Yet its strong formal and theoretical correspondences with foreign Architecture are an essential part of its recent developments. Modern-day Japanese Architecture therefore cannot be fully understood without considering the influences that it gained from abroad, as well as its own influences to global Architecture. This view poses Japanese Architecture at the center of a global loop of mutual influences that peaked between late 50’s and 60’s, and late 80’s and 90’s, and that still reflects in current buildings. It appears that a branch of Japanese architectural research systematically and extensively experimented with what Stan Allen calls “Field Conditions” - often without directly mentioning the concept.

Part 0 - Research

This research leverages the Japanese concepts of aggregation, limit, and void, to better understand the meaning of gradation, lightness, and relativity, in the global discourse of Architecture. Japanese culture embraced foreign cultures and merged them in its own perspective alongside its traditions. In the same spirit of practicality and adjustability, I pose the question: what can Japanese Architecture teach us on how to deal with contemporary problematics?


One aim of this research is to find core rules throughout the larger possible spectrum of morphological and programmatic typologies, regardless specific architectural compositions. For example, SANAA’s Rolex Learning Center (Lausanne, 2007-2010), and Sou Fujimoto’s Children’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation (Hokkaido, 2006) are a good example of gradated, complex yet unified arrangements of various spaces. The confrontation between these two architectures is useful to understand how similar characteristics chan be found throughout different architectural typologies and different spatial compositions. Despite these spaces having very different morphological configurations, they share many organizational and atmospheric characteristics, mostly regarding the relationship between each element and their broader position within the whole project. I started categorizing different compositional methodologies recurring in contemporary Japanese Architecture, which can all be defined as “fields”. Many of these methodologies show extensive use by Toyo Ito, and are now entering a phase of hybridization and further development through the work of SANAA, Sou Fujimoto, Kengo Kuma, Makoto Yokomizo and younger generations of Architects. “The term ‘field’ captures the range of approaches within the constellation, most of which entail design development from the bottom-up, where smaller units or relationships are aggregated p.15

Preliminary study on compositional methodologies in contemporary Japanese Architecture INTERSECTING WALKWAYS


Predominantly 3D

Predominantly 2D


SANAA, Rolex Learning Center, Lausanne, 2010

Akihisa Hirata, Ochoquebradas House, Los Viloss, 2014

Sou Fujimoto, Children’s Psychiatric Center, Hokkaido, 2006

Akihisa Hirata, Architecture Farm, 2008

Sou Fujimoto, Beton Hala Waterfront Center, Belgrad, 2012

SANAA Nakamachi Community Center, Tokyo, 2014

Toyo Ito, Taichung Opera House, Taichung, 2016

Akihisa Hirata, Foam Form, Kaohsiung, 2011

Sou Fujimoto, Tokyo Apartments, Tokyo, 2009

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SANAA 21st Century Museum of Art, Kanazawa, 2004

Sou Fujimoto, House NA, Tokyo, 2010

Junya Ishigami, KAIT Workshop, Tokyo, 2008

Junya Ishigami, Senior citizens housing, Tokyo, 2013

Sou Fujimoto, House N, Oita, 2008

Sou Fujimoto, Serpentine Gallery Pavillion, London, 2013

Ryue Nishizawa, Moriyama house, Tokyo, 2005

Sou Fujimoto, Primitive Future House, concept, 2003

Sou Fujimoto, 21st Century Oasis, Taichung, 2010


without first imposing, top-down, a macro-level organization. In its sense derived from physics, as a spatially extensive area of influence, ‘field’ encapsulates something of Fujimoto’s cloudlike clusters of elements, of Hirata’s unfolding surfaces, and of Ito’s spacio-structural matrices. The term ‘field’ also exists within the lexicon of landscape metaphors and horizontally unfolding spaces that register Sejima, Nishizawa, and Ishigami’s particular fascination with ever-expanding single-story domain, as in Sejima’s Multipurpose Facility, in Onishi, of 2005, Nishizawa’s 2010 Hiroshi Senju Museum, in Karuizawa, and Ishigami’s KAIT Workshop”. In broader terms, the presented typologies could fall under the definition of “non-centralized expansive systems capable of becoming specific at any given point” . This definition, by Spanish architects Mansilla+Tuñón, can be seen as a less specific term for “Field Conditions”; Chapter 0.4 will further discuss the term. This is the only concept that can associate these different compositions appropriately, before introducing other concepts. The board simply takes those buildings that most clearly epitomize a given composition within recent Japanese architectures, giving the reader an initial (intuitive) understanding of the topic and introducing key Japanese Architects. Within this first compositional framework it is possible to read similar projects by other contemporary Japanese Architects. It is important to remember that these examples are taken only because they are easier to read than similar older or newer architectures, which are equally worthy. Many other younger and less-known Japanese Architects are already creating other types of architectures

starting from the ones presented here. Furthermore, it is to consider how this board doesn’t have to be taken as a definitive attempt of categorization. Its groups are based on simple compositional features which, taken in isolation, cannot explain exactly nor what these buildings have in common space-wise, neither how these compositions originated in the first place. These categories take into account only the explicit, formal outcomes of concepts that we have yet to analyze. Along with this (loosely-defined and temporary) compositional classification, let me briefly introduce key concepts by contemporary Japanese Architects, to have an overall understanding of the theoretical framework within which they operate. The concepts by Kengo Kuma and Atelier Bow-wow, and by older Architects such as Fumihiko Maki and Arata Isozaki are essential to unfolding the Japanese discourse around the concept of Field. Yet I will discuss these concepts later on, after other topics will be introduced. There is a particular genealogy that I would like to start from. Toyo Ito, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (as their joint firm SANAA as well as separate Architects), Sou Fujimoto, Junya Ishigami and Akihisa Hirata together make up for a large portion of the projects presented in the board, thus making them important figures for the concept of Field. A recent exhibition at MOMA, New York, called “A Japanese Constellation: Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond” (March-July 2016) outlines a clear (and open) genealogy that stems from Toyo Ito onwards.

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“The present group is linked by a line of descent: Sejima and Hirata worked for Ito;Nishizawa and Ishigami worked with and for Sejima - these are the two basic groupings. Only Fujimoto stands outside the system of apprenticeship and patronage that remains so essential to securing advancement in the Japanese architectural world. Despite Fujimoto’s “aloofness”, Ito’s backing has been crucial in bringing the younger architect to public attention and in furnishing him early on with opportunities to experiment.” The line of descent spans three generations and encompasses the sweep of Japanese postwar history: Ito, the “father” of the group, was born in Keijo (Japanese- occupied Seoul) in 1941 at the height of the war years, and came of age during the cultural and political turbulence of the 1960s. [...] The second generation is represented by Sejima, who, born in 1956, bypassed the rigors of reconstruction and growth. Sejima joined Ito’s office in a different age, an era in which production had given way to consumption, spawning the formation of the so-called shinjinrui (new humans), whose identity was defined less by what they did than by what they bought. Nishizawa, separated from Sejima by a decade, was the first to taste the uncertainties brought about by the collapse of the asset-price bubble in 1991, along with the transformations to space and to communication enabled by the Internet and the mobile phone. By the time Fujimoto, Hirata, and Ishigami established their offices in the early 2000s, this combination of precarity and possibility formed the basic parameters of existence in Japan.” Julian Worrall, in his essay related to the exhibition “A Japanese Constellation”, reads these five architect’s works through the key

theme “Nature + Publicness”. “Ito, the constellation’s origin and center of gravity, conceives nature in terms of material presence and dynamic structural forces, a view that crystallized during the construction of the Sendai Mediatheque at the turn of the Millennium. [...] However, during the grueling process of construction, the brute physicality of the massive steel elements his design so airily deployed overwhelmed Ito. Since then, nature has for Ito come to serve as a touchstone for the “real”, the realm of material substance and dynamic structural forces elaborated [...] in the ongoing, decade-long creation of National Taichung Theater.” The geometric conception and development of the Theater is due to what Ito calls “Emerging grid”: “To be very simplistic, one could say that the system of the grid was established in the twentieth century. This system became popular throughout the world, as it allowed a huge amount of architecture to be built in a short period of time. However, it also made the world’s cities homogeneous. […] In response to that, over the last ten years, by modifying the grid slightly I have been attempting to find a way of creating relationships that bring buildings to their surroundings and environment.” Even if Ito experiments with many compositional techniques, through “Emerging grid” he focuses particularly on the relational adjustability of small elements within a larger whole - as Thomas Daniell states, explaining Ito’s work: “Only overt dysfunctionality can have any impact in a society that has become so rationalized”. By the deployment of a grid whose mesh has an infinite degree of local variety, Ito manages to bring together in a sinp.19

gle compositional technique many requirements. In the Tama Art University Library, each pillar joins the other at a different angle, and the span of the resulting grid is nevToyo Ito, Tama Art University Library, Tokyo, er equal. During the design 2007; structural diagram process, spaces adjust each other according to programmatic, structural, and spatial relationships. The concept of Emerging Grid is three-dimensionally realized in the National Taichung Theatre (opened October 1st, 2016). I would argue that Fujimoto’s work is more focused than Ito’s on the possibility of creating a nested system of scales within a single project. Fujimoto sees nature as an abstract net of relationships that create specific atmospheres, which can be transposed into human environments. “In contrast to Ito, Fujimoto’s conception of nature is less about substance and more about patterns. He sees in nature rich ordering patterns and emerging complexity, but also finds inspiration in landscape archetypes such as mountains, forests, trees, and clouds - metaphorical resources carrying spatial and architectural potential. “A garden is the initial state of Architecture”, Fujimoto writes of an archetype of spatial ambiguity he pursues in his work. [...] For Fujimoto, “Architecture is a Garden with a roof; Garden is architecture without a roof” .” Fujimoto, in his work, focuses particularly on the concept of “gradation”. Although each of the presented Architects has its

own version of the concept, many projects by Fujimoto rely on repetition of demarcation elements in order to create what he calls a “soft order”. He often experiments with porous constructions of scattered elements, in order to replicate the way in which leaves (very small objects) are clustered together on top of trees (medium-sized objects) to form a continuous yet varied forest (large field). “In Hirata’s work, references to nature tend toward the “organic” as a principle of generative development and unfolding. Where Fujimoto is content to translate emblems of nature into architecture through metaphor and analogy, Hirata would prefer to develop precise mathematical descriptions of what he calls the “tangles” and “pleats” that nature tenders through its generative processes.” Hirata often translates natural generative processes into algorithms through which he bends a single surface over and over. This surface exhibit the same nested scales discussed earlier, but it enables its “entanglement” with human life through a single, unified yet diverse structure. Even if Fujimoto’s and Hirata’s concepts can be similar in many ways, their approach to composition and their idea of reaching nature through abstraction is very different. “As with his contemporaries, nature is fundamental to Ishigami’s thinking. Here, however, nature operates as neither spatial metaphor nor generative principle, but as a kind of horizon of radical possibility, whose latent potential for magic and surprise is veiled by convention and habit. [...] In his 2008 Kanagawa

Part 0 - Research

Institute of Technology Workshop, Ishigami created a forest of 305 columns, each with a unique rectangular profile and orientation - a field of fluctuating, interpenetrating spaces of ambiguity. Invoking a term used by Ito, but with antithetical results, Ishigami describes his works as devices to ‘reveal reality as it is, rather than as we would wish it to be.’ [...]In the work of Sejima and Nishizawa, individually as well as in collaboration, the concept of nature merges with notions of “environment” and landscape”, terms that are less about ecology than they are an idea of publicness - the organization and qualities of spaces of interpersonal encounter and interaction. [...] Publicness relates to access, use, and occupation, [...] it conveys openness and spontaneity. [...]In the 2010 Rolex Learning Center, at the Ecòle polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland, the undulating gradations of enclosure and openness, and the building’s continuously shifting horizon line, act as spatial devices that “tune” degrees of separation and connection between building occupants. [...] Whereas in the work of Sejima or Nishizawa, publicness manifests in open terrains shaped by subtly manipulated boundaries, in Ito’s work it appears as extensive three-dimensional spatial explorations, and achieves full expression in the “emerging grid” that generates the spongey, fluid matrix of National Taichung Theater. Publicness is for Ito more tactile and embodied than for SANAA; the bodies that populate Ito’s spaces contain flesh and blood and mass, whereas those of his protégés appear ever more virtual.” It is easy to understand how influential Ito is to the latest generation of internationally “established” Japanese Archi-

tects. These six Architects, although sharing similar concepts on nature and society, developed architectures in very different ways from one another. I would argue that the formally different compositional typologies identified in the image board are still linked to a conceptual core which, for the sake of coherence, we could derive from Ito. Each one of these compositional typologies inherently relates to the concept of “emerging grid” as a compositional device that allows spatial, programmatic and structural features to adjust autonomously through the emergence of micro-scale relationships. Even when not manifest as a proper warped grid, these architectures are linked to the concept of Field through that of Emerging Grid. ________________________________________________ •• 1 Julian Worrall, “The Deep Field: Resolving a Japanese Constellation”, in ed. Sarah Resnick, “A Japanese Constellation”, MOMA Publishing, New York, 2016 (published along with the exhibition at MOMA by the same name);p.247 •• 2 Ed. Gail Peter Borden, Michael Meredith: “Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2012 p. 12 •• 3 Julian Worrall, “The Deep Field: Resolving a Japanese Constellation”, in ed. Sarah Resnick, “A Japanese Constellation”, MOMA Publishing, New York, 2016 (published along with the exhibition at MOMA by the same name); p.245 •• 4 ibid. p. 245 •• 5 Toyo Ito, Generative Order, 2009, in: ed. Jessie Turnbull, “Toyo Ito: Forces of Nature”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2012; p. 33 •• 6 Thomas Daniell, “The Fugitive”, in Toyo Ito, “Tarzans In The Media Forest and Other Essays”, Architecture Word 8, London, AA Publications, 2011; p.13 •• 7 Sou Fujimoto, “Primitive Future”, INAX Publishing, Tokyo, 2008; p.101 •• 8 Julian Worrall, “The Deep Field: Resolving a Japanese Constellation”, in ed. Sarah Resnick, “A Japanese Constellation”, MOMA Publishing, New York, 2016 (published along with the exhibition at MOMA by the same name); p.246 •• 9 ibid.; p.246 •• 10 ibid; p. 246-247


0.2 Building as a Process: Global Structuralism


Many architectural theories can exemplify various attitudes exhibited in contemporary Japanese Architecture today. Mat Buildings theory is particularly useful to link the Japanese production with less theoretically and geographically specific discourses. The previous sections present several buildings that fall under this morphological building typology. Alison Smithson first formulated the concept in her didactic text “How to Recognize and Read Mat-Building”1, which exhibits a genealogy of urban and architectural projects, many of which are featured in the Team 10 Primer.2 Smithson has set historic and/or vernacular Architecture, like Katsura Rikyu in Kyoto (built 1620-1663, minor constructions later), as the spiritual start of the Mat Building genealogy. However, one of the first conscious examples of Mat Building is the Berlin Free University by Candilis, Josic, Woods; this project epitomized the typology through its coherent design process. It is important to note that the definition of Mat Building is to this day fairly broad. Hashim Sarkis gives a general description of this typology as follows: “By mat building […] architects usually mean a building type that is low-rise and high-density, that is homogeneous in its layout, and that consists of a systematic repetition of a simple element such as a column, skylight, or modular room. […] Framework replaces form and inhabitation replaces function”3

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The Mat Building typology comprehends both architectural and urban projects. For this reason, it cannot be defined only through its architectural elements. One also needs to consider its spatial characteristics: “In mat-building, rather than a relatively neutral architectural frame working to configure space, it is function and events that activate the void spaces. This austere, bare-bones architecture is distinguished by new patterns of social association: “Mat-building can be said to epitomize the anonymous collective; where the functions come to enrich the fabric, and the individual gains new freedom of action through a new and shuffled order, based on interconnection, close knit patterns of association, and possibilities for growth, diminution and change”4 [quote inside the text] […] Mat-building is characterized by active interstitial spaces, where matter shapes and channels the space between things, leaving room for the unanticipated. Finally, in mat-building, transitions are not merely the neutral link between defined nodes; instead, nodes and links together form a continuous fabric of internally differentiated space”5 [bold added]. The original genealogy of Mat Building, that Smithson purposefully left ambiguous and open, included both buildings and urban proposals. This highlights one basic characteristic of the Mat: it is before all a design process, which allows it to reshape itself into many different typologies at various scales. Yet, as noted both by Stan Allen and Timothy Hyde, Mat Building has implicit scale limits. We can take Le Corbusier’s project from 1964 for the Venice Hospital as the clearest example of a functional Mat Building as

the junction between Architecture and Urbanism: “The formal cohesion of the various parts allows the Hospital to be perceived as an independent entity. At the same time, the differentiation of parts within the overall system permits the building to address differently the local conditions at each of its edges. Instead of defining a distinct object, mat-building weaves itself into the surrounding context, creating a building that performs like a city, or transforming part of the city into a building. As it contrives to precipitate patterns of use and habitation, mat-building remains a process, regardless to the formal characteristics of its product.”6 It is a process. “Discovering what a mat-building looks like is less important than uncovering conditions required for and potentials created by mat-building.”7; or, as Stan Allen has put it, it is the incarnation of “the idea that each project is a new proposition, and that each new project is part of the ongoing conversation that is the discipline of Architecture”.8 “One reason for this article’s continuing relevance is the avoidance of questions of style. Mat-building has little to do with the appearance; its force is diagrammatic and organizational. […] Spaces for movement (streets, corridors) merge with spaces of assembly. Internally, nearly all exhibit a porous interconnectivity, in which transitional spaces are as important as the nodes they connect. Externally, they are loosely bounded. Their form is governed more by the internal connection of part to part than by any overall geometric figure. They operate as field-like assemblages, condensing and redirecting the patterns of urban life, and esp.23

Josic, Candilis, Woods, Berlin Free University, 1963

Kisho Kurokawa, Agricultural City, 1960

Le Corbusier, Venice Hospital, 1964

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tablishing extended webs of connectivity, both internally and externally. Mat-building is a studied response to a fundamental urbanistic question: how to make a place for the active (and unpredictable) unfolding of urban life without abrogating the architect’s responsibility to provide some form of order.”9 [bold added] In other words: “The mat is both city and building, both public and private, both structure and infrastructure”10 This theoretical framework enables not only to view the architectures presented in the previous chapter as evolutions - or variations - of the typology of Mat Building; it also suggests ways to compare Mat Building and the history of Japanese Architecture. One historical precedent, in fact, is that many members of the Metabolist movement were in direct contact with Team 10 and Structuralist theories, and they have produced a number of Mat Buildings themselves. As the third chapter reports, this typology (and the Zeitgeist of the late 50’s and 60’s) strongly resonated with the Japanese sense of space. It is not important here which were the extents of the influence between Western Structuralism and Japanese Architecture, what matters is the role that this influence had in the global production of compositional theories. We aim to understand the boundaries of these movements and to further expanding or link them into a global net of architectural tendencies. Although Kenzo Tange was not registered as a member of the

Team 10, he attended the CIAM meetings together with Fumihiko Maki – he can be seen in photographs taken at the Otterlo meeting in 1959. “It was, I believe, around 1959 or at the beginning of the sixties that I began to think about what I was later to call structuralism”, Tange said in 1982.11 Without unfolding every detail of the historical architectural connections between Japan and Europe12, I would make one important comparison between Smithsons’ and Maki’s theories. The Team 10 Primer, published for the first time in 1962, first collected and presented the compositional typology of Cluster, exemplified in more complex form by the Stem and the “charged Stem”, or Web -the latter presented in 1961 with the urban project for Tolouse by Candilis, Josic and Woods. At the same time, after having attended a Team 10 meeting, Maki developed three similar concepts, more complete and distinct in their theoretical abstractness: “In 1964 I returned to Washington University and published a book entitled “investigations into collective form”. At the time, I identified three types of collective form: group form, megastructure/mega-form, and compositional form. It is important to note that the three types are not mutually exclusive; in real life they appear mixed together in various ways. In 1960, I had proposed group form as a manifesto, but in the book, I analyzed the three types objectively. I believe it continues to be widely read – a national urban research institute in France recently showed interest in translating the work into French because it is seen as describing a pattern language for urban design”13 It is especially interesting how, after attending the TEAM 10 p.25

meetings, Maki developed the complementary concepts of group form (exemplified by Greek and Japanese villages) and the mega-form (epitomized by Tange’s Tokyo Bay expansion), independently from TEAM 10, and from regionally different examples. Nonetheless, Maki himself would later clarify the relationship between his concepts and TEAM 10’s typologies of composition.14. The ideas that TEAM 10 contributed in the fruitful years around 1961 (the first Team 10 meeting was held in BagAlison and Peter Smithson



Charged Stem

Fumihiko Maki

Compositional Form


Group Form

nols-sur-Cèze in 1960) saw further development in relatively independent environments – or in groups that had their “regional” character. The results of this parallel, complementary and independent work were merged and exchanged again in later events - like at the Osaka Expo ’70. Timothy Hyde brought Mat Building up-to date by reframing and hypothesizing a genealogy of Mats, parallel to Smithson’s, that includes projects up to the end of the 90’s. His essay, together with another speculative contemporary reading of Smithson’s genealogy by Stan Allen (“Mat Urbanism: The Thick 2-D”), are extremely useful to link nowadays Japanese Architecture and the Mat building typology. The typology evolved into “Matted Buildings” in Hyde’s case, and into “Mat Urbanism” in Allen’s case -- a radical change of perspective for Urbanism. The two texts, already extensively quoted here, are compatible and complementary additions to Smithson’s text, and a reminder of the procedural character of the Mat. “Given the vast complexity of urban mat-building, for example, with its diverse demands for programmatic and infrastructural accommodation, a solution may require more labyrinth and less clarity than a grid can provide. The formal organization of structured patterns may be forced to give way to the systemic organization of open matrices with less orderly arrangements. A broader genealogy, in and out of the mainstream, might reveal these alternative methods of mat-building, processes that create a matted tangle instead of an orderly warp and woof.”15 The Matted Building then is a new perspective on the compositional method, which includes grids of void spaces (i.e. Eisen-

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OMA, Agadir Convention Center, 1990

OMA, Nexus World Housing Complex, Fukuoka, 1991

FOA, Yokohama International Port Terminal, 1994

Kazujo Sejima, Low Rise Housing, 1996


man, Cannaregio Town Square, ’78), warped surfaces and topological grids (i.e. OMA, Agadir Convention Center, ’90 and FOA, Yokohama Port Terminal, ‘94) and more elaborate versions of the classic aggregate of spatial modules (i.e. Sejima, Low-rise Housing, ’96). This section presented how Matted Building is strongly related to the latest generation of Japanese Architecture. However, Matted Building also helps to explain how the process of Mat Building (which is simply a morphological typology) falls under the concept of Field Conditions (which are broader spatial concepts that purposefully avoid leveraging a single morphological typology): the next chapter presents such a comparison. ________________________________________________ •• 1 Alison Smithson, “How to Recognize and read Mat-Building; Mainstream Architecture as it Has Developed Towards the Mat-Building”, Architectural Design 1974, n.9, September” •• 2 Alison and Peter Smithson, Team 10 Primer. edited by Charles Jencks and Karl Kropf, “theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture”, Academy Editions, Great Britain; 1997:219 •• 3 ed. Hashim Sarkis, “CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and the Mat Building Revival”, Munich: Prestel/Harvard Design School, 2001; p.14 •• 4 Alison Smithson, “How to Recognize and read Mat-Building; Mainstream Architecture as it Has Developed Towards the Mat-Building”, Architectural Design 1974, n.9, September”; p. 573-590 •• 5 Stan Allen, “The Thick 2-D: Mat Building in the contemporary city”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; p. 198. •• 6 Timothy Hyde, “How to construct an Architectural Genealogy; Mat-Building…Mat-Buildings…Matted-Buildings”; in: ed. Hashim Sarkis, “CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and the Mat Building Revival”, Munich: Prestel/Harvard Design School, 2001; p.106 •• 7 Ibid. •• 8 Stan Allen, “The Thick 2-D: Mat Building in the contemporary city”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing,

New York, 2009; p. 194. •• 9 Ibid., p. 197-198. •• 10 ed. Hashim Sarkis, “CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and the Mat Building Revival”, Munich: Prestel/Harvard Design School, 2001; p.15 •• 11 Cited in Plan 2/1982, Amsterdam •• 12 Useful references for this research are: Ed.: Sabrina Ley (Editor), Markus Richter, “Megastructure Reloaded: Visionary Architecture and Urban Planning of the 1960s Reflected by Contemporary Artists”  Hatje Cantz Publisher, 2008; Volume 35, Archis Editorial, Amsterdam, 2013 :1; Herman Hertzberger “Herman Hertzberger: Articulations”, Prestel Publishing, 2002; Manuel •• Orazi, Yona Friedman, ed. Nader Seraj “Yona Friedman: The diluition of Ar •• chitecture”, Park Books, Zurich, 2015; Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist: “Project Japan. metabolism talks”, taschen, 2011 •• 13 “50 Years since Group Form”, Ja 78: Redefining Collectivity, Japan Architect Publisher, November 2010 •• 14 See Fumihiko Maki, “Notes on collective form” in “Japan Architect”, Winter 1994: 248 •• 15 Timothy Hyde, “How to construct an Architectural Genealogy; Mat-Building…Mat-Buildings…Matted-Buildings”; in: ed. Hashim Sarkis, “CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and the Mat Building Revival”, Munich: Prestel/Harvard Design School, 2001; p.106

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0.3 Field Conditions

The understanding of building as a process allows us to link previously analyzed Japanese theories with those coming from other countries - making those theories less specific, yet broadening our field of vision. This process is perfectly exemplified by the way Alejandro Zaera-Polo has described his team of young Japanese architects working at the construction of the Yokohama International Port Terminal in 1999: “Practically trained in Japan and theoretically trained in the West, these people made up the only workforce capable of producing the cultural synthesis that the project needed. Together we could discuss topological grids, intensive tessellation, differentiation of systems, diagrammatic performance, and many other techniques that had been developing jointly for the practices of material organization. The design process became in itself a process of creating knowledge. [..] As an architect one can either operate within a linear structure where decisions are made in a hierarchy of command or within a culture in which a more complex system of relationships between the team members allows a much greater flexibility, innovation, and feedback. [‌]Yokohama was an experiment in how to evolve a systematic, rigorous, alienated, and technical approach to produce the most outrageous architecture.â€?1 If we consider Japanese Architecture as in back -and-forth dialogue with the global architectural discourse, the year 1995 marks a peak of correspondences. Around this year (at the beginning of the Internet era) many architects that were speculating around the concepts of diagram and

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surface released projects and theories that would become landmarks for an Architecture concerned about phenomena: “Diagram architecture looks for effects on the surface, but by layering surface on surface, a new kind of depth-effect is created”2. This was also the year in which the release of Microsoft ’95 would make the internet available to the general public. A powerful and inspiring essay from 1994 by Toyo Ito reads: “The phenomenal city alters the surface of the tangible city into a city of lights, sounds, and images or a city of illusion enveloped in signs. If the tangible portion of the city were removed, the network of energy and electronic flow that manipulates those illusions would no doubt become apparent. Thus the spaces of the contemporary city are characterized by fluidity, multiple layers, and phenomenality. These also happen to be characteristics of the microchips.”3

Building with young Japanese architects. “Many of the principles of formal organization and design logic Allen describes are evident in the work of Ito and his descendants. Although any vector of influence would have been reflected and refracted through various translations and second- or third-hand encounters, the point is that the ideas animating the work of this group of architects [Ito, Sejima, Nishizawa, Fujimoto, Ishigami, Hirata] are not insulated in a hermetically sealed package made in Japan and disconnected from the wider conversation in architecture; they are, in fact, very much a part of it.” 4 These professionals seem to be concerned with one fundamental question: “How to engage all the complexity and the indeterminacy of the city through the methodologies of a discipline so committed to control, separation and unitary thinking?”5

Linkages between Japan and the West could be found on that period: In 1995 FOA and Toyo Ito won the international competition to construct respectively Yokohama Port Terminal and the Sendai Mediatheque. MOMA held an exhibition featuring many Japanese architects called “Light Construction”. OMA proposed the Saitama Arena in 1994, while Stan Allen’s “From Object to field” would be released in 1996. Each of these projects would directly or indirectly shaped the latest generation of Japanese designers. I find Stan Allen’s essay “From Object to Field” extremely useful to link the process of Mat p.31


Design methods such as gradation, porosity, clustering, layering aim to gradate architectural boundaries and to multiply in-between spaces, enhancing complexity and flexibility, diversification and accessibility. Such design constraints establish a loop between bottom-up and top-down relationships. They control the large-scale system by modulating the relations between the little-scaled elements which constitute the whole. The result of the mentioned process is what Stan Allen calls “field”: a fluid and flexible spatial system which connects very different elements without compromising or changing the identity of each element. This system is not anymore an object-like architecture composed of the combination of its parts, but it becomes a landscape-like architecture which is constituted of the relationships between its parts. “To generalize, a field condition would be any formal or spatial matrix capable of unifying diverse elements while respecting the identity of each. Field configurations are loosely bounded aggregates characterized by porosity and local interconnectivity. Overall shape and extent are highly fluid and less important than the internal relationships of parts, which determine the behavior of the field. Fields work neither through regulating grids nor conventional relationships of axiality, symmetry, or hierarchy. The rules of combination have less to do with the arrangement of distinct and identifiable elements, as with the serial aggrega-

tion of a large number of relatively small, more-or-less similar parts. Field conditions are relational, and not figural, they are based on interval and measure. Scale matters; field conditions depend on repetition, and acquire a certain expanse to register. Field conditions have a special capacity to make abstract forces visible.”6[bold added] Despite this concept being fairly open and seemingly easy to construct in space, it relies on several specific tools and operations (or better, notations) in order to function properly. In fact it requires a highly balanced design process, “architecturally specific yet programmatically indeterminant”, both open enough for emergence to occur, and always concerned about the overall outcome. The architect finds himself balancing both similarity and singularity, scale and repetition, compactness and porosity, scale and expandability, self-reference and context. As in Smithson’s, the examples in this essay range from historical and vernacular architecture to the most recent projects. It presents Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital as well as The Great Mosque in Cordoba as Field Conditions: “[In le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital] the overall form is an elaboration of conditions established locally.”7 We already observed how Mat Building is conceived as a process, rather than a set of compositional tools – this allows the programmatic and typological flexibility of the concept. Yet what is noticeable in Allen’s essay is the abundance of diagrams used to illustrate the various examples taken from

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philosophical concepts, music, visual art, natural and social phenomena in general. The text is in fact the description of conditions and an investigation on those procedures that are aimed to recreate them. These conditions, in turn, respond to phenomena and generate phenomena. In an older version of the text, these procedures are exemplified by the methodologies (maybe even more than the works themselves) of certain post-minimalist artists: “When working with materials such as wire mesh (Alan Saret), poured latex (Lynda Benglis) or blown flour (Le Va), the artist simply cannot exercise a precise formal control over the material. Instead, the artist establishes the conditions within which the material will be deployed, and then proceeds to direct its flows.”8 The consequences of such a behavior, translated into Architecture, have precise implications towards existing urban conditions: “By remaining attentive to detail conditions that determine the connections of one part to another, by understanding construction as a “sequence of events”, it becomes possible to imagine an architecture that can respond fluidly and sensitively to local difference while maintaining overall stability.” […] “By forming the institution within a directed field condition, connected to the city or the landscape around, a space is left for the tactical improvisations of future users. A “loose fit” is proposed between activity and enclosing envelope. […] More than a formal configuration, the field condition implies an architecture that admits change, accident, and improvisation. It is an architecture not invested in durability, stability, and certainty, but

an architecture that leaves space for the uncertainty of the real.”9[bold added] Lastly, “Field conditions opposes conventional modernist modes of composition as much as it opposes classical rules of composition. The provisionality of the whole undermines the classical aspiration to totality; the self-similarity of the parts, and the intricacy of connection works against modernist fragmentation”10 A.

B. Stan Allen, Modern and Classical Organizational Strategies, 1995 - from the 2009 version of “From Object to Field”






A. Axial Composition B. Centripetal Composition C. Collision of Fragments D. Linked Elements E1-4 Field Conditions




In my understanding, Mat Building is a true typological subsystem of Field Conditions. Matted Buildings are a larger group which includes greater formal variety and a larger set of contextual approaches. They represent one type of compositional methodology that can represent Field Conditions. Yet they remain bounded to the architectural realm, while Allen’s concept, because of its inherently non-typological nature, remains defined by the events that occur in space – even when they’re shaped into a building. Flocks, swarms and crowds are all field phenomena; this fact is useful to better understand practical design operations: they all imply the addition of components guided by element-element relationships. This way of thinking delineates one main characteristic that is present both in the Mat Building and in Field Conditions – they are mainly made by “algebraic” combinations. Several concepts in Architecture split Architects into “adders” who are mainly concerned about relationships between discrete elements and “dividers”, whose essential focus is the a-priori boundaries of an overall order.11 “It is possible to identifying contrasting principles of combination: one algebraic, working with numerical units combined one after another, and the other geometric, working with figures (lines, planes, solids) organized in space to form larger wholes. In Cordoba, for example, independent elements are combined

additively to form an indeterminate whole.[…] the local sintax is fixed, but there is no overarching geometric scaffolding. Parts are not fragments of wholes, but simply parts.” 12 [Note: the last sentence delineates one key difference on the assembly of parts, which separates Allen’s theories and those of other architects from the Deconstructivist Movement and its further evolutions/branches.] The addition of parts poses the problem of quantity and scale inside the processes of repetition and agglomeration: how many elements can be sustainable, and how big can they grow, until the whole composition falls apart – or until it doesn’t resemble anymore a Field Condition? The same problem of scale noticed by Allen in the Smithson’s Mat configurations (specifically the Stem) is here proposed on a more abstract level. Yet as soon as we try to actually design something, the question resolves itself. One great property of this theory is its unavoidable, direct link to designed space as its confirmation or negation. Even if based on immaterial concepts, Field Conditions theory is evidently made for the making of artificial space. Stan Allen in an interview by Nader Tehrani in 2013: “With the field conditions idea, I wanted to preserve the double sense of working “in the field,” open to change, accident and improvisation, and at the same time, the more abstract sense of a “field of forces”—organizational systems and material assemblages that are serial, expansive, non-hierarchical and open-ended. But you identified a dilemma in the piece: if the proposition is that you create difference not by starting with a single form

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Herd of sheeps

Flock of starlings

Sou Fujimoto, ChildrenCenter for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Hokkaido, 2006; plan

Junya Ishigami, KAIT Workshop 2008, Atsugi; plan


and breaking it up, but by accumulating small differences over many, many iterations, you will always come to an impasse with the smaller scale. I thought at the time (and still do) that you could not do a “field conditions” house, for example; you needed a larger scale, more repetitions. But if—as I learned from your practice and others—you were to say that the repeated units are not the larger, compositional elements of architecture but, in fact, construction elements, you can make that transposition to the smaller scale.”13 Allen’s (and Tehrani’s) pragmatically flexible definition of an architectural “part” is a great tool to understand how to control the design process of those Japanese architectures that are usually explained only through the phenomenal behavior of the final outcome. I’m referring to many of Sou Fujimoto’s projects, as well as proposals by SANAA, Junya Ishigami and Kengo Kuma, all of which are formed by the agglomeration of small structural/spatial elements - Fujimoto’s cubes, stairs and slabs, Ishigami’s and SANAA’s columns, Kuma’s extremely various array of modular structures. The theory helps these projects to be linked together as similar in the design procedure, and it connects them to larger projects. Therefore, the same technique can be used to form buildings by the accumulation of rooms in the same way buildings can be formed by the accumulation of furniture - even if their different scales completely change the projects’ characters. This technique is a recurrent one in Japanese Architecture, and it challenges the concept of physical boundary in Architecture – see the nomadic “Umbrella Pavillion” by Kengo Kuma.

Furthermore, this approach to scale can be linked to an even more abstract and “mathematical” one used by Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto. “We work within a hierarchy that is not simply nested in scale and distinct from the orders that lie above and below it [called “simple nested hierarchy”]. Rather, we are using organizational principles that promote communication across scales, in which the particular is able to affect the general and vice-versa [called “complex hierarchy”]. This requires a methodology that involves both top-down and bottom-up logics operating in a feedback loop.” The outcomes are “wholes that are not reducible to their parts. These emergent organizations become legible not as parts to a whole but as whole-whole relationships.”14 Even more poignant is the concept of balance in fineness: “Fineness breaks down the gross fabric of building into finer and finer parts such that it can register small differences while maintaining an overall coherence.[…] Architecture must perform similarly [to a sponge]: at just the right balance between material geometry and force.”15 This theory by R+U is evidently entangled with Kengo Kuma’s texts (i.e. “Anti-Object”) and research on the building of Architecture. Even if Kuma’s and R+U’s projects differ, and their respective agendas point towards different agendas, they share strong similarities in the perception of space, events and structure. Reiser+Umemoto also explain when and how it would be practical to differentiate elements at the small scale: “At micro scales [variations] merely act as decorative textures; conversely, at an extreme macro scale such difference becomes

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imperceptible and in that sense meaningless. It would, for example, be absurd to suggest continuous variations in the joints of superhighways. It is at the middle to large scale – the space of mass reception- that there seems to be both an economy and a need for variation.”16 The more we link these theories together, the clearer it becomes their scalability limit. Even if the problem of the furniture scale might be partially solved, Field Conditions, Mat Building, Complex Hierarchy hold up as urban compositional methods only within certain physical dimensions. Nevertheless, I would argue that Allen’s practical way of framing Field Conditions is a good standpoint to approach those dimensional (and disciplinary) boundaries. It is indeed possible to conceive projects at the urban scale “algebraically”. This doesn’t mean Field Conditions is a universally valid theory; yet, because of its character of abstract practicality, it is particularly useful to directly verify “part to whole” relationships of large fields, and to connect them with smaller dimensions. “Although static in and of themselves, infrastructures organize and manage systems of flow, movement, and exchange. […] infrastructures tend to be hierarchical and tree-like. However, there are effects of scale (a capillary effect when the elements get very numerous and very small) and effects of synergy (when systems overlap and interchange), both of which tend to produce field conditions that disrupt the overall tendency of infrastructural systems to organize themselves in linear fashion.” “Infrastructure allow detailed design of typical elements or repet-

itive structures, facilitating an architectural approach to urbanism. Instead of moving always down in scale from the general to the specific, infrastructural design begins with the precise delineation of specific architectural elements within specific limits. […] In infrastructural urbanism, form matters, but more for what it can do than for what it looks like.”17 A system that is able, thanks to different tools at different scales, to vary and adapt itself to local conditions, seems to effectively resolve the “Stem” problem encountered with the Mat Building – and to highlight the limitations of this typology.

Lynda Benglis, “Wing”, 1970

Alan Saret, “Four Piece Folding Glade”, 1970



As for the discussion of composition, we are still inside the realm of a “serial aggregation of a large number of relatively small, more-or-less similar parts”. Some compositions, even if they could be intuitively included as examples for these theories, are not logically framed yet. The Agadir Convention Center by OMA presents many of the effects discussed earlier. However, its peculiar form puts us in an awkward position: how does one relate to the topological surface, and how exactly can one explain the surface’s interaction with the story above from a compositional standpoint? Or, if we look at the illustrative table of recent Japanese architectures proposed earlier, we still lack a proper understanding of the “continuous surfaces” and “multiple layers” typologies, as well as all their hybrid forms. Compared to agglomerations of objects, Moirés are a more abstract phenomenon. They are compositionally less useful, yet the concept becomes essential when referring to the superimposition of fields and/or surfaces. Unlike flocks, moiréès’ object to field relationship is less discernible. This is what relates them to the surface. “A moiré, for example, is a figural effect produced by the superposition of two regular fields. Unexpected effects, exhibiting complex and apparently irregular behaviors result from the combination of elements that are in and of themselves repetitive and regular. But moiré effects are not random. They shift abruptly in

scale, and repeat according to complex mathematical rules. […] figure and field can never be separated out as distinct entities. In either case there is an uncanny coexistence of a regular field and emergent figure.” As explained in “Mat Urbanism”, it is impossible to think about Urbanism and Landscape Architecture without referring to the concept of surface – more specifically, the thick surface. Terms and theories that can unequivocally bridge limits in scales and disciplines are necessary for the operative development of such abstract concepts. “In the architectural or urban context, the example of moiré effects begs the question of surface and depth. […] What field combinations seem to promise [in the prototypical 20th-21st century horizontal city] is a thickening, and intensification of experience at specified moments within the extended field of the city. […] The new institutions of the city will instead [of the vertical monumental buildings] occur at moments of intensity, linked to the wider network of the urban field, and marked not by demarcating lines but by thickened surfaces.”18 In general, a less clear but at times more useful definition that embraces all the typologies studied here, would be “non-centralized expansive systems capable of becoming specific at any given point”19. This is a definition, created by Spanish architects Mansilla+Tuñón, often used by Stan Allen as a broader and less specific term for “Field Conditions”. It permits to conceive the idea of a field within which events are connected and sequential, yet easily identifiable as single mo-

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Moiré by superimposed grids of dots

ments; it also stands out from “additive” techniques of composition, and it makes it easier to include different kinds of geometries such as networked, nested, warped or stacked surfaces. In the words of Allen: “All grids are fields, but not all fields are grids”. Furthermore, in this definition, the field does not define space and movement – but rather identity. For this reason, I find these two concepts complementary; they never stand alone, always relating to each other, depending on the context and the direction of the project itself. Finally, I would take these two following concepts as a bridge between Mat Building in Architecture and the general concept of Surface in Urbanism, Landscape Urbanism and Infrastructural Urbanism: the notion of moirées and more generally the series of disruptions created by the interaction between two or more fields (regardless their inner continuity and regularity), together with the concept by Mansilla+Tuñón as the connection between conglomerates of objects and smooth surfaces.

•• 1 Alejandro Zaera-Polo, “A Scientific Autobiography. 1982-2994: Madrid, Harvard, OMA, the AA, Yokohama, the globe.” In Harvard Design Magazine, Fall/Winter 2004:21 •• 2 Ibid.; p. 8 •• 3 Toyo Ito, “A Garden of Microchips: the Architectural Image of the microelectronic age”, in ANY Magazine 5, 1994 •• 4 Julian Worrall, “The Deep Field: Resolving a Japanese Constellation”, in ed. Sarah Resnick, “A Japanese Constellation”, MOMA Publishing, New York, 2016 (published along with the exhibition at MOMA by the same name); p.247

•• 5 Stan Allen, “From Object to field” in AD, n5/6 May/June 1997: 67 •• 6 Stan Allen, “From object to field: Field Conditions in Architecture + Urbanism”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; p. 217-242 •• 7 Ibid. •• 8 Stan Allen, “From Object to field” in AD, n5/6, May/June 1997: 67 •• 9 Stan Allen, “From object to field: Field Conditions in Architecture + Urbanism”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; p. 217-242 •• 10 Ibid. •• 11 Using a terminology by Valerio Olgiati. See also: Stan Allen in conversation with Preston Scott Cohen, Oct 20, 2011 at Harvard University GSD •• 12 Stan Allen, “From object to field: Field Conditions in Architecture + Urbanism”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; p. 217-242 •• 13 Nader Tehrani: Stan Allen, “BOMB” Magazine, Spring 2003:123 •• 14 Reiser+Umemoto, “Atlas of Novel Tectonics”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2006; p.50 •• 15 Ibid., p.38 •• 16 Ibid., p.64 •• 17 Stan Allen, “Points + Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City”, Princeton Architectural press, New York, 1999; p. 55-57 •• 18 Stan Allen, “From object to field: Field Conditions in Architecture + Urbanism”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; p. 217-242 •• 19 Ed. Gail Peter Borden, Michael Meredith: “Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2012 p. 12


0.4 Superimposition of Fields through Time


In the presentation of the discourse around fields and mats in the contemporary city, one thing is clear: the methodologies that involve such themes are concerned about the relationships between elements within a large variety of scales. They are highly contextual, and focus on the physical link of in-between spaces of the city. As such, they imply the interdependence (if not sameness) of architecture and infrastructure. Many architects have successfully advocated an integration of Architecture and Infrastructure to bridge incongruities between urban planning and architectural design.1 “The territory of architecture should concern itself with the whole of the built environment. Traditional distinctions – between architecture and landscape, engineering and urbanism, art and ecology – constrain the architectural project and allow architects to sidestep a direct engagement with critical social and environmental issues of our time. Though every project, regardless of scale, is a fertile site for this broader definition of architecture, the largest works of spatial organization are rarely informed by architectural expertise.”2 The relatively recent rise of Landscape Urbanism as an independent discipline has signed one of the main historical junctions in this field. It is still the main discipline within which measuring the effect of field-like compositions in Architecture. “Landscape Urbanism works not only in the void spaces be-

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tween buildings, roadways, and infrastructure but in the space between disciplines as well. It is worth pointing out that the emergence of Landscape Urbanism was accelerated by the formal experiments carried out in the early 1990s by architects working with strategies of folding, surface manipulation, and the creation of artificial terrains. Architects and landscape architects discovered a common territory in their parallel preoccupations with surface and constructed ground”3 Most of all, Landscape Urbanism permitted to create an organic connection of terminologies and procedures between Urbanism and Architecture through ecology. “Both landscape and ecology serve as useful strategic models for three primary reasons: 1) they accept the often messy and complex circumstances of the given site, replete with constraints, potentials, and realities […] 2) they both address issues of largescale spatial organization and relational structuring among parts, a structuring that remains open and dynamic, not fixed; and 3) they both deal with time open-endedly, often viewing a project more in terms of cultivation, staging, and setting up certain conditions rather than obsessing on fixity, finish, and completeness. […] Design practices that are contextually responsive, temporal and open-ended, adaptive and flexible, and ecologically strategic do not imply that formal, material precision is irrelevant. Proponents who argue for strategy over form, for strategic modes of practice over formal, material practices or even for a kind of subjective creativity are misguided. […] In designing pathways, corridors, patches, fields, matrices, meshworks, boundaries, surfaces, mats, membranes, sections and joints – each configuration

highly specific in dimension, material, and organization – we are constructing a dynamic expanding field, literally a machine stage for the performance of life, for the propagation of more life, and for the emergence of novelty. In other words, arguments for staging uncertainty, for indeterminacy and open-endedness, for endless scenario gaming and datascaping […] do not make sense in a world without specific material form and precise design organizations”4 When seen as an ecology, the urban environment can be indeed treated as a landscape – especially when we no longer rely upon the obsolete dichotomy of nature/artifice. However, yet If the urban environment is seen as a synthetic landscape itself, we are still at the beginning of the development of a discourse on the architectural character of Infrastructure. An all-encompassing theory, which could successfully gather all the semantic tools to discuss practical, detailed spatial methodologies to incorporate Infrastructure into the city is still not fully formed. Even though many theories have successfully understood the problematics and the potentialities involved, there only exist few projects that adopt similar approaches, therefore we cannot discuss the matter beyond those few examples. The High Line in New York by James Corner Field Operations and Diller and Scofidio + Renfro (2009) is one of the greatest examples of Landscape Urbanism that physically dealt with urban infrastructures. This project is iconic in its evident success in materially dealing with multi-disciplinary problematics, by designs that could not p.41

only foster new possibilities within the academic discourse, but also managed to create practical ways to entice investors in creating truly open, public spaces based on private/public collaborations. The High Line implanted public space by adapting existing infrastructure through the architectural scale. Yet many of the basic features that define Architecture as such are missing - or not fundamental to the project. The variety of program and the creation of indoor spaces that characterize buildings are indirectly referenced, but not present. Studying the relationship between Landscape Urbanism and Architecture from the opposite point of view, we see how coherently FOA used the procedures described by James Corner in their submission at Yokohama: “FOA’s Yokohama Port Terminal is perhaps the most convincing realization of an architecture invested in the idea of landscape techniques working at the scale of a building. Indeed, Yokohama is nothing if not a constructed landscape, and it is not quite accurate to call it a building at all. […] What FOA understood better than anyone else at the time was that the 1995 competition presented the perfect fit between a program that involved managing the flow of goods and people and an emerging aesthetic of continuous surfaces.”5 Both mentioned projects are essential to understand that Landscape can only be achieved through Architecture as the “staging of indeterminate stage for life through specific material form and precise design organization”. What they highlight is how not recognizing the inherent “materiality” of the discipline can in fact

have material consequences. “It is not entirely coincidental that the twenty-five year period coinciding with the rise of postmodernism in architecture has seen a massive defunding of urban infrastructure. […] It might be argued that by the production of a theoretical framework to justify an architecture of surface and sign, architects have, consciously or not, participated in their own marginalization. If architects assert that signs and information are more important than infrastructure, why would bureaucrats or politicians disagree?”6 […]A toolbox of new and existing procedures can be expanded by reference to architecture’s traditional alliance with territorial organization and functionality. This is the context within I want to situate the shift in recent practice toward infrastructure. […] Infrastructural urbanism understands architecture as a material practice – as an activity that works in and among the world of things, and not exclusively with meaning and image. […] Material practices do not attempt to control or predetermine meaning. Instead, they go beyond the paradoxes of the linguistic to examine the effects of signifying practices on performance and behavior. Material practices are not about expression – expressing either the point of view of an author or of the collective will of a society; rather they condense, transform, and materialize concepts”7 Only within the realm of “material practices” architects are able to build new methodologies to deal with Infrastructure. We saw also the direct effects of Landscape Urbanism as a movement towards Architecture: The High Line is specific in

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giving architectural detail and in its extreme capacity of adaptation in an urban environment, while the Yokohama Port is the generalization of architectural characters into a flowing landscape of movements and programs. It is important to note that the former is a witty adaptation of an existing structure into a park, and the latter is a construction ex-novo. The High Line borrowed the disciplinary tools of Architecture to reach landscape results, while the Yokohama Port Terminal uses the disciplinary tools of Landscape Urbanism to reach architectural results. This tells us how the two projects rely on one-way relationships: the High Line goes from Landscape Urbanism to Architecture, while the Yokohama Port goes from Architecture to Landscape Urbanism. These projects, even if they are extremely important examples, are still engaging with the city from their specific fields. “The built projects of Landscape Urbanism, […] have for the most part been urban parks: in other words, they still function within the realm of landscape and have not yet been able to engage the urban or the architectural in a consequential way. I would suggest that the most convincing piece of built Landscape Urbanism to date [2015] is Michael Manfredi and Marion Weiss’s Olympic Sculpture Park. The urbanistic and infrastructural power of that project derives in part from their expertise as architects” The Sculpture Park is an evident step towards Infrastructural Urbanism within a reciprocal relationship: Landscape Urbanism to and from Architecture. the Olympic Sculpture park is a backand-forth dialogue between disciplines: it exemplifies the advent

James Corner and Diller and Scofidio + Renfro, High Line, New York, 2009

FOA, Yokohama International Port Terminal, 1994

Weiss/Manfredi, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, 2007


of a material practice of Architecture and the deployment of Architecture as the overlapping of interventions through time. Furthermore, the Park is a direct adaptation of the design to existing conditions (and, more specifically, existing structures), and it makes extensive use of landscaping operations whilst implementing them with architectural program and indoor spaces. Weiss/Manfredi’s vision thoroughly unfolds the dialogue for the future of Infrastructure. I’d like to propose my design project presented along with this thesis, and the compositional theories it was based upon, under Weiss/Manfredi’s premises: “What if the very hard lines between landscape, architecture, engineering, and urbanism could find a more synthetic convergence? We are interested in a new model of practice that integrates all fields of design through yet-to-be-codified protocols – a synthesis residing at the periphery of disciplinary definitions but perhaps at the center of a wholly new form. We imagine a definition for an evolutionary infrastructure that is both projective and pragmatic – an intrinsically agile prototypical ideal, capable of optimizing ecological and social agendas and leveraging the stray spatial consequences of preexisting infrastructures. This definition recognizes that urban centers, particularly those settled in close proximity to water, have experienced great transformation over time. […] This evolution […] has resulted in a patchwork layering of infrastructural systems, creating odd juxtapositions and remnant spaces between ports, city grids, train lines, roadways and highways. Our idea of an evolutionary infrastructure does not condemn the artifacts of infrastructure or depend on an idealized

blank-state condition, but rather envisions new reciprocities between preexisting systems and more ecologically resilient territories suited to contemporary demands. […] Realizing the limitations of monofunctional infrastructure, we advocate for a more hybrid, resilient, “thick” infrastructure, where large-scale regional ambitions do not preclude programmatic variety, spatial richness, and specificity of detail, but rather suggest an alchemy of innovative engineering, ecological imperatives, and compelling architecture. We envision the necessity of an evolutionary “model for infrastructure” – a public/private model that brings the impatience of the entrepreneurial spirit to the broader collective agendas of public agencies.”8[bold added]

Hakozaki expressway junction, Tokyo

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I find one passage in “From Object to Field” being particularly important for the concept of “surface” in fields: “The new institutions of the city will perhaps have moments of intensity, linked to the wider network of the urban field, and marked not by demarcating lines but by thickened surfaces”9. Practically, this concept revolutionizes existing cities by describing a change of perspective on the built environment. Large infrastructural systems create points of intensity by superimposition. These urban fields can be highlighted and further intertwined by smaller, architectural fields that exploit the intensity created by those same overlapping structures. This process of “evolution” through the interaction of different layers strongly resembles the Agadir Centre’s compositional approach, where the ground level resonates with its first story through the in-between void. Various structural elements are chosen in order to maximize this resonance. Within this void the right quality of variety enhances the identity of the various “charged” areas. A similar concept was presented in an abstractly strong installation by Toyo Ito for a temporary exhibition in the hall of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. His method consisted in letting diversity emerge from the existing architecture itself, in the form of a topological smooth surface. As Thomas Daniell writes, for Ito Architecture is “a kind of ‘spray’ that coats and thereby reveals the spectral outlines of the informational field, like water droplets modelling air turbulence or metal filing tracing a mag-

netic field”10. In Ito’s project, the architect’s role is to enhance and arrange the diversity inherently and implicitly present in the Galerie into a coherent, architecturally feasible system. In a certain way, this would be the prototype for a fully formed, context based “Emerging grid”.

Toyo Ito + Florian Busch, installation for “Berlin-Tokyo/Tokyo-Berlin” in the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; October 2006

OMA, Agadir Convention Center, 1990

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In the essay “Mat Urbanism”, Allen doesn’t specify to what extent the overlapping infrastructures would actually be part of the new “thickened surface”. Such thick points of interaction between grids are not explicitly called Field Conditions themselves. Yet Allen’s argument implies that something special, a moiré effect is already active in the existing structure – and its further development. One question arises then: at which point, and under which conditions, accumulation and superimposition lead to an interaction between fields? The architectural elements of Infrastructure are purely organizational, they don’t change according to the variety of events taking place in the city. They are structures, stripped away from all the features that define an architectural program. Yet, especially when they are accumulated or stratified in diverse environments, they suggest events. By contrast, we can present the same problem not from the standpoint of the interactive accumulation of seemingly inert structures, but also from the deactivation of structures already presenting active fields.

Ito’s works often rely on these smooth subtleties. Infrastructures and neglected buildings are similar, if they are seen as Architecture: both of them can house program and create architectural conditions in an open manner; the former constitutes an open Field by the proposition of new events, the latter becomes an open Field by the negation or corruption of older events. These topics are increasingly relevant as the need for redevelopment of postmodern structures grows worldwide. Urban Redevelopment involves shopping centers, neglected or unfinished buildings, and all kinds of infrastructures and urban voids. Because of the open character of these structures, refurbishment and repurpose can range from small Architecture to whole towns. The concept of moiré can once again induce a direct and detailed architectural approach to infrastructure. Thanks to the developing of Allen’s theories, the continuous process of infrastructural construction and adaptation can now be seen itself as the creation of real architectural space – and an

The following questions bring the problem closer to Architecture: what happens when field conditions lose their programs, or when superimpositions stop to resonate? For example, what would Tabliabue+Miralle’s Santa Caterina Market be without the market underneath? Surely the structure would define zones of intensity, and the different identities suggested by the roof could still influence the seemingly flat surface of the ground underneath. SANAA’s and Miralles + Tagliabue, Santa Caterina Market, Barcelona, 2005


encouragement for urban landmarks. Creating a new urban expressway can now mean imbuing the tri-dimensional flows of cities into architectural space. This point highlights what in my opinion is one of the least coherent characteristic of contemporary buildings that so far fell under the category of Field Conditions - and/or Matted Buildings: the Field Conditions theory is always presented as a plural phenomenon that occurs through time, yet those buildings are most likely designed by one team of architects in one relatively small period of time. “Emergence” occurs indeed through the design process. But in these cases, emergence occurs as a feedback loop within the same set of rules, controlled by the same team of architects, during the same period of time. The same persons add and subtract parts in the design within matter of days. The project usually doesn’t envision change or expansion once it’s built. Paradoxically, these design methods envision flexibility and change through time only if the same set of rules will be respected. Furthermore, it is most likely that, in the rare case that the building will be modified or implemented, only the same team of architects will have enough knowledge on the composition to properly modify the building. These systems are highly dynamic and open-ended compositional concepts once they are used in the design phase, but they tend to become relatively static close-ended once they are set into a finished project. In other words, is it more fun to watch a computer playing chess against itself, or a game between humans? A design through time between different logics might actually be the future of now-

adays “emergent designs”, whether the designs would be directly controlled by humans or by algorithms. This approach could be the right way to merge Architecture and Urban intervention. Furthermore, examples of Field Conditions buildings so far are usually expected to cover a free lot, and to be built at once. In most cases, the existing part of the city influences only marginally the building’s internal spatial structure – literally meaning that the lot is a free, flat surface with existing structures to deal with only at its borders. In this respect, complex internal spatial structures cannot defend themselves if deemed arbitrarily over-calculated. The process can adapt and change according to local, regional, or “global” requisites, depending on the project. But the single project itself risks to lose its Field characteristics through time, due to its often overly-calculated internal spatial relationships. I would argue that the design process created along with Field Conditions buildings has usually more potential than shown by the buildings themselves. If the problem is the building’s internal self-reference, I would then search for the perfect condition to “put under stress” one of these elegant and versatile design methodologies. If Field Conditions were forced to adapt to an existing environment also in their internal spatial relationships, then a more scattered, partial, unfinished, layered method could be envisioned. This process could be adaptable through time, by different design methodologies. New buildings hardly engage with existing structures in a “dirty”, compromising, direct way. The parallel between moirés in pro-

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gramless urban structures and moirés in new designs becomes here an exciting way to materially think about urban redevelopment. I am particularly focused on the Architecture of infrastructures such as elevated highways: they perfectly epitomize the role that scale and module exercise in the connection between street, buildings and entire districts. They leave a long-limbed demarcation under a urban void. This void is influenced by the many different characters of all the neighborhoods it crosses. The more active and diverse the neighborhood is around this void, the more diverse this space can be. The void connects large-scaled urban identities through structural elements that are nested in diminishing scales. We could think about a highway crossing being itself a “non-centralized expansive systems capable of becoming specific at any given point”. Non-field redevelopments of abandoned structures can exhibit a relatively “closed” character in order to maximize program (like OMA’s “New Garage Museum of Contemporary Art”, Moscow, 2015), or decide to exploit and partially maintain the “open” character of the programless structure (like in Lacaton+Vassal’s Nantes School of Architecture). Whether more or less regular, the structural lattice of an abandoned building itself resonates with the surrounding environment and suggests flows and programs. Within the context of Field-like architectural projects, considering programless structures being fields themselves would be procedurally useful for the formation of moiré effects. Ito’s installation

in Berlin suggests in fact to start with a direct, small scaled analysis of spatial differences inherent in the existing structure. A formally and spatially different set of rules can then be created for the new design, from the understanding of said space. The Field Condition would arise from the addition or superimposition of the new architecture on the existing one, in the same way of Agadir Centre – yet, in this case, the Field Condition would be developed through the juxtaposition of different projects in different times. I would call “Augmented Field Conditions” all those interventions that would create a Field Condition through the addition or superimposition of three-dimensional structures called “Field Implants” onto existing structures –or “Existing Fields”. One distinctive feature is that Field Implants operate in order to enhance the characteristics of pre-existing conditions into a new, inseparable set of identities. Outside the realm of simple refurbishment, many urban conditions that exist are self-sustaining yet barely functional, hiding potentially strong features. The Existing Field can be made out of many layers of stratified interventions, being itself an ongoing dialogue between structures. Whether it is a neglected building complex, a transportation infrastructure, an urban void, a smooth meadow or a forest, it has to exhibit field-like properties and an evident array of identities. This term is a way to put emphasis on the materiality and the architectural properties of existing structures, regardless of the discipline within which the project would be developed. In fact, the scale range of the Existing Field is still that of a Matted Buildp.49

ing – between the architectural and the urban. I see implementation through Field Implants as a useful technique for all those urban redevelopments that seek the open and porous character of Field Conditions and aim to form local variations within an overall coherent system. The technique seems particularly useful in the design of public spaces that seek programmatic and spatial variation and need to be organically inserted in the surroundings. The new intervention would enhance and rejuvenate the existing environment into a new, hybrid organism. A Field Implant is a sort of advanced prosthesis; it is itself a set of independent entities most likely incapable to self-sustain. The Field Implant is made out of partial and independent architectural objects, yet it is not free-standing as an object should be: it is specifically made to be inserted into the existing condition, designed to both be nurtured by that condition and yet complete and upgrade it. Field Implants can also work the other way around: there is an infinite gradation between “augmenting” Implants and “unifying” Implants. Depending on the extent of the existing environment, the Implant can serve as a simple augmentation to the existing structure, it can organically connect “broken” identities, or it can be a completely new building, conceived to make evident the small differences found in the existing condition. As in OMA’s project for Parc de la Villette, formally different yet interdependent layers are superimposed to form a locally varied whole. But in this case there is a temporal order that determines

which layer will adapt to which one, trying to shape itself according to previous characteristics, intensifying or modifying them. It’s a matter of empathy by the current designer to create the right system that would implement the site and/or leave room for future enhancement of existing identities. The successive augmentation of an Existing Field by different Field Implants through time and by different Architects would be the slow materialization of La Villette’s diagrams. Though, the realization would be carried on through discrete orchestrations, which would be realistically uncommunicative with each other. As Koolhaas’ strips acted as a spatial organizational principle for the realistic possibility of addition or subtraction of layers through time, an elevated highway’s pillars would organize and connect space throughout different interventions. Here I introduce one of the main characteristics of Augmented Fields: they can rely on the addition of discrete, fairly simple (if considered as stand-alone projects) interventions through time. For this reason, each Field Implant isn’t necessarily affected by the compositional specificities of Field Conditions, as soon as field characteristics are exhibited by the whole. In this concept, what matters the most is the juxtaposition between two or more compositions that generate a field. I would propose the metaphor of waves resonating in a pond as pebbles are randomly and successively thrown into it. Experience can make us understand how to coordinate singular throws through time, so that we can throw the pebbles at the right distance between them both in time and space. The key is finding the right

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physical distance between different points of impact with the water, as well as finding the right amount of time to wait before throwing another pebble. This rhythm can result in waves adding one another, creating a reaction far more effective than the one created without rhythm. As the superimposition of arrays of repetitive elements in layers can create Moiré effects, similarly random and multiple disruptions of a regular field can resonate together. In this method, Field Conditions are best represented by the (more or less random) disruption of a field. Randomness is necessary for a field to be varied, yet it is dangerously close to arbitrary self-reference – especially if a single design methodology exhibits over-complexity. Here, randomness-related mannerism would be accepted and encouraged as it would be an inevitable feature of accumulation of methodologies and as an unpredictable agent of Field Conditions. According to this concept, a wide variety of formal arrangements can be compatible to one another if program, space and structure are well fitted. Objects at the furniture or architectural scale, tubular continuous elements, smooth surfaces, etc. can be arranged in two and three dimensional clusters, bundles, nets, grids, arrays or patterns to form one Field Implant. In-between additions, horizontal superimpositions, vertical juxtapositions and many other methods can create “thick surfaces”. So a horizontal topological surface can overlap with a system of scattered objects. A net of weaving paths can intersect a regular grid, or a large modular inhabited canopy can cover existing buildings whilst connecting them. These are only some

examples of the broad possibility of combinations of designs through time. I would argue that much of the difficulty in accepting the “Spatial City” projects by Yona Friedman as actual architectural proposals comes from its lack of design specificity - which is an unavoidable feature of its utopian character, yet it is also the reason why Alison Smithson discarded the proposals as “not Architecture”. “It might be that what Alison didn’t like was that my proposal was not architecture, not art; it was not a final object. It was the start of a process, and the buildings could look completely otherwise. The use was not determined. The CIAM people were very much concerned with doing the best plan and making it definite. I was saying, “I don’t know what the best plan is, and for each inhabitant the best plan is different”.11 Here I would like to propose a completely architectural procedural way of approaching, possibly, also “Cities in the Sky”. It would be a dialogue between Architects through time, adjusting the

Yona Friedman, City in the Sky over Place de la Concorde, Paris


site over and over as the mutual influences between different historical layers of the architecture would generate difference. Furthermore, the elegantly difficult task of Field Conditions to find the right scale for the right amount of elements is here replaced by simple, relatively free superimposed systems operating at different scales. A messy, redundant, incongruous method, and yet various, surprising and effective. Also, since Augmented Field design methodologies are multiple and discrete, this concept encourages the emergence of sub-systems. Clusters of Implants, distant from each other, would establish zones of complexity within the existing environment, determining “field” areas within a larger “field” of clusters. I aim to replace the myth of spaces of complete interconnection and constant variety with the more spatially and chronologically sustainable concepts of “connection of identities”, and “enhancement of potentialities”. Not everything needs to be connected, and not every field is constantly and homogeneously a field. Buildings are more likely to be adapted, than to adapt themselves. Disconnection is an essential part of an identity. With Augmented Fields, I put less concern on the sameness of the compositional module, and more emphasis is given to the adaptability of the design methodology and its “empathy” towards Existing Fields. Identity within time is also essential. This method refers yet again to the collaborative character of the historical and vernacular projects analyzed by Smithson and Allen – where implementation and modification through time can be visualized all at once.

New structures can flow inside old ones or vice-versa. In order to clarify this concept, let’s analyze some examples. Not many iconic projects share this typology of intervention. For now we can just present those projects that in their ideology lean towards the Augmented Field. A smooth surface would be a difficult Existing Field, since its inherent differences would be less legible. Yet it would still be functional as initial organizational principle, as soon as its features would be strong enough. This is perfectly shown in projects such as Nishizawa+Nendo’s “Roof and Mushroom” pavillion in Kyoto at the small scale, and SANAA’s Grace Farms in New Canaan at the medium/large scale. These projects, even if they are not Augmented Field Conditions, lean towards that direction. They conceive buildings as implementation of spatial features that were already present within the site in the first place. SANAA’s Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne (if we want to consider a similarly shaped building) refers to spatial conditions only once it has established its own conceptual diagram as a condition – while all the features of the existing environment that it considers are indirect and outside the area. This might seem a small difference, yet it becomes a huge problem when we want to establish a structural, spatial and programmatic design methodology that is conceived as a physical attachment of existing spatial structures. In Grace Farms, the specific spatial features of the site are unavoidably the beginning of the practical conception of the design.

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Colonnade Bike Skills Park in Seattle might be closer to the exposed concept. It is a mountain bike under the I-5 elevated driveway, started independently by amateurs as a small DIY project when the road was already in place. It is still not a proper architecture, as its structure and program are too simple to be taken as an example of Augmented Field. It will be analyzed in detail, along with similar “underground” architectural projects developed within public infrastructures, in this book’s PART 2PROJECT inside Chapter 2.0- Introduction. The I-5 Driveway’s deck, its pillars, and the mountain-bike ramps flowing underneath it form an inseparable whole. The transversal cross-section changes throughout the site, determining macro changes in spatial and programmatic qualities - the bike path being itself the program. The DIY character of the whole project and the scarcity of construction materials lead to the project’s necessity-driven primitive and random looks. Its path changes with time, as additions and slight modifications are continuously carried out, according to the direct experience of the users. Changes at the small scale occur constantly and rapidly: width, form and materials vary inside intersecting paths, which are created by the sequence of different actions (jump, straight bumpy road, broad curve, etc.) and their change through time. The space, atmosphere and program of the path are impossible to separate from the overhanging deck, and it is probable that the park wouldn’t exist without the I-5 elevated driveway.

SANAA, Grace Farms, New Canaan, 2015

I would like to focus once again on the adaptation to local features in a (seemingly) natural environment; the following two Colonnade Bike Skills Park, Seattle, 2007


projects demonstrate how it is possible to do so using the opposite method of Grace Farms’. While SANAA’s project adapts to macro-changes in the landscape, here local conditions have a strong character at the medium/small scale. Fujimoto’s Liget House of Hungarian Music (Budapest, 2014) and Amid.Cero9’s La Palma Hot Spring Baths (Canary Islands, 2015) create a method to unify and respect local conditions (internal to the site) by the superimposition of an architectural object over the ground. The two projects share evident similarities. They both try to respect internal and external characteristics of the location. In fact, they treat each respective area as having strong internal specificities. They do it by adding an inhabited floating roof on top of an Existing Field. These plates try to mimic or abstractly replicate the site’s natural characteristics. Fujimoto’s roof opens up and embraces existing trees, while the positioning of other holes for internal illumination replicates the sensation of being under the foliage; this would ideally permit the user to experience the park and the architecture seamlessly. Amid.Cero9’s suspended roof creates a juxtaposition with the volcanic cliff underneath, by replicating the rock’s structure yet completely differentiating from it. The buildings are distinct from their environment as a hovering object above it, but they internally blend with existing conditions through multiple and local differences in the architecture. The layer of the the inhabited roof resonates with the ground influencing architecture’s program, space and atmosphere. The roof incorporates the existing conditions at the ground level and tries

to preserve them. This makes the roof a unifying device for both previous and new local characteristics; at the same time, the new local features of the roof replicate and change existing ones. At the large scale, the contrast between object and field is evident; but at the medium/small scale, the intervention seamlessly blends with the existing characteristics by incorporating them. The resonance between these two aspects of the building (object at the macro scale, field at micro scale) create a strong Field. It is important to notice how both architectures are internally influenced by the Existing Field.Even if these two projects successfully augment an Existing Field, they do not envision change through time, and they have a compact, non-modular, closed shape that is ill-suited for future interventions. They are a source of inspiration for Augmented Fields, but they do not fully epitomize them. It is noticeable how all the projects presented so far under the Augmented Field category cannot be easily classified as Architecture. Both in terms of scale and composition, they pertain to the disciplines of Landscape Urbanism as much as that of Architecture. This is especially true for Grace Farms and for Colonnade Bike Park Skills. But each projects is not set inside the complexity of the urban environment. I would argue that the ideal condition for an Augmented Field would be a (possibly dense) urban environment. The Field Implant would have to spread on a urban scale, through porous and scattered overlapping layers. The intervention would have to

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envision additions, superimpositions or modifications through time. In 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, collaboration between firms and reuse of existing structures were amongst the main topics. In this context, collaboration is often seen as a DIY approach to the community, not as an organizational device for firms to build entire neighborhoods through time, by collaborating with each other. The American Pavillion focused on the practical aspects of the production of avant-garde architecture through redevelopment and reuse. Old structures are used as (often void) structural backbones or as functioning buildings with a new program. In every project though, especially in those by Stan Allen and MOS, Architecture trying to emphasize and rejuvenate existing characteristics was an evident concern. In these two projects many compositional methods are juxtaposed into an harmonious whole. They superimpose architectures onto Existing Fields, augmenting and modifying them. Existing structures are adapted to host new, specifically designed sets of compositions. The additions are coherent systems in and of themselves, yet they perfectly match the existing scale and program that they alter. The new whole is an heterogeneous combination of discrete, internally coherent systems that collaborate with each other. I see these projects a step towards an empathetic and pragmatic collaboration between Architects and communities through time. Allen’s project is set in Detroit’s Packard Plant, a very large aban-

Sou Fujimoto, Liget House of Hungarian Music, Budapest, 2014

Amid.Cero9, La Palma Hot Springs Bath, Canary Islands, 2015


doned industrial complex built on a 43-acres site. It was built in 1903 and abandoned starting from 1956. envisions “the building as a new ground for future constructions”, developing every tool through which the project can adapt through time, according to different scenarios. It’s especially interesting how Allen provided a project developed within different, nested scales: “The complex is too large to be conceived as a single building or to be addressed by a uniform architectural strategy. Our strategy - an array of smaller-scale architectural objects scattered throughout the variable surface of the project - enables local difference while sustaining overall coherence. By taking advantage of the large horizontal surfaces, the urban texture of the project is not so much designed as it is evolved, based on part-to-part relationships among a multitude of small elements.”12 MOS’ project is a critique on contemporary cities - better, on contemporary citizens. The introductory text that MOS provides along with the project develops a philosophy of Architecture for generalized, global communities. The text describes (cynically) the current state of Architecture as a “diluted” and fragmented superimposition of architectural parts. This helps us to understand the implications of building architecture partially and additionally, one piece onto another existing piece, onto another. I think we should consider this proposal as both a criticism and an active proposition to Augmented Fields. “The city isn’t what it used to be. It’s everywhere, repeating, aggregating, superimposing. It’s following you, collecting information to better serve you, to be your friend, your trusty companion. It knows who you are and who you want to be.

(no trace of nostalgia, no separation anxiety, no separation) [...]The counterpoint to architecture’s mapping project is the production of urban fabric through typology. Typology produces the city through sameness. But the architectural autonomy of typology has disintegrated into the market, transformed into an hybridized warren of serialized, rationally disposed parts. Yet on an urban scale, the parts don’t add up.[...] Site-specific relational reasoning, endless flexibility, and adaptability outstrip the finite indices of typology. The exceptions have become the rule. (no city, no architecture, a situation of loose aggregates) But the dissolution of urbanism, as witnessed through the urban map (the whole) and of typological production (the part), does not render everything ineffectual. In lieu of a cohesive map of non consistent typologies, the city reorganizes and expands the field of relationships. [...] Loose aggregates, temporary couplings, disjunctures, overlaps, and networks of mismanaged risk become the basis of new formal and social potential. It’s a noncommittal, open relationship - swipe left at any time. The city is being actively redefined, augmented, and superimposed within other spaces.”13

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Stan Allen, Detroit Rock City, inside dismissed Packard Plant, Detroit, 2016

MOS, Dequibdre Cut redevelopment, Detroit, 2016



Referring to the diagrams presented in the 2009 version of “Field Conditions”, I pose a practical question: wouldn’t it be possible to create a Field Condition just by superimposing the “Linked Elements” and “Axial Composition” aggregates, listed as being inherently different from Field Condition compositions? (see Chapter 0.5) This is basically what I tried to do in the architectural project displayed in this research. The design project introduced in Chapter 1.1, and presented in Chapter 2.2 is an attempt to create an Augmented Field. Clusters of networked surfaces disrupt the regularity of an elevated expressway’s structural grid, and try to resonate with the existing structure itself. The experiment relies on an incongruent type of composition, scattered bundles of surfaces that couldn’t rely only on themselves in order to be properly functionally. The existing environment is left as untouched as possible, and the Field Implant aims to give the whole area a new, nested set of characters based on the inherent potentialities of the site.

____________________________________________________ •• 1 See Also: Riken Yamamoto, “Riken Yamamoto”, TOTO Publishing, Japan, 2012; p. 19;23 •• “The proper role of the designer […] is to design buildings and the relationships of those buildings to their surroundings.” … “Can we as architects propose, together with a small infrastructure system distinctive to the local community, an attractive model of architectural space?” •• 2 Weiss/Manfredi, “Public Natures: Evolutionary infrastructures”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2015; p. 162-163 •• 3 Ed. Stan Allen and Marc McQuade, “Landform Building”, Lars Müller Publishers, Baden, 2011; p. 26-27 •• 4 James Corner, “not unlike life itself”, in Harvard Design Magazine, Fall/Winter 2004:21 •• 5 Ed. Stan Allen and Marc McQuade, “Landform Building”, Lars Müller Publishers, Baden, 2011; p. 24 •• 6 Stan Allen, “Points + Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City”, Princeton Architectural press, New York, 1999; p.51 •• 7 Ibid., p. 51-53 •• 8 Weiss/Manfredi, “Public Natures: Evolutionary infrastructures”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2015; p. 9-10 •• 9 Stan Allen, “From object to field: Field Conditions in Architecture + Urbanism”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; p. 217-242 •• 10 Thomas Daniell, “The Fugitive”, in Toyo Ito, “Tarzans In The Media Forest and Other Essays”, Architecture Word 8, London, AA Publications, 2011, p.13 •• 11 Manuel Orazi, Yona Friedman, ed. Nader Seraj “Yona Friedman: The diluition of Architecture”, Park Books, Zurich, 2015; p.368 •• 12 Ed. Cynthia Davidson, “CataLog”, catalogue of 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, US Pavillion; p. 164 •• 13 Ibid., p.151-152

Part 0 - Research


PART 1 - Analysis




One feature brings together most of those Japanese Architects that operate within the realm of field-like aggregates: their constant reference to the city of Tokyo. Almost each renown contemporary Japanese architect has a personal opinion on this city and receives different influences from it. It is not an overstatement to say that the city was one of the main fields to evaluate reality within the architectural Japanese genealogy. This has been subject of speculation for Tange, Kurokawa, Maki, Isozaki, Hara, Shinohara, to Ito, Yamamoto, Sejima, Kuma, Nishizawa, Chiba, Tsukamoto+ Kajima, to Fujimoto, Hasegawa, Ishigami, Hirata, Maki+Yuki, Fujimura - only to name a few. As Allen pointed out in “From Object to Field”1, Tokyo is characterized, unlike the “prototypical postmodern western city”, by fully three-dimensional fields. Buildings and infrastructure, public and private, are so densely entangled that at times appear inseparable. Tokyo’s incredibly fast development after the 40’s, combined with a series of impactful urban planning decisions, led to the constitution of the unique example of “contemporary vernacular” Architecture we see today. The “democratic city” (Nishizawa and Atelier Bow-Wow), or “forest-like city” (Fujimoto and Ito), embodies Japanese architectural diversity: “Material organization can reach unbelievable levels of excellence in Japan, since the cultural and industrial

Part 1 - Analysis

commitment to material perfection is there unmatched, but it can also produce the most incongruent assemblages, since there are no means in place to provide consistency fast enough to an exponentially growing capacity to build. This produces a particular form of architecture that can best be seen in local architectural magazines where one can witness hundreds of truly inspired moments of material assemblage – sometimes several in the same project – without any consistency.”2 In this regard, the book “Made in Tokyo” by Atelier Bow-wow + Junzo Kuroda is a stunning receptacle of conditions that naturally reached what I would call an “augmented potential”. Unthinkable hybrid programs were found in buildings and analyzed. The oddly pragmatical combination of company housing and workplaces created buildings that develop underneath Metro lines and dormitory/multi story garages. Shopping centers were built under elevated expressways, and tennis courts can be found inside looping expressways interchanges. Gardens, water slides, and golf practice fields can be found on Tokyo’s roofs,

and a graveyard was expanded on a bridge in order to cross a large road. I would argue that the main reasons for the creation of these programmatic hybrids are a combination of necessity within constricted conditions and the possibility of reprogramming within the form of space and its ownership. In Tokyo’s landscape, every little piece of free programmable surface and the city’s specific urban regulation can be extremely important Ownership can develop over scattered lands in a three-dimensional way. As I will explain later on, Tokyo is the perfect situation to experiment with “Augmented Fields” through practical design. Not only it is the main inspiration to Japanese architects for artificial fieldlike conditions, it is also full of neglected structures and urban voids which already find themselves resonating with other fields - because of the city’s extremely stratified and dense pattern. In particular, I was first attracted by the impact that the construction of the metropolitan expressway had on the city and the consequences and possibilities of its current existence. p.63


The Japanese land administration consist in 8 regions, further divided in 47 prefectures, while each prefecture is divided into wards and districts. Tokyo is located in the southern Kanto region, positioned in approximately the center of the Japanese archipelago. It is the capital of Japan and one of its 47 Prefectures, as well as one of the biggest metropolis in the world. It lies in the humid subtropical climate zone with warm humid summers and generally mild winters. The region, like much of Japan, experiences a one-month seasonal lag, with the warmest month being August, which averages 26.4 °C, and the coolest month being January, averaging 5.2 °C.3 The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populated metropolitan area in the world. Consisting of the Tokyo Metropolis, and the three prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, has a population of 37,832,892 4 under an area of 13,562 km² with a total density of 2,642 person/km². It hosts about 30% of Japan’s total population. It is the second largest single metropolitan area in the world in terms of built-up or urban function landmass at 8,547 km² (3,300 mi²), behind only New York City at 11,642 km² (4,495 mi²).5 The city saw an extreme period of growth since its reconstruction after the 40’s. The Pacific War, which broke out in 1941, had a great impact

on Tokyo. The dual administrative system of Tokyo-fu (prefecture) and Tokyo-shi (city) was abolished for war-time efficiency, and the prefecture and city were merged to form the Metropolis of Tokyo in 1943. In 1947, the present 23 special-ward system began in Tokyo Metropolis. Much of Tokyo had been laid waste by the bombings and by 1945 the population had fallen to 3.49 million, half its level in 1940. The 1950s were a time of gradual recovery for the nation. Many factors, especially the procurement boom arising from the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, led to Japan’s entry into a period of rapid economic growth in the 1960s. Due to technological innovations and the introduction of new industries and technologies, this period saw the beginning of mass production of synthetic fibers and household electric appliances. As a result, the everyday lives of the residents of Tokyo underwent considerable transformation. In 1962 the population of Tokyo broke the 10 million mark. In 1964 the Olympic Games were held in Tokyo, the Shinkansen (“Bullet Train”) line began operations, and the Metropolitan Expressway was opened, forming the foundation for Tokyo’s current prosperity. Yet entering the 1970s, the strain of rapid economic growth became apparent as the country was beset by environmental issues such as pollution of the air and rivers, as well as high levels of noise. The Oil Crisis of 1973 brought the many years of rapid economic growth to a halt.6 As Tanaka Kakuei will state in 1972: “All the major industrial nations in the world are today faced with the common agonies of inflation, urban deterioration, environmental pollution, stagnant

Part 1 - Analysis

Greater Tokyo Area The Greater Tokyo Area is composed by the Tokyo Metropolis and the three prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa



37.83 million


GRP (2012) JPY

161.6731 trillion

USD 2,026.219 billion / EUR 1.5770 trillion



13,562 km



10 0 km

1- Hokkaidō 2- Tohoku

Population (2014)

Population (2014)




3- Kantō 4- Chūbu




5- Kansai 6- Chūgoku


8- Kyūshū & Okinawa

DENSITY (people/km2)

100 - 200





Greater London and a part of the surrounding eight counties


21,482 km

10 0 km

L ondon

10 0 km

Part of the states of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania


New york

Tokyo Metropolis population

200 - 300









km 2 UK

7- Shikoku



300 - 400


400 - 500 500 - 1000 1000 - 5514

source: Tokyo Government Website


agriculture, and spiritual frustration amidst material affluence. This is especially so in Japan. Smaller than the single state of California, Japan has nearly one-third of the people concentrated on a mere one percent of the land, making the tempo of social and economic change so much the greater.”7 In the 1980s, Tokyo took large steps in economic growth as a result of its increasingly global economic activity and the emergence of the information society. From 1986 onwards, the so called “Bubble Economy” spiraled land and stock prices upwards. Japan enjoyed tremendous growth under the bubble economy, but with the burst of the bubble at the beginning of the 1990s, sinking tax revenues caused by the protracted economic slump led to a critical state in metropolitan finances. Tokyo was, however, able to overcome this financial crisis through two successive fiscal reconstruction programs. The population also started returning to Tokyo, and in 1997, in-migration exceeded out-migration for the first time in 12 years. In 2001, Tokyo’s population reached 12 million, and surpassed 13 million in 2010. In March 2011 the Great East Japan Earthquake struck the Tohoku region, and Tokyo was also seriously affected. Using the experiences gained from this disaster, Tokyo is devoting efforts to further strengthen its crisis management system. This event deeply shook younger as well as older generations of architects, many of whom changed drastically their practical approach to Architecture to match their hopes for future Japanese communities. In September 2013, Tokyo was selected to host its second

Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. Tokyo’s population is projected to decline once it reaches its peak in 2020. Changes to the structure of society such as the graying of the population informed specific policies on Tokyo’s strategic development – especially because of the big plans the city will have to fulfill until 2020. Architects are increasingly concerned with the creation of sustainable and pleasant local communities through the redevelopment of existing conditions. “Rather than based in global economic competition, or notions of a creative class, the incentive for Japanese communities to pursue projects of building more livable places seems much more likely to be based on the need to attract new residents and prevent catastrophic localized population decline. The urge to create liveable cities, neighborhoods and suburbs in Japan thus has a rather different base than that indicated in the global cities literature: it will be driven primarily by the imperative of attracting and retaining population.”8

Part 1 - Analysis

Tokyo Metropolis


2,190.90 km 2

Tokyoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;2 23 special wards

6,608,117 Population pyramid* 6,781,467


(Januar y 1, 2015)

23 wards (ku) 26 cities (shi) 5 towns (cho) 8 villages (mura)

9085-89 80-84 75-79 70-74 65-69 60-64 55-59 50-54 45- 49 40- 44 35-39 30-34population (65-74) Elderly 25-29 20-24 15-19 10-14 5-9 0- 4 (ten thousand)

Population Daytime Young population (under 15)


Working-age population (15-64)


Population Nighttime



(ten thousand)

60 50 40 30 20 10

Tokyo Metropolis population trends by age group* 1,400

10 20 30 40 50 60

Young population (under 15) Working-age population (15-64)

DENSITY 2 (people/km )

Elderly population (65-74) Elderly population (75 and older)


<10.000 10.000 - 13.000



13.000 - 16.000 1,101

1,036 77 553

83 584

88 628

93 682



99 739

107 803

117 848

129 872


141 874

1,333 1,336 1,327 1,308 1,280 147





142 870

1,177 1,206 142




(10,000 people)

Elderly population (75 and older)

16.000 - 19.000 19.000 - 22.000 >22.000 other wards other prefectures

800 600


60 20




50 20



35 20


30 20


20 20


15 20


05 20


















137 190


154 167


143 122


132 98

94 59


116 75




source: Tokyo Government Website



One piece of infrastructure over the others is particularly evident in Tokyo: the metropolitan expressway. Its impact on everyday life is considerable, for the better or worse. “The Metropolitan Expressway […] crisscrosses the city of Tokyo, traveling over and between buildings, over rivers and train stations, before diving underground. The expressway thus yields formal deviations and residual spaces unthinkable in conventional architecture. […] Although the expressway was devised to link various Olympic facilities, […] it has transcended its original function and meaning.”9 Nowadays, The Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway consists of a large net of toll-based metropolitan roadways, which are mostly elevated. It immediately became a symbol of Tokyo’s evolution, advertised by media in many different forms. The infrastructure is a great example of adaptable artificial landscape, especially if we think how its planning had to overcome extremely various situations within Tokyo’s existing urban tissue. Its construction through existing neighborhoods and upon existing rivers in a small period of time deeply changed the face of the city. Local conditions reacted to it and evolved around it, while its architectural structure literally linked those conditions. “It is not detached or independent from the various elements that make up the city – the rivers, building structures, parks, and topographic features – rather, it has developed in conjunction with these elements, both structurally and formally”10.

Its construction, however, was part of an extensive infrastructural redevelopment: “Major road improvements were undertaken for the Olympics, and several important portions of the planned system of radial and orbital routes were completed in time for the games. Thirty routes totaling 138 Km in length were built. […] Preparations for the games also gave a great boost to the construction of subway lines in Tokyo, and in 1962 eight lines were approved with a total length of 177.5 Km. […] Another addition to the city’s public transit system completed just in time for the Olympics was the Tokyo Monorail. […] And Finally, the first bullet train (Shinkansen) was completed in time for the opening of the games in order to show off Japanese operational and technological advances. […] In the long run probably the greatest impact of the Olympics on Tokyo was the building of the inner-city elevated expressway system. The Metropolitan Expressway Corporation was established in June of 1959, and the central network of five expressway routes totaling 31.7 Km were completed just in time for the opening of the games in 1964. The expressway system so dominates the central area of Tokyo that is impossible not to notice it. Some regret that it destroyed many of Tokyo’s downtown canals, and forever changed Tokyo’s relationship to its roots in water transport. Large parts of the old canal network were filled in, others became expressway tunnels, and much of the remainder were covered by elevated expressways. This saved greatly on the cost of buying expensive downtown land, but unfortunately transformed what might have been one of Tokyo’s great urban assets into dank, shaded and noisy bits of water. [It] has even

Part 1 - Analysis

found approval from avant-garde architectural critics: The Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway is without doubt the most outstanding and important structure in the fabric of the city.[…] This traffic rollercoaster flies through and over the cityscape, skimming low-lying rooftops, snaking between towering office blocks and diving into underground tunnels. It adds a further dynamic dimension to the hilly Tokyo landscape, drawing attention to the constantly changing levels and differences between areas, whether industrial, residential or commercial. This three-dimensional, sequential space has no comparison worldwide.”11”12

National Capital Region Transportation Network*

Transportation supporting the Tokyo 2020 Games*

in service nearly completed completed after 2020 Games under study, conception

source: Tokyo Government Website



Nowadays, Tokyo’s population is so large that the city itself seems to be “breathing”, as commuters enter and exit the city. “The National Census in 2010 lists the daytime population of Tokyo as 15.576 million people, which is 2.417 million more than the nighttime population figure of 13.159 million. This makes the daytime population 1.2 times more than that of the nighttime population; the daytime population index is 118.4 against the nighttime population taken at 100. This difference is caused by the population of commuting workers and students, constituting a daytime influx from mainly the three neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa.”13 The metaphor of a city having its own metabolism is particularly poignant in Japan, as history taught us - especially regarding Tokyo. Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kajima (Atelier Bowwow) found a perfect parallel between 60’s Metabolist Movement and the way Tokyo’s housing market ended up developing in the last 90 years: “Metabolism was a fast movement that tried to conceptualize the nature of the city and of Japanese forms of construction; therefore it has been very important for the modern architectural history of Japan. Metabolism emerged in the 1960s, in the midst of major economic growth where people were seeking a promising future. Metabolist architects believed that for this to happen, it had to

be by means of a concentration of power and capital. This is clearly shown in the model of Metabolism buildings, which were formalized by means of a core around which capsules could be placed and, therefore, buildings could supposedly be easily adapted to changes affecting society. These kinds of infrastructures could only be tackled with the support of powerful public initiatives. But instead, what really happened after the 1960s, is that the surface of the city was occupied by very tiny, two- or three-story high houses promoted by individual initiatives. The Government didn’t have sufficient budget to reconstruct the whole city using public money, so instead incentives were given to people to allow them to build their own houses, thus promoting individual private investments. Many people were given 20to 30-year mortgages to build their home. That turned out to be a very powerful driving force for the reconstruction of Japanese society after WWII. Therefore, the reconstruction of the city was not achieved through a concentration of capital and power, as Metabolist architects would believe, but instead, it was achieved by the dispersed nature of capital and power. […] We keep on continually regenerating buildings in our cities. The average lifespan of a house is thirty years [against London’s, around 100 years], so there is constant replacement of buildings going on. We could call that Metabolism, but in a very different way to how Metabolism was addressed in the 1960s. Not referring to a core and capsules, but instead to a void and a grain. I started to call this type of Metabolism based on empty spaces, that is happening today, Void Metabolism.”14

Part 1 - Analysis

To further understand what Governmental incentives for private housing development have triggered from the 40’s onward, Tsukamoto introduces the term “Subdivurban”: “”Subdivurban” refers to patterns that emerge when a suburb is subdivided after being swallowed in a wave of urbanization. […] In recent years, as the plots have been subdivided after being inherited by successive generations and used for mini-development projects, large properties have been made into strips, cul-de-sacs, and flagpole lots, and the greenery largely disappeared. The higher the tax assessment becomes, the more likely it is for a large property to be subdivided. […]By chronologically examining the tendency to divide residential land since 1940 [in Okusawa, Setagaya] one finds that the area of the lots sold over the last 90 years [corresponding to three building generations] has shrunk to approximately one third the original size, or from 240 to 80 square meters”15 In short, Metabolism required that the construction of the city be carried out through concentrating power and capital, which could form the “core” of the res publica. The increasing tendency to subdivide land in Tokyo, however, made that concept very difficult to realize. The regeneration of houses revolves not around a core, but around the gap between buildings. In this perspective, individual families have decisional power over the land, effectively atomizing and scattering the metabolists’ “core” all around Tokyo. “The authority at work in the urban space is thoroughly dispersed, and Tokyo can be seen as an urban landscape of de-

Atelier Bow-wow, subdivision of land and typological evolution system

Housing price 2008-2016


mocracy. […] Thus, the short cycles of commercial activities and fashion activity can easily be absorbed into the state of the urban space, and by influencing the surface of the city, is a phenomenon produced by void metabolism. Any attempt to adapt the urban principles of Tokyo, which gave rise to these phenomena, and force them to fit a European or American model is, to be blunt, utter nonsense. […]Today, in the 21st century, new phenomena have appeared in Tokyo’s residential areas. Of course, new development continues in the suburbs, but now existing residential areas are also displaying a variety of changes. These include, for example, the emergence of specific urban forms such as areas where ten-story, fire-resistant buildings which are part of a designated fire-belt combine with a village-like area of two-story dwellings in a pastry-like “crust-and-filling”-type of relationship.”16 In fact, Void Metabolism is one of the many phenomena that Atelier Bow-wow studied. Tokyo’s land parcelization can be indeed exploited in many ways, especially through considering architectural design as integral part of the way private and public properties are divided in the city. Atelier Bow-Wow has been constructing architecture that exploits and enhances these conditions of smallness. Concepts such as “Pet Architecture” and “Micro Public Space” are extremely useful also to understand larger urban developments – especially given the 2020’s strategic plans and their focus on communities. While Tokyo has struggled since its early stages of the econom-

ic boom for quality-designed POPS (Privately Owned Public Space), it has developed (due to its land parcelization) awkward and characteristic ways to connect private lots with public roads. This led to the creation of those peculiar “post-modern vernacular” atmospheres of Tokyo. This space is particularly distinctive of Tokyo’s intricate perception of public and private spaces. The extreme division of properties inevitably nurtures a vicious circle of increasing, pointless and unsustainable demand-supply. Previous conditions are exploited and embedded into the next generation of houses (the fourth from the 40’s). “Detached houses allowed the family to act freely as a basic unit of economic activity, programmed as an apparatus partitioned off from each other, and isolated from the community. Each family bought separate electrical appliances, cars, and clothes, and the number of consumers increased simply by the need to individually purchase all of these things. […] we have established three conditions that are necessary for fourth-generation houses: 1) bringing people from outside the family back inside the house; 2) increasing the opportunities to dwell outside the house; 3) redefining the gaps.”17 With Tsukamoto’s suggestions for residential design in mind, and with the intent to respond to Japan’s planning needs, I aim to create a project for the redevelopment of urban space which would service residents of a “fourth generation” community. If the typo-morphology of houses can be improved by redefining their gaps, so can urban spaces too. Under this light, the redevelopment of neglected voids could become an opportunity to serve communities.

Part 1 - Analysis

In this thesis project, I suggest to utilize the concept of Void Metabolism inherent to Tokyo’s urban and historical characteristics. Yet I propose to merge this concept of void power core with the Metabolists’ core economical organization. This would mean redeveloping large void in-between urban spaces which are leftover properties of powerful institutions – like private corporations or the government, through their collaboration. It is important to notice how fragmentation is less of an issue in this kind of procedure, since urban voids are usually neglected because of their inherent form, location and relationship with the surroundings, and not because of ownership problems. In fact, for example, it is common that the local government manages lands underneath elevated expressways, which wouldn’t have to deal with many other owners other than the Expressway Company. Therefore, projects for public spaces and facilities can directly aim the final users. Examining this type of intervention it also becomes clear how residents and communities share the same identity in Japan. The way in which Japanese people take care and participate to the making and maintenance of public spaces is strongly linked to their sense of public life and their “tradition of self-reliance”. “It is also clear that the neighborhood organizations have contributed enormously to the liveability of Japanese cities, and are closely related to several very positive aspects of Japanese urban life. In particular the high levels of personal safety, the cleanliness, and the general friendliness and civility of Japanese cities are widely regarded by Japanese and foreign residents alike as some of the most admirable qualities of Japanese cities. All

are related to the strong sense of community responsibility that has helped to create and has in turn been reinforced by neighborhood organizations. Japanese neighborhoods embody Jane Jacobs’ concept of “eyes on the street” or the principles of neighborhood watch to an admirable degree.”18



housing in older inner city areas, the building of better bicycle and pedestrian routes, or the creation of small parks.”19

I already expressed the motives for carrying out a public/private project within urban void that especially focusing on public transportation infrastructure. Yet another important reason is worth mentioning. Within Tokyo, the impossibility to draw together many private owners of small, expensive lots makes it harder for municipalities and public institutions to plan large public spaces and urban redevelopments. This affects the way urban projects are developed by public institutions. “In Japan vast sums have been spent since the 1980s in an attempt to fix pressing urban problems, yet while there have been many successful and innovative projects, urban conditions as a whole have improved little and new problem areas are still being created on the urban fringe. A major factor in reducing the impact of current spending on urban problems has been the shortage of public space in many urban areas, and the extremely high cost of land purchase. […] There will inevitably still be considerable public spending, however, and the big question will be whether that spending will shift from large-scale projects such as expensive elevated expressways, new dams and bridges, and the new airports planned for Kobe and Nagoya, to smaller-scale interventions that would have a greater impact on people’s quality of life, such as improvements in local shopping districts, the renovation of

The city of Tokyo often lacks such secondary facilities. Its urban life largely relies on POPS, which powerful developers are forced to provide in order for them to construct large buildings. Unfortunately, POPS usually lack quality design, and many times they are not truly “public”, since their usage can be influenced by corporations through designs and regulations. Often times, these spaces are too dependent on private spaces, and as such they are not truly accessible by the public. Given the impressive size of many private developments, and the impact they have on the everyday urban life, the importance of good quality POPS in Tokyo is evident. Many large private-public complexes are planned for the 2020 Olympics. Good quality POPS are an important resource for the city, and relations between public institutions and private investors have a decisive role in Tokyo’s future development. Moreover, the plans to increment and modify the expressway’s system is a great opportunity to build POPS inside this urban infrastructure. The expressway’s redevelopment is in fact one of the main goals of Tokyo’s plans for the Olympics: the progressive building of the second and third rings of Metropolitan expressway is envisioned in order to connect existing transversal roads that bring to outer wards of Tokyo. These circles were envisioned in the 60’s, yet they are not completely built. Considering the plans and strategic points for the redevelop-

Part 1 - Analysis

ment of Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics, a great effort will be put in the reuse of existing structures. Plans aim to connect existing buildings to a low-impact energy network, to implement street and building greenery, to reduce traffic pollution, and to incentivize the use of hybrid cars and rental and sharing transportation systems. Small public areas and secondary community facilities are part of the same strategic plan. It is clear how the Expressway will be implemented, but it will be done in a way that will facilitate implementation of existing structures. It will be necessary to reevaluate the active role of expressway in Tokyo’s urban net, and reimagine the spaces underneath it as a useful part of the public space.20 For these reasons I developed a project inside a void urban space under a segment of the Metropolitan Expressway n.5 located in Bunkyo. The area is characterized by the peculiar overlapping of the aforementioned conditions, that make it a unique place. The elevated part of the highway and its architectural structure strongly resonate with the small houses that surround the void underneath, and with the large buildings that line it. The whole system is a three-dimensional field in itself, yet programmatic patterns and spatial potentialities lie undeveloped inside this void.

Priority Development Area for Urban Renaissance Special Priority Development Area for Urban Renaissance

Ikebukuro Ikebukuro Station area Ring Road No. 4 Shinjuku Tomihisa roadside area

Akihabara/Kanda Area

G Shinjuku Shinjuku Station area



B D H Shibuya




Tokyo Central Tokyo/ Waterfront area


Shibuya Station area Shinagawa/ Tamachi Stations area


Tamachi Shinagawa

Osaki Station area

Map of future public-private large developments due to Tokyo’s “Urban Renaissance Program”. Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Government website



This research primarily focuses on understanding and developing design methodologies. I’ve highlighted a fruitful –yet often underestimated- typology of intervention that is becoming increasingly relevant worldwide: the redevelopment of neglected urban voids, urban infrastructures, and obsolete or unfinished large buildings. It is difficult to operate within this field because: -it concerns many different disciplines, operating under many different urban typologies, with many different methodologies -it is often difficult to define ownership, management responsibilities, and history of these sites; therefore it is difficult to propose a solid and coherent project for redevelopment. Yet, these same reasons make this typology of interventions extremely interesting to deal with, and full of undeveloped potentialities. Furthermore, spatial and political nature of this typology makes it a perfect test field for new ways of conceiving public spaces infused with program. Collaborations not only between public and private institutions, but also between different architectural firms through time can arise from such an approach. Neglected and in-between urban areas are at the junction between many discourses on the design of artificial environments: theoretical and technical academic discourse, social and political discourse, urban and construction discourse. I’ve already set a loose yet varied theoretical framework which

could help to better understand this field’s characteristics. Along with it, I presented the concept of Augmented Fields (Chapter 0.6), in the hope to better focus the problematics and how to pragmatically operate on them. In order to test how the method would work, I developed a design proposal. Its location reflects the already discussed theoretical problematics, as well as Tokyo’s future strategic guidelines. Basically, the thesis deals with four main problems, which are further investigated through a design proposal. Theoretical Discourse: •

The creation of Augmented Fields within the ongoing dialogue on the relationship between object and field – and the further developments of this dialogue, such as network and field or field and field.

The dialogue on the operational limits between Architecture, Landscape Design, Infrastructural Design, Urbanism

Practical Design: •

Urban redevelopment in global situations and the effects of public/private collaboration

Tokyo’s future infrastructural system and the development of POPS

Part 1 - Analysis

_______________________________________________________ •• 1 Stan Allen, “From object to field: Field Conditions in Architecture + Urbanism”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; p. 217-242 •• 2 Alejandro Zaera-Polo, “A Scientific Autobiography. 1982-2994: Madrid, Harvard, OMA, the AA, Yokohama, the globe.” In Harvard Design Magazine, Fall/Winter 2004:21 •• 3 Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Website: •• 4 “Table 2.10 Population of Three Major Metropolitan Areas”. Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2016 •• 5 Demographia World Urban Areas 12th Annual Edition: 2016:04 •• 6 •• 7 Tanaka Kakuei, “Building a New Japan; a plan for remodeling the Japanese archipelago”, Simul Press, Tokyo, 1972 •• 8 Ed. Cristoph Brumann and Evelyn Schulz, “Urban Spaces in Japan: Cultural and social perspectives”, Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies series, New York, 2012; p. 216-217 •• 9 Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kajima, “Atelier Bow-Wow: Behaviorology”, Rizzoli International Publications, New York, 2010; p. 324-326 •• 10 Shuto Kosoku Gaidobukku, Tokyo Institute of Technology Student Research Compilation, 1998, p.17; translated by Nathan Elchert •• 11 N. Tajima, “Tokyo: A Guide to Recent Architecture”, Konemann Verlagsgesellschaft, Cologne, 1995 •• 12 Andrè Sorensen, “The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty First Century” - Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies series, London: Routledge, 2004; p. 191-193 •• 13 Tokyo Government Website. Source: HISTORY/history03.htm •• 14 “ Critical Metabolism. Interview with Yoshiharu Tsukamoto”, Quaderns Magazine, 2013:265 •• 15 Ibid., p.39 •• 16 Koh Kitayama, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Ryue Nishizawa, “Tokyo Metabolizing”, TOTO Publishing, Tokyo, 2010; p.29-33 •• 17 Koh Kitayama, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Ryue Nishizawa, “Tokyo Metabolizing”, TOTO Publishing, Tokyo, 2010; p.41-43 •• 18 Andrè Sorensen, “The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty First Century” - Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies series, London: Routledge, 2004; p. 343-344 •• 19 Andrè Sorensen, “The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty First Century” - Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies series, London: Routledge, 2004; p. 356,349 •• 20 See plans for future Tokyo and the Strategic Planning of 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Website:




Area Analysis

Bunkyo, being close to the “Tokyo’s void core” Chiyoda-ku, is one of the most central Special Wards in the city, which are 23 in all. With 223,389 citizens (as of October 2016) in an area of 11.29 km2, it’s the fifth most densely populated in Tokyo’s Special District area.1 Despite it being very central, it is not heavily and directly affected by recent plans for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics - even if important transportation lines that cross it will undergo major changes in other wards. The real estate market considers it one of the six most central wards, meaning its land value is usually higher than the remaining 17 wards. In fact, as of late 2015, the average price for a used apartment (which is the best and most precise indicator of the market’s fluctuations) was 66,950,000 yen (550 722 euros)2, where the average price in Tokyo was 47,640,000 yen (391 880 euros). It also had an increase in price of more than 15% from 2014, following the global Tokyo land price trend within the last decade.3 Despite it being so close to the most visited wards, and despite its economical power, the main functions of Bunkyo are not strictly related to tourism. It can be instead described as a residential and educational hub. It is mainly famous for the universities located in the area, for two very powerful companies’ headquarters – the publishing company Kodansha and the drugstore chain Tomod’s --, for its gardens and shrines, and for

Part 1 - Analysis

the Tokyo Dome sports center. 4 Four National Universities as well as twelve Private Universities and colleges are located in the area. The University of Tokyo, the most prestigious university in Japan, as well as the most powerful public one, has its historical main campus located in Bunkyo’s “Hongo” district, with many dormitories and cultural facilities.5 This venue is in fact considered one of the main tourist attractions in Bunkyo, together with the Tokyo dome and the Gokokuji Shrine. Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, Rikugien Garden, Shin-Edogawa Garden and Chinzan-so Garden characterize the area as family-friendly.

Tokyo’s void center

Bunkyo-ku Taito-ku

Shinjuku-ku DENSITY (people/km2)



<10.000 10.000 13.000


13.000 16.000 16.000 19.000


19.000 22.000 >22.000 Tokyo Metro Line Tokyo Expressway



The area that this research specifically addresses shows many of the features Bunkyo is known for. It is placed at the very West of the ward, at the border with Shinjuku-ku and Toshima-ku, and it’s mainly known for the famous Gokokuji temple – at the North. At the centre of the sections it runs a portion of the Ikebukuro Route (n.5) of the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway. The segment is parallel to an arterial roadthe Prefectural Street 435 - and the segment and the road are separated by small lots of high-rise buildings, whose main functions are dedicated to housing, office work and service industry. Three neighborhoods form its center: Otowa, Mejirodai and Sekiguchi. Keeping in mind that it’s impossible to comprehensively describe an area so big, the high number of educational centres, houses and offices outline its main character. It is mostly a very active yet not extremely busy place, since nightlife and leisure centres are located elsewhere (Shinjuku or Shibuya wards, for example), and where crowds of people usually fill up public places during specific hours (related to offices and schools’ daily schedules). Overall, it is a quiet, moderately wealthy zone with small but very active stations, with some well-known yet often overlooked amenities – gardens and parks, public and private cultural buildings. Many educational facilities range from kindergartens to large university campuses and annexed cultural and sport facilities – gyms, outdoor and indoor sport fields, libraries, study rooms,

etc. Housing demand (especially in apartments) is constantly growing, making families, students and commuters/office employees amongst the main users of the area, mostly belonging to the medium and high middle-class. For these reasons the area can be often perceived (as confirmed by the citizen’s interviews that will follow) as an area to live only during certain hours of the day and rarely considered when it comes to free time, shopping and nightlife. The segment of Tokyo’s metropolitan expressway (whose role was analyzed in detail in Chapter 1.1) in this project connects the central Chiyoda ward with Ikebukuro, a powerful and wellknown district at the hearth of Toshima-ku, which houses one of the busiest stations in Tokyo. This feature makes the expressway’s Gokokuji portion particularly important in the city’s transport network. This portion of the road was opened to the public in 1969, meaning it has served its purpose for almost 50 years, without its structure being replaced. The expressway is owned and maintained by the private company “Metropolitan Expressway Co., Ltd”.6 The spaces underneath the expressways are usually property of the local government, which can construct underneath the expressway upon the Company’s Administration approval. The fact that the land is already owned by the Ward would make it virtually very easy for a public design to take place: the only institution the Town would have to deal with would be the Metropolitan Expressway. This makes an intervention underneath the expressway a valuable public investment – as it will be explained later.

Part 1 - Analysis

Gokokuji Temple Tokyo University Botanical Garden

Gokokuji Station Ochanomizu University Tokyo University Dormitory Japan Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s University

Kodansha headquarters

Gokokuji Entrance

St. Maryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Cathedral Metropolitan Expressway Ikebukuro Route ShinEdogawa Park Edogawabashi entrance

Edogawabashi Station

Waseda University

Program analysis of the area

Education (from Kindergarten to Highschool)

Culture / Tourism

University campus and pertaining facilities


Large university dormitory


Park and public sport facilities

Place of Worship

Tokyo Metro Line Tokyo Metro Station Main Street


Elevated Expressway



The chosen site underneath the expressway is located into a valley-shaped terrain, with the longitudinal axis following Street 435 and pointing towards the canal. This facilitates North-South traffic connections, while the two sides of the artery remain disconnected. However, this condition lead to the coexistence of different built environments on the same site: roads that run transverse can be large, busy leveled streets as well as very steep, and curvy and narrow pathways. This is one of the first things that one perceives whilst exploring the area: the sense that every crossing is different from the next one, yet that they are arrayed along a clear, straight and coherent longitudinal path. The form of the buildings and plots, which is extremely heterogeneous, enhances this characteristic. Along the Expressway (where the terrain is at its lowest point) tall high-rises often sit next to very small, up to five story-high residential buildings. Right after the first row of plots, at the eastern and western sides of the road, up to three story-high residential buildings become the most common typology. This follows the typical urban system in Tokyo, in which the first rows of buildings along a large road are allowed to be very high, while large patches of low, single residential buildings exist beneath the road “curtain”.7 “In the hearth of Tokyo, a 30-meters stretches of main roads

were designated as high-capacity commercial zones, and due to reconstruction projects in which mid-rise, fire-resistant structures were erected, an urban form arose in which clusters of wooden houses are walled-in. In this dumpling-like form, by merely stepping off a main road and into this older neighborhood, one discovers a quiet expanse of densely packed low-rise houses.”8

Neighborhoods and site

Gokokuji Entrance

Mejirodai Otowa Edogawabashi Entrance



Part 1 - Analysis

N Location form analysis



The site is surrounded by some of the most important facilities in Bunkyo: on the North it is characterized by the Gokokuji Temple, while a hundred meters on the South are Kodansha’s main headquarters. In front of it there is the Gokokuji Metro Station of the Yurakucho Metro line, which follows the longitudinal path of Street 435. A large (more than 1000 beds) dormitory for international students of the Tokyo University is planned to be built soon at the very beginning of the primary entrance to the project’s site (called here Gokokuji Entrance). It is to be noted that the dormitory will lack many of the secondary functions a student could need where he/she lives: restaurants, large study rooms, etc. The road that transversally connects Tokyo University’s dormitory and the Ochanomizu University’s main Campus is of extreme importance for the project, since it connects the site’s Gokokuji Entrance to the main path underneath the Expressway. Through this path a large number of different users are led into the site. At the middle section of the path is located Kenzo Tange’s St. Mary’s Cathedral (1964), an interesting tourist attraction which is not highlighted by the path in any way. Also, a large hotel (Chinzanso Hotel) and many Universities and Highschools are close to this place. The beginning of Shin-Edogawabashi Park is located at the South entrance (Edogawabashi Entrance), which follows the canal into Edogawabashi Garden, to the West.

An inquiry was conducted in order to understand the perceived qualities and deficiencies of the area. Questionnaires were handed to passers-by and residents belonging to different age and social status cohorts. Most of old residents and young parents resulted happy with the abundance of parks and places to spend quiet free time, yet they felt the lack of local spaces for socializing, admitting they wish they could have the possibility to hang out and do shopping while in their neighbourhood. The venues which the area is known for (i.e. Gokokuji Temple) give citizens a sense of belonging, yet this is not reflected on the perception of communal spaces, which tend to be scattered and isolated within each neighborhood. Yet the vast majority of people interviewed on the street were high-school or university students and office employees who considered Otowa and the other neighborhoods places to visit only to fulfill their daily work and/or study duties. People generally admitted they had never been in the area outside those hours of the day. This can be noticed in Edogawabashi and Gokokuji Metro stations, which are extremely busy between 7.00 and 9.30am and between 5.00 and 7.30 pm, yet barely used in other times of the day. This behavior is normal within Tokyo Metro’s usage, yet it still peculiar if we consider the large potential the area could have in terms of leisure activities, also being part of one of the most central and densely populated wards of the city.

Part 1 - Analysis

Tokyo University Dormitory Gokokuji Station

N to Chinzanso Hotel

Kodansha Headq.

Location program analysis and strategy

Gokokuji Entrance to Ochanomizu University

Pedestrian paths to develop Relevant building

Metro station entrance to Shinedogawa Park

Prefectural Street 435

Primary access to site Seconday access to site Site perimeter

to Waseda University

Edogawabashi Entrance

Edogawabashi Station



Following the results of the various neighborhoods program analysis, the project tackles the needs of two main user typologies: (mostly commuting) students and office employees, and local families. Given the large number of education and residential buildings, the area would largely benefit from the enhancement of amenities utilized in accordance to these functions – for example parks, playgrounds, cafés, bars or izakayas (traditional indoor Japanese “pubs”), clubs as well as co-working spaces, lecture halls, study rooms. The area would fill the gap between work and leisure activities, therefore attracting users beyond necessity reasons, and hopefully enticing them to make use of the facilities already present in the area – gardens, cultural sites, campuses’ educational and sport amenities, etc. The Strategic Planning of the project aims to provide a “backbone” of facilities open to the public along the longitudinal axis of the path underneath the expressway, which is basically a void, underestimated covered path that runs parallel to the Prefectural Street 435. Many useful and potential facilities already exist close to the site. The “backbone” would longitudinally link them, so that their identity would hugely increase. This would be done by using the long path as a covered outdoor space infused with new func-

tions. Given the already mentioned characteristic of the site as being generally coherent, yet locally varied, the new program would be created as an implementation of every local condition that already exist. To maintain the overall coherence of the intervention, a single architectural language would be utilized, yet it would have to adequately adapt to the different programs encountered throughout the site. Ultimately, the void that connect the covered pathway to the surroundings would be used to expand the intervention outwards and would be featured with the most public portions of the program. The reinvented path would enhance the relationship between facilities at the western and eastern sides of it by implementing the program of those very facilities. Namely, the pedestrian path that runs from Japan Women’s University to Ochanomizu University, crossing Tokyo University’s dormitory, Kodansha’s Headquarters and Gokokuji Metro Station would now cross also the new facilities built under the highway, mostly related to the needs of students and office employees. In the same way, the Edogawabashi Entrance would transversally link the Shinedogawa Park and St’ Mary’s Cathedral to the East part of the area and Edogawabashi Station, by creating and densifying leisure facilities for local citizens.

Part 1 - Analysis

______________________________________________ •• 1 Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government website: •• 2 Based on the price of a 70 m2 apartment. •• 3 Source:; research by Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Japan Economic Newspaper). •• 4 Bunkyo Ward Municipal website: •• 5 Tokyo University website: •• 6 Website: •• 7 Andrè Sorensen, “The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty First Century” - Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies series, London: Routledge, 2004 •• 8 Koh Kitayama, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Ryue Nishizawa, “Tokyo Metabolizing”, TOTO Publishing, Tokyo, 2010; p.34




Site Analysis and Masterplan

Many spots in Tokyo are urban voids left under large pieces of transportation infrastructure, yet the one this research addresses has particular features that make it very interesting: extremely nested scales, and the constant presence of people in the area. Usually the spaces underneath the elevated expressway that could potentially be transformed into functional spaces are in the middle of large streets intersections, in areas that are not as lively or dense as this one. In this particular case there is a dense row of very small residential buildings and unutilized public spaces, right underneath the expressway. Exactly after them,

Rendered axonometry The expresswayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s deck and East-side buildings are rendered as transparent.

Edogawabashi Entrance Ph.3



Part 1 - Analysis

the size of the buildings becomes bigger and the functional program changes. We have to consider also that the ste is set in an already very dense and busy area of Tokyo, with two Metro stations and a main road very close to it. All these features make it possible for a space that otherwise would be a completely neglected parking spot, to have a high urban and social potential. Both very small and very large spaces, with very different programs, coexist within this thin strip of land. On top of that, the covered void at the middle of the site affects the way these spaces are connected, creating a whole. The traffic noise is not a major concern – considering how the whole center of Tokyo is subject to a high degree of noise pollu-

tion. Buildings screen off the covered path from the sound of cars on Street 435, and the acoustic barriers on the expressway are really effective in deviating the noise upwards. People enter the space underneath the expressway right after opening their house door. The constant presence of residents – even in small quantity – and educational facilities throughout the whole day is what doesn’t permit the place fall in complete decay. There is an odd equilibrium between the livelihood of babysitters making children stroll around inside small carts or householders swiping their doorway and the state of decay or the general cave-like appearance the place exhibits. The constant presence of someone that cares about the place






r.h. +8.3 r.h +7.2 1.00 1.00




r.h. +0 4.50 4.50

Typical cross-section


r.h. -0.22 1.20

8.00 10.40


4.50 4.50

Photo 1 (see site axonometry)


Part 1 - Analysis

Photo 2 (see site axonometry)

Photo 3 (see site axonometry)


Gokokuji Entrance


is paired with homeless people as well as a high variety of people simply crossing the site. The shape and location of the site influence the way people live it, according to differences in the type of user and the moment of the day. Usually who travels across the entire pathway is either a jogger or a cyclist, while most of the passers-by cross it transversally or walk along the path only for small portions of it. The path is regarded by people mainly for the fact that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a covered, less busy way than the parallel Street 435â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s walkway. It is really important to understand that the difference in the type of user that crosses the urban void is mainly due to the type of building can be found in the surroundings. This explains the local diversity of every crossing that the straight covered path

Photo 4 (see site axonometry)

encounters. For example, in the Northern part many office workers and students walk at specific times of the day (morning and evening) because of the many education/office buildings, while in the Southern part many old people cross the site in the afternoon to reach the gardens. At night only residents or late workers cross the site, while some (extremely polite) homeless persons come to spend the night in less visible spots. These people must be used to this place, yet they are usually found only by night. The typical cross-section is composed of two 4.5 meters wide lateral pedestrian / bicycle lanes, which are covered for the most part by the overhead concrete slab of the expressway, and a 10.4 meters wide central space. Slopes and staircases cover the

Photo 5 (see site axonometry)

Part 1 - Analysis

many differences in height of the terrain, creating an extremely varied landscape (sometimes not so easy to walk on) throughout the path. The program is mainly parking (some lateral pathways are open to cars), and a large semi-underground deposit for confiscated bikes is in the middle of the void. Some urban furniture was added to the site (presumably around the expressway’s opening year, 1969) designing a small area to let kids play, a small golf practice field, and a “fitness area”. All in all, the intervention was clearly made with an extremely low budget, and metal fences were put in place due to the semi-abandoned state of the area. Now the furniture is basically not used, and worsens the overall image of the place, that doesn’t inspire security or coziness. As in many neglected urban spaces, old

Photo 6 (see site axonometry)

(most likely abandoned) objects can sometimes be found in corners, wrapped and piled. Considering the quantity of people that usually walk 30 meters away from to the site, along Street 435’s walkway, this site is comparably almost desert. The site is unique in the sense that it already has the degree of variety and activity needed for a place to sustain itself. In fact, it can be seen as a mix of coexisting yet different identities that should be maintained and/or enhanced with the design. It challenges the architect to invent an architecture that could itself exhibit a high degree of heterogeneity at the small scale, while maintaining an overall coherence at the large scale, both programmatically, stylistically and strategically.

Photo 7 (see site axonometry)



The chosen site has enough variety of elements to obtain a strong identity – it just needs the right amount of connection between its different parts. Furthermore, the shape of the ground level and the expressway make it a proper, unique, diversified landscape, even though it’s made out of rough and cheap construction materials. Since in this project every aspect of the existing site is so important, many separate analysis were made.1 A good overall image of the site can be produced by superimposing those studies, and it is now utilized for a general understanding of potentialities and relationships within the existing place. The program of the site is mostly residential, education and offices. Several small interstitial void spaces with no definite function can be found throughout, together with gardens and badly equipped playgrounds. These places are not to be overlooked, as they provide a greater variety of sizes and atmospheres for the space. They positively contribute to expand outwards the semi-covered space of the long path, giving it a rhythmic sense of expansion and contraction.2 It’s in these spaces that people have enough freedom to choose where to stand, and what to do.3 The study of the form of the site highlights how architectural barriers (from 0.4 up to almost 2 meters tall) often disrupt the

pedestrian flow on the transversal axis. Even so, differences in height make this urban landscape more diversified, and force users to explore the site. Also, barriers would contribute to protecting houses from potentially noisy activities. Therefore, instead of eliminating these barriers, it would be much more exciting and useful to “bridge” considerable differences in height, when possible. Also, three areas are highlighted, as in these segments the distance between the ground and the bottom of the longitudinal beams of the expressway is higher than 7 meters. This implies the possibility of easily construct two or more public stories, with more density and complexity of program. By just superimposing the results of the last studies some general (though very useful) assumptions can be made. Three areas in particular have the potential to be the “core” of the project, hosting a larger quantity of indoor spaces. They would also connect various points of the path together as well as facilitating the expansion of the intervention outwards. Lastly, it is important to notice how the southern part of the site is mainly surrounded by houses, while the northern part has a prevalence of office buildings.

Part 1 - Analysis

Photo 8 (see site axonometry)

Photo 9 (see site axonometry)


Site program analysis

to Shinedogawa park

Housing Education/children care

Offices Store/other

Temple Free lot

Fitness Car parking

Underground bike deposit Playground

Site form analysis

Tall architectural barriers

Mid longitudinal section

Height underneath expressway > 7meters

Site combined analysis

Housing prevalence

Possibility of building large volumes

Points of interest/ access to site

Possibile fruitful connection

Possibility of noisy/busy new program

Golf training Garden

Cycle lane

Part 1 - Analysis

to Tokyo Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dormitory

Office/University prevalence



Every characteristic of each analytical layer determines the decisions about the quantity of new program and the level of porosity of the new space. These decisions derive from observations at a small scale which were linked together like the pieces of a puzzle, to form a coherent, even symmetrical to some degree, masterplan of the whole site. Yet, this wouldn’t have been possible without knowledge of the overall characteristics of the area. For clarity, the site has been divided into 5 zones (A,B,C,D,E) according to program. To demonstrate how the decision-making process would take place, let’s look at Zone A. At first glance it would be well suited for large and dense new constructions – since it is leveled at the ground floor, as well as

having the right height for two stories or more. Yet because it is so close to the busy spots of the area (main crossing and entrance to the site, Edogawabashi station, Shinedogawa park entrance, etc.) it needs a spacious and inviting access. Also, even if there is much space in height, both sides of Zone A are closed by buildings – which are mostly residential, meaning that a lot of program could be too noisy, especially at night. This is the area from which the user should be imbued into the busier and more complex internal spaces. Zone A, even with so much height and potential for big volumes, is not suited to be clogged and noisy – instead its form needs porosity, and its program needs to derive from leisure time and to be linked to the Shinedogawa park and nearby stores. Ground – level connection here is really good, and it shouldn’t be disrupted by new large constructions. Zone B is paired with Zone A, since it is the latters’ programmatic continuation. It houses a larger and denser program, with

Site Masterplan

zone A Conceptual quantity of new program

Conceptual density of new space

zone B family/tourist freetime area

fitness/garden/stores culture

commuter/student work-leisure area

work/study nightlife

Part 1 - Analysis

many connections to small parts of the site and a great variety of spaces. Zone C is the “park/playground” part of the site. Since its height is quite small, the best thing to do was to make it the continuation of the already well-placed existing garden. This area is needed for the site to continue its expansion-contraction rhythm and to regain continuity and openness. Also, it’s useful to spread outwards – possibly towards the St. Mary’s Cathedral, with just some design adjustments. Zone D and Zone E work together as a pair as well – since these northern area of the site has some common features, like the prevalence of office and education buildings. This area would be repurposed mainly for white collar employees and students, who would find here a working space during the day, as well as places to spend the free time at night – when all the offices around are closed. Even if Zone E is not suited for tall stories, it is similar to Zone A: a key entrance spot that needs porosity - yet

zone C

zone D

programmed mainly for the large Tokyo University’s dormitory and Kodansha’s headquarters. The northern part of this zone is not accessible to pedestrians and it’s also surrounded by very tall buildings (as it can be seen in the diagram cut horizontally). It makes the perfect spot for an indoor nightlife venue.

___________________________________________ •• 1 This technique was inspired by the common analysis methodology of Landscape Urbanism. See: James Corner + Diller and Scofidio + RENFRO, High Line Competition Boards •• 2 See also: Heike Rahmann, “S,XS, XXS – Designing for the public”, in “Small Tokyo”, ed. Darko Radovich and Davisi Boontharm Flick Studio Co. Ltd., Tokyo, 2012 •• 3 For more on the social power of indeterminacy, scale and environment in public spaces: •• William H. Whyte, “The social life of small urban spaces”, Municipal Art Society of New York, 1980

zone E


PART 2 - Project




“The proper role of the designer […] is to design buildings and the relationships of those buildings to their surroundings. [...] Can we as architects propose, together with a small infrastructure system distinctive to the local community, an attractive model of architectural space?”1 Riken Yamamoto poses this question to completely reimagine the relationship between Architecture and Urbanism, and to make us think how to approach the issue from the opposite side: can architects preserve heavy-duty infrastructural systems while adapting them to local communities through Architecture? How can Infrastructure as an architectural object be restored and reprogrammed into functional public space? The project along the Westway London Sports Center and all its other facilities, as well as Big U in Manhattan by BIG Architects are large projects that may include infrastructure redevelopment as a part of them, putting them closer to Urbanism. The intervention “Under Gardiner” in Toronto aims to repurpose more than 40000 square meters of unutilized space under the Gardiner Expressway. Less elaborately designed and larger than the High Line in New York, this project shows the growing desire to take example from previous successful Landscape Urbanism designs and create a working “methodology”, and to normalize infrastructural redevelopment into a proper typology of intervention.

Part 2 - Project

Yet to find more detailed architectural qualities inside this typology, we might have to look at a smaller scale. A main problem with this type of interventions is the complexity regarding the initial investments and the economic agents at play. Many times, bottom-up local initiatives led to bigger and permanent solutions thanks to the increased popularity of the site. Assemble studio’s “Folly for a Flyover” transformed for more than nine weeks a public passage under the motorway in Hackney Wick, London. The Folly hosted an extensive programme of cinema, performance and play, curated by Assemble in collaboration with both city-wide institutions such as Create Festival and Barbican Arts Centre, and numerous local organisations and businesses. In fact, the success of the project persuaded the London Legacy Development Corporation to invest in permanent infrastructure which has allowed the site to continue as a public space. 2 Channel Street Skatepark in San Pedro, Los Angeles3 is another interesting example of space re-appropriation, self-made by skateboard enthusiasts (then gathered into the “San Pedro Skatepark Association”) who built it out of an extremely small budget during the course of several years. Similarly, the Colonnade Mountain Bike-Skills park, Seattle4, shares the same characteristics of being an ever-changing man made landscape. Due to the almost non-existing budget for its building (which at the beginning mostly took place thanks to donated material from large nearby construction sites), this place is always under construction. The organic relationship that the track has with the massive colonnade create an incredibly strong

Ken Greenberg + PUBLIC WORK, Under Gardiner, Toronto, under completion (2017)

Assemble studio, Folly for a flyover, Hackney Wick, London, 2011


spatial contrast. In fact, the path flows underneath the road’s deck only as part of a bigger, independent loop. It is important to notice how the pathway shapes accordingly to the driveway’s pillar grid as it passes through it. Each of its segment of is diverse in section, material, width, height, yet they all together form a coherent whole, which is irretrievably interwoven with the existing structure. The site is located into the woods of the Slate Canyon Park, which makes it almost look like an archeological site. The extensive use of dirt, rocks, wood and the occasional spontaneous presence of vegetation make it really difficult to define the place: it’s a man-made path which, because of its informality and its contrast with the forest of concrete columns, defies our usual definition of landscape – whether it is a very disciplined natural setup like the one of the High Line in New York, or a loosely controlled natural reserve.

Part 2 - Project

Channel Street Skatepark in San Pedro, Los Angeles

Colonnade Bike Skills Park, Seattle, 2007



The idea of reclaiming unutilized spaces underneath elevated infrastructures is not new in Tokyo. In fact, Tokyo developers are used to deal in the most diverse ways with the large number of transportation lines crossing the city. The company Japanese Railway (JR), the largest railway company in Japan, completed many interventions underneath their structures in Tokyo5, like the kindergarten and center for elderly citizens “Cotonior”, in Kichijoji.6 Other interventions are hugely popular, like Gundam Café and AKB48 Café in Akihabara. It’s not as uncommon as it might seem for a Metro station to have some of its dedicated stores sitting underneath the elevated tracks. The expressway system sports some impressively creative buildings, which shows what can be made when the right conditions meet investment and sense of practicality. For example, a 500 meter-long mall was built underneath the expressway in the segment that stretches in central Tokyo, between the districts Yurakucho and Ginza.7 Another astonishing example is the Meguro Sky Garden in Ohashi, Meguro. The elevated garden serves to cover the intersection between two major expressway routes for a total of 7000 square meters. Inside the intersection, vertically connecting the garden with the ground floor, are high rise residential housing, retail, a local Meguro  government branch office, a library, community meeting rooms and all-weather sports facilities.8

However, the administrative aspects of the projects are really important – because an investment made by a company itself, like JR’s, is way easier to manage than those by multiple institutions/corporations. For this reason, not many projects like these can be found underneath Tokyo’s expressway or elevated roads in general, and most of the times elevated infrastructures are a psychological fence between neighborhoods, often reflected through a divisive urban planning. Also, almost all of these buildings have no relation to their surroundings or their pre-existing ground floor. Buildings sitting under public transport pathways are usually set between two parallel roads, excluding any intimate relation between the site itself and its surrounding buildings. For this reason, they are usually simple and large buildings sitting underneath a railway in the same way they would sit on a free lot. The example that Ueno Market gives is different from the usual way in which public spaces under transportation infrastructures are usually conceived, as it’s constituted by an array of stands which spread seamlessly under the Metro’s elevated rails and the first floors of very tall buildings. The extremely small scale of the shops blend by continuity with the larger structures of the surrounding, creating proper pedestrian alleys in a very unlikely and oddly shaped place. It makes no difference whether the stores are set underneath the Metro rails or inside the ground floor of a skyscraper – they just provide the setup for a diverse, fluid system to take place, independently from the rail’s outline yet arranged as a whole coherently.

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Meguro sky garden, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, 2013

View from the top of Meguro Sky Garden, looking towards the covered expressway junction

Akb48 cafè, Gundam cafè, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Ueno Market, Tokyo


Another example amongst the most interesting projects of this typology takes place in Yokohama, in the South of Tokyo. It has a similar scale and a similar program to the one presented in this research. It was developed by the collaboration of the Yokohama City Hall, the No-Profit association Koganecho Area Management Center and Keikyu Railways, who called five architects to redevelop the site, closely-knitted with the surrounding buildings.9 The project comprises of 100 meters of art gallery, café, meeting centre and a small open-air theatre. This project is a real re-appropriation of urban space, aimed to enhance the neighborhoods’ well-being and sense of community- it would have never worked without the pre-existing condition of smallness and social connection to nearby residents. It’s important to notice how spaces are designed to feel cozy – yet they take advantage of the form and atmosphere of the elevated structure.

________________________________________________ •• 1 Riken Yamamoto, “Riken Yamamoto”, TOTO Publishing, Japan, 2012. Pp 19;23 •• 2 •• 3 See: Thomas Hauck, “Burnside and DIY Skatepark Movement”, in “Infrastructural Urbanism”, ed. Thomas Hauck, Regine Keller, Volker Kleinekort, DOM publishers, Berlin, 2011 •• 4 See: Thomas Hauck, “Burnside and DIY Skatepark Movement”, ibid. •• 5 JR interventions: •• 6 See also: Julian Worrall, “High resolution urbanism scalar diversity at Kichijoji”, in “Small Tokyo”, ed. Darko Radovich and Davisi Boontharm Flick Studio Co. Ltd., Tokyo, 2012 •• 7 For more eclectic examples of hybrid programs in Tokyo, see “Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kajima [Atelier Bow-Wow] and Junzo Kuroda, “Made in Tokyo”, Kajima Institute Publishing Co. Ltd., 2001 •• 8 •• 9 Salvator-John A. Liotta, “Architettura reincarnata”, Domus 969, May 2013. Domus Editorial, Milan

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Koizumi atelier, site D (meeting space) under Keikyu railway, Yokohama, 2011

Nishikura Architectural Design, wooden deck for bazaar and performances, Yokohama, 2011

Pedestrian overpasses in Yokohama

Pedestrian overpasses in Yokohama




Concept Development

“1. Infrastructure works not so much to propose specific buildings on given sites, but to construct the site itself. Infrastructure prepares the ground for future building and creates the conditions for future events. Its primary modes of operation are: the division, allocation, and construction of surfaces; the provision of services to support future programs; and the establishment of networks for movement, communication, and exchange. Infrastructure’s medium is geography.”1 Stan Allen Even in a situation like the one that this research proposes, where the infrastructure was built in relatively recent times and inside a settled urban environment, this statement guides the intervention. In fact, this site is so peculiar exactly because of the superimposition of the expressway onto this specific kind of urban fabric. The bottom surface of the elevated expressway creates a loosely defined, yet extremely unique urban space. The site’s irregular lateral limits, shaped by the surrounding buildings, enhance this character of loosely-defined singularity. The juxtaposition of the expressway’s deck with the “Groundscape” (ground level surface) creates the identity of this urban landscape. The coherence of the expressway’s structure holds together the different conditions present inside the void between the two horizontal surfaces. Every segment is different depending to the kind of

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users that are in it and to whether it is completely or only partially covered, and it varies in section, program, light, material. At the same time, the regularity of the direction of the expressway and the rhythm given by the pillars hold all the various segments together as an orderly whole. This situation enables us to exploit the expressway as an element that contains, regulates and identifies all the various conditions at a small scale along the path, which react to the urban landscape. The strategic premise of the project is to create a covered public pathway under the expressway’s massive linear roof. A considerable advantage given by this approach is that it’s easy to enclose the space between the expressway and the Groundscape with simple vertical surfaces. Since the enclosures would be protected, they wouldn’t need to be extremely durable, allowing flexibility of design and possibility of expansion throughout the Expressway n.5 and possibly to other lines as well.

0 - THE EXPRESSWAY AS A ROOF • acts like a covered public pathway • easy to create enclosed space and expand it • pipelines inside expressway


The need to add indoor space as a way to selectively activate the path sets the first practical and properly architectural problem. To reinforce the landscape’s identity, there is the need to preserve its stunning tunnel-like 1.1 - BUILDING visual continuity. The lighter the UNDERGROUND [REJECTED] approach, the better. This would • breaks connection at ground level mean avoiding ground-floor • erases existing built landscape structures as much as possible. • difficult to construct Digging underground and building a new series of longitudinal paths would be a way too heavy approach, even if it would enlarge the distance between expressway and Groundscape creating a new series of architectural possibilities. The benefits of this option wouldn’t compensate the structural difficulty of such an intervention, which couldn’t be repeated in other segments of the infrastructural network. Furthermore, this approach would disrupt connection at ground level, therefore disrupting the existing Groundscape and its relationship to the surroundings. The best option is to add program to the public pathway by hanging it to the expressway’s structure. This would allow to free the ground space while activating it thanks to the new spaces above. The shape of these new spaces would be determined by the relationship between the existing section of the Groundscape and

the program of the new intervention; both the cross section as well as the longitudinal one would be affected by this interaction. This way a Roofscape (constructions hanging down from the expressway) would emerge in juxtaposition to the Groundscape, while the void in-between would remain public space. This approach enables revitalizing and restoring the old structures while adding new, light structures which would be protected from the wind. These additions could be prefabricated and the spaces could be changed or expanded. The whole project aims to leave the landscape as untouched as possible, while creating a new identity for it. Yet the new spaces, if designed as simple boxes hanging from above, would lack of accessibility. Light underneath them would be poor, and the program would not be evenly distributed, since it would be without horizontal connection at higher levels. Designing the Roofscape as a porous continuous surface suspended from the expressway adds complexity and flexibility to the composition. The public space below is now connected in various ways to the program above, and the Roofscape is an integrated part of the Groundscape itself: there are multiple ways to reach the different points of this spatial net, which are distributed tri-dimensionally in space. Composing using surfaces enables blurring even more the limits between public and private space. The merging of public and private is enhanced by scattering the indoor program into small, interrelated volumes. This way the volumes will activate the whole site while maintaining its programmatic zoning throughout the path.

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• free space below while activating it • create space by reacting to existing section • light prefabricated structural approach

• activate whole site by scattering the program • link public space below and commercial space above • enhance local variety and maintain overall coherence



determine the form of the spaces on both sides of said surface.

Once the strategic concept is laid down, which form should the architecture take? Compositionally speaking, a building is usually made of identical horizontal walkable surfaces enclosed by vertical closures. This maximizes usable indoor surface and makes it easier to design and construct the building. Yet in this scenario public space is disconnected from architecture, being one continuous ground-level surface on top of which buildings rest as big, solid objects. Buildings are conceived as enclosed, stacked surfaces. The division between inside and outside is sharp, and it is an implicit assumption that the program and all the private spaces should be indoor and inside the building, while all the public functions should be outside and on the ground level.

Furthermore, vertical closures do not follow a building’s perimeter, but they simply enclose those portions of void space that have the absolute necessity to be indoor. The closures are clustered groups of interrelated programs, that make in-between space part of the program itself. This design method allows giving much more spatial complexity to a building’s program. Small cells containing indoor equipment are just distributed cores of a net of in-between spaces - this indoor/outdoor net constitutes the “place” where a certain activities occur. This way various programs can benefit from their de-centralization and connection, while the space between closed volumes acts as a catalyst and enhances public/private relationships.

We could instead conceive floors simply as surfaces onto which events take place. Under this assumption, it doesn’t matter whether a given surface is the ground floor, the street itself, or the 32nd floor of a skyscraper2. Neither does it matter to have a detailed idea of where the vertical closures would be. In the design process, every surface would adapt to adjacent surfaces and to the existing surroundings, according to form, program, structure, regulations and so on. Floors are treated as the mere divisions between two voids that need to be shaped into habitable space. The way in which a surface bends would

With this method, a much greater variety of conditions can be created. Old and new Japanese Architecture give us compelling examples of spaces shaped and influenced by horizontal surfaces, focused on the subtlety of horizontal thresholds and canopies. Also, Japanese Architecture exemplifies how an architecture focused on modulated horizontal surfaces doesn’t see vertical closures as the boundaries of the building. Windows don’t have to be standardized holes in the wall as much as terraces don’t have to be just small surfaces outside a building’s fixed envelope. “We must continue to reject windows. We must continue to shun the stability, unity and aggregation known as

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the object”3. Erasing standard elements of Architecture and shaping them using just the most two basic tools – walkable surfaces and vertical closures – creates a whole new array of possibilities. It is necessary give for granted that buildings do not equal to their whole volume, that horizontal topological surfaces can shape space, and that every building is a landscape. This compositional method represents a very easy way to bridge, through gradation, opposite concepts such as porous/compact, inside/outside, stories/streets, public space/private space. For example, if POPS were shaped this way, private investors could benefit from owning public spaces that merge open space with buildings, and design would have a direct effect of design on investor’s returns. Furthermore, a design that imbues users into private stores would surely increase developers’ willingness to enhance the quality and quantity of public projects.

+ ENCLOSED STACKED SURFACES A building is usually made of identical horizontal surfaces enclosed by vertical closures. The public space is disconnected, being one continuous ground-level surface.

+ INTERSECTING SURFACES + CLUSTERED CLOSURES Public and private space can both be everywhere. Closures are not influenced by the building’s perimeter. They are groups of interrelated indoor activities, making in-between space part of the program itself.


Projects experimenting how an architecture of intersercting surfaces + clustered closures can vary according to the typo-morphological environment. Andrea Samory + Pietro Pecovela, 2016

New York, Networked Building

Copenhagen, Courtyard Building

Cairo, Mat Building

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Hybrid courtyard and tower buildings in front of Central Park, Manhattan. This Public/private complex creates an interconnected, vertical extension of public spaces at the linkages between towers.



Once it fixed the strategical premises, the project took many different shapes – more than the ones shown in this thesis. The first compositional concept of “suspended clusters” could be a great way to accommodate functions without touching the Groundscape whilst responding to it. The concept was simple: all the private program above, all the public space on the ground level. Yet the design was still similar to the “enclosed stacked surfaces”compositional system, which doesn’t allow the necessary blending of public and private space needed in POPS interventions of this kind. All the free circulation would take place on the ground floor, leaving to the Roofscape the role of pop-up program4, without providing any horizontal public connection on the elevated level. Furthermore, the design would result redundant and flawed in areas where the buildings could not fit on the first floor, due to the little height of the space. Several other spatial difficulties were present, since the arrangement would have created a very dark and compressed space. Other compositions were tested, but none of them could enhance accessibility and public/private relationship as much as the modulation of various undulating surfaces. This way a completely new landscape would have been created between the Groundscape and the Roofscape, in the lightest way possible. Two different types of spaces would appear at the opposite

sides of these surfaces: the bottom side would host a continuous, public path, while the upper side would be an intimate space equipped with indoor facilities. Anyhow, this concept still presented some problems: the lack of modularity in the composition, the size of the surfaces, the complex adaptation to regulations and other features created too many problems.5

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X lack of accessibility X busy, dispersed space X lack of horizontal circulation

â&#x20AC;¢ enhanced accessibility X busy, dispersed space X lack of horizontal circulation


A more feasible design – without fixed modules, but with fixed measures, and using exclusively arcs and straight lines – guided the project towards a decentralized, open program. The surface became more “architectural” – in the sense that it is thought already in accordance to spatial and structural regulations and norms. This design allowed spaces to be porous and diverse, without compacting too much the existing urban void. Yet there was no modular system for the structure, and the circulation system could have been more exciting: corridors were still corridors, and floors were still floors.6 In the last design every single surface is basically a pathway. A small array of widths and curves determines the whole system of interwoven suspended walkways. This way the relationships between public/private and open/closed spaces are as gradated as possible, and the construction of structure and closure is easier. Above all, when going from one point to another, the system seamlessly blends Roofscape and Groundscape in a variety of possible paths. The various programs are still designed to be decentralized and open, while now they can benefit from the numerous elevated connections.7

____________________________________________________________ •• 1 Stan Allen, “Points + Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City”, Princeton Architectural press, New York, 1999; p. 54 •• 2 See “Golden Lane” project by Alison and Peter Smithson, 1952. The argument for their “streets in the air” was first formulated, stating that the streets “would be places and not corridors or balconies, thoroughfares where there are shops, postboxes, telephone kiosks”. •• “In the context of a large city with high buildings, in order to keep ease of movement, we propose a multi-level city with residential ‘streets-in the-air’. These are linked together in a multi-level continuous complex, connected where necessary to work places and to those ground elements that are necessary at each level of association. Our hierarchy of associations is woven into a modulated continuum representing the true complexity of human association”. Alison and Peter Smithson, Team 10 Primer. edited by Charles Jencks and Karl Kropf, “theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture”, Academy Editions, Great Britain; 1997:219 •• 3 Kengo Kuma, “Anti-Object: the Dissolution and Disintegration of Architecture”, AA Publishing, 2008; p.120 •• 4 Inspirations for this concept were: Atelier Bow-Wow’s BMW Pavillion, 2011; O+H’s Park Folly in Fukuoka, 2011; Kikutake’s Toku’un-ji Temple Ossuary in Fukuoka, 1965; OMA’s Agadir Convention Center, 1990; Stan Allen’s Project for the Maribor Art Gallery, Maribor, 2010; Steven Holl’s Vanke Center, Shenzen, 2006-2009 •• 5 Inspirations for this concept were: NOX Architecture’s HtwoO Expo Museum, ’94-’97, Neeltje Jans Island, Netherlands; Charles Correa’s Hindustan Lever Pavillion, New Delhi, 1961; FOA’s Yokohama Port Terminal, ’95; Makoto Yokomizo’s Shiojiri urban redevelopment building project, Nagano, 2009; Junya Ishigami’s Kinmen Ferry Terminal Project, Kinmen, 2014; SANAA’s Rolex Learning Center, Lausanne, 2007-2010; Toyo Ito’s Taichung Opera House, Taichung, 2009-2016 •• 6 Inspirations for this concept were: SANAA’s Serpentine Pavillion, London, 2009; Nendo+Nishizawa’s Roof and Mushroom Pavillion, Kyoto, 2013; •• 7 Inspirations for this concept were: Sou Fujimoto’s Beton Hala Waterfront Center Project, Belgrade, 2012; SANAA’s Grace Farms, New Canaan, 2015; Akihisa Hirata’s Foam Form Project, Kaohsiung, 2011; Tetsuo Kondo+Transsolar’s Cloudscape for Venice Biennale, Venice, 2010; El Equipo de Mazzanti’s Marinilla Educational Park, Marinilla, 2016; Greg Lynn’s Stranded Sears Tower Project, Chicago, 1992

Part 2 - Project

2.2 ARCHITECTURAL SURFACE + CLUSTERS • enhanced feasability • decentralized, open program X lack of horizontal circulation

2.3 INTERSECTING WALKWAYS + CLUSTERS • enhanced modularity • decentralized, open program • variety and continuity of circulation





The whole structure bases on prefabricated modular steel slabs that are suspended from the expressway’s deck through harmonic steel cables. Following the Roofscape’s footprint, large Corten steel panels attach to the expressway’s beams, in order to change the structural section of the road, fully compensating the longitudinal bending moment on the tensioned portion of the beams. All the primary ducts that run along the whole site are lodged inside the void between the steel plate and the expressway, bringing conditioned air, water and electricity into each indoor space. Main preoccupations leading to the final compositional concept were structural feasibility, on-site construction and respect of safety regulations. Particular attention was given to the Roofscape’s curvature, in order not only to facilitate accessibility for every kind of user, but also to ease the production, construction and installation of vertical closures. In fact almost every indoor space in the project has a completely flat floor. The whole design is composed of straight lines and a limited number of arcs, meaning that both structure and closures are easy and fast to produce. Similarly, the walkways are designed using a selected array of widths, so that the structural steel slabs can be easily manufactured. Both horizontal and vertical structural loads on the added Roofscape are minimum. The steel slabs, because of their very lim-

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ited width, always have a well-distributed and light live load – and there are no other vertical loads like snow’s. The porosity of the design also implies that everything is lightweight and flexible, meaning the added structure weights homogeneously on the expressway’s structure. For what concerns horizontal loads, the site is completely protected from the wind on both sides by the neighboring buildings,

Steel plates attached to expressway

Site protected from wind

Flat indoor floors

which basically nullify wind’s action. The lowness of the whole project poses very little concerns on earthquake’s action, and the fact that the whole design is suspended implies that it is able to freely flex sideways during such events. Anyhow, the many walkways that connect suspended portions of the Roofscape to the ground act as oblique pillars and ensuring the horizontal stability of the structure.

Design by array of arcs

High resistance to earthquakes

Design by modular widths

Ground connections as oblique pillars



The prefabricated steel slabs are divided into small modules that require the least amount or curved pieces and the greatest amount of rectangular straight ones. This saves production costs and reduces transportation costs, making the modules easy to handle and assemble on site. Every module is made inside the production plant, while complex procedures like welding on site are avoided. The whole process resembles that of a suspended bridge construction in many ways. To build the modules, a primary structure of “C” profile outlines and transversal “H” profiles is welded together. Then a secondary structure of longitudinal smaller “H” profiles is added – these latter pieces are always straight and of standard dimensions. This lattice is then sandwiched with other two steel slabs through welding, making the whole piece extremely strong. Once produced, the modules are brought on site, where they get bolted together thanks to special couplings, until larger pieces are assembled. Construction in the production plant and on site are carried on in parallel, so that the building process runs quickly and orderly. This part of the construction requires little-tono use of heavy machinery and the whole path doesn’t have to be closed throughout. The larger pieces are assembled and lifted in place and coupled to the Corten steel slabs on the bottom of the expressway through harmonic steel cables. The cables hold together also the polished handrail that runs on the Roofscape’s perimeter.

Once in place, the large structural portions are coupled together. Final welding and polishing are done on the bottom of the slabs’ joints, while the first part of vertical closures and piping installation can start, after which reinforced colored concrete is poured onto the slabs. The combination of spatial design and existing conditions permits an extremely efficient load-to-span ratio, and the sturdy sandwiched structure allows the slabs’ structural portion to be

STEP 1 - Off-site fabrication of modules

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only 22 centimeters thick â&#x20AC;&#x201C; making a completed slab 26 centimeters thick. Some expedients create fully functional indoor spaces. After installing piping funnels that run inside the prefabricated modules of the Roofscape (only where water-equipped indoor spaces are located), polyurethane foam is sprayed inside the moduleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s structural void, to ensure insulation where needed.

STEP 2 - On-site assembly of modules

STEP 3 - Attachment of parts to expressway


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Technical Section

1 2

*existing structure


4cm asphalt* 1 12cm concrete* 2 20cm reinforced concrete slab* 3 pre-stressed concrete beam* 4 system’s pipeline (air 5 conditioning, water, electricity) local pipeline branch (air 6 conditioning and electricity) 18mm COR-TEN steel plate 7 thermal break steel frame 8 false ceiling 9 16cm medium density 10 insulating polystyrene insulated glazing (single argon gap) 11 Φ 15mm harmonic steel cable 12 steel cable-handrail coupling 13 Φ 7cm polished steel handrail 14 steel wire rope net 15 4cm polished and 16 coloured reinforced concrete thermal break steel frame 17 cable joint welded to steel cable 18 40x40mm polished steel “L” profile 19 8mm welded tread steel plate 20 plumbing fixture interface and 21 inspection hole 21cm low density insulating 22 polyurethane foam local pipeline (only for 23 plumbing fixtures) steel modules coupling 24 210x100x10mm primary 25 welded “H” profile 140x65x7mm 26 secondary welded “H” profile 210x90x10mm 27 primary welded “C” profile 8mm welded 28 polished steel plate


5 6

7 8





13 14 15





20 21

25 26




27 28




Project Management and Spatial Features

At this time, the ground floor of the whole site is owned by the Bunkyo district. As previously said (see Chapter 1.3), any intervention underneath the expressway can be carried on, upon the approval by Metropolitan Expressway Company’s Administration. It would be surprisingly easy for Bunkyo-ku to develop a new public design there (as it was already partially done decades ago), and it would be especially easy relatively to the myriad of economic agreements needed to build a large complex in a normal residential area of Tokyo. This condition not only makes this segment very easy to redevelop, but also offers the opportunity to create a system of new public interventions throughout the city. In order to restructure the site, Bunkyo’s Administration can either announce a public competition for a construction and management contract, sell the site property at favorable price for private projects, or develop the intervention by itself and then concede it to a contractor. Either way, Bunkyo would benefit from the intervention’s new public spaces and facilities. It is also to be considered that the constant revenue created by the various commercial facilities creates financial leverage for the redevelopment itself, creating an income greater than maintenance expenses. In the first case (private construction through contract), Bunkyo would hand out the project to the best developer in the competition, who would manage the construction. Then, the whole

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redevelopment would be owned and managed by the private contractor (with special public/private agreements, of course). This case is basically the same of a standard single or joint enterprise to build the project upon public contract. In the third case (investment and concession), a public investment would be needed. After the construction (carried on through construction contract), the whole project could either be conceded to a private company, or whole project management would be Bunkyo’s, while each private volume would be sold separately. Anyhow, for the sake of clarity, let’s hypothesize the project is taking place by concession. Many institutions may want to redevelop as a long-term economic investment. Yet the spaces are not designed to just maximize profit. An institution that doesn’t seek much of a big economical return, but rather would want an economically sustainable way of expanding and improving its facilities, would be the best developer for this project. This is a project that merges public and private interests, and that most importantly considers how private institutions have an increasing interest in public space as well. For example, nearby Kodansha’s employees would largely benefit from the facility, as well as the many University of Tokyo’s students. In fact, as explained in the site’s analysis, the intervention would largely improve the programmatic offer of Kodansha’s headquarters and the students’ dormitory. Both indoor private spaces and outdoor public spaces would be beneficial. Todai (University of Tokyo), being a large public educational in-

Economy Management TOWN HALL BUNKYO - KU




SINGLE MANAGEMENT • Administration • Security • Maintenance • Utilities


Rentable Cultural Facilities

Commercial Facilities


stitution with many private assets, was chosen as best hypothetical institution for the concession. In this scenario, Bunkyo’s Administration and University of Tokyo would develop the project together and reach an agreement that declares the University as owner and manager of the site after construction. An investment is made by University of Tokyo to reshape the site and the construction is finished - the in-depth analysis of the construction sequence and expansion will be discussed in this thesis later on. The whole site relies on a single management. The project is controlled by one administration spreaded into small offices throughout the site. Illumination and public maintenance underneath the expressway are independent from the Districts’ ones.

This makes the project’s management close to that of a shopping center with its perimeter’s closures stripped off. 1 While the owner and the overall management is one, the intervention is composed by three kinds of spaces: • Public areas, which are basically all the outdoor spaces. • Commercial facilities such as stores, cafés, etc. They are run by private contractors under (or in agreement with) the site management, as in shopping malls. Larger facilities like the whole co-working cluster and discotheque are also run by privates. • Booking-based cultural facilities. Spaces like meeting halls, lecture halls, theatre, etc. are only accessible through personal badges obtainable at the management offices for









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free. An internet booking system regulates daily schedules. University of Tokyo’s students can enter for free, while private professionals and general public are charged with a small hour fee. Larger facilities like the whole co-working cluster and the theatre can also be rented through special procedures thought for long periods. The project is specifically designed to maximize casual and open use. The preference of clusters of small volumes over single large volumes increases the accessibility of each room. This approach is reflected in the development of facilities that can be used by professional as well as casual users. For example, large public bathrooms serve many programmatic clusters and public spaces at once. The large presence of cafés throughout the project follows the same reasoning. There are three main reasons because an open, experimental project like this one could work – especially in Japan: • It is to take into account how the Japanese sense of public space is profoundly rooted in their concept of community. As explained in Chapter 1.1, the respect of personal boundaries and the empathy towards private matter is one of the first civic regards, especially in extremely dense urban environments. Furthermore, Tokyo is one of the least prone to crime large metropolis in the world. • The personal badges system forces people to respect the place they use, yet it is an open, versatile and extremely open system which allows direct access and readiness of the rooms.

• If needed, maintenance personnel can be intensified to guarantee control in busy days. From a strategic economic standpoint, the project doesn’t aim to fulfill one specific purpose, it wants to find new ways to exploit public and private overlapping needs and to provide the offer that could benefit both. The first direct benefit of the project’s completion is that of adding facilities dedicated to University of Tokyo’s students. Furthermore, the investment creates a virtuous circle that starts with taking advantage of generated revenue. As income is generated, a small part of it goes to the owning institution itself, and the rest is reinvested in the site’s maintenance. This results into wellkept, lively, varied public spaces, which would be heavily active throughout the day potentially for many years. The good quality of these spaces triggers more users into the site, increasing their spending and nourishing the circle. In the end, not only University of Tokyo benefits from this, but the Bunkyo District and local citizens as well.



The five areas defined in the masterplan determines the zoning of the design. They basically consist of two couples of programmatically linked areas, symmetrically divided by a central void (Zone C). It has to be considered how the whole design strategy is about the creation of a continuous longitudinal path. So even if the various zones have a different programmatic and formal configuration, the site is basically one, long string made of intertwined paths with heterogeneous characteristics. The idea is to

present the most variety at a small scale, so that the site can be lived in the most diverse ways, whilst still having a sense of spatial coherence. It’s this longitudinal consistency that makes the project recognizable and inviting - like a mountain path guiding us through different landscapes. Continuity is appealing only through variety, and, most importantly, through constant, rhythmical and surprising succession of veiling and unveiling. Zone A, linked with Edogawabashi Park’s entrance, emulates and extends its program into a landscape of narrow suspended walkways. Many different paths connect the southern entrance of the park with the intervention, creating passages over the first

Axonometric Plan Expressway & level 2F

3 1




4 9



zone A - suspended landscape

zone B - culture park

2F indoor space: 190 m²

1- Store 2- Public bathroom

3-Theatre (300 seats) + ticket office

2F indoor space: 1’200 m²

4- Restaurant 5- Cafè

6- Bar/Izakaya 7- Bar private room




8- Reharsal room 9- Lecture room



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main transversal road. Stores are scattered throughout the zone, mainly dedicated to fitness and leisure time. Daylight easily filtrates through the twine of the Roofscape, and the cross-section creates a complex system of interaction between users. A large two-story underground parking lot can be accessed from the main crossing. Here is located also the underground volume dedicated to the heating and cooling of the whole site (connected to it through pipes inside the expressway), and the storage of rainwater and electricity, which will be discussed later on. Zone B, the “Cultural Park”, has a denser program on the Roofscape, which overlooks large void spaces expanding sideways.





11 12

On level 2F a large linear space connects a 300 seats theatre to a restaurant, a public bathroom and two lecture halls. Another lecture hall with rehearsal rooms and a small meeting room can be found ahead. The place above has a quiet, reserved yet public character that contrasts with the program below. At the ground floor a busier and more interactive version of the program is presented. Underneath the Roofscape two lecture rooms engage with the public path in a gradated way through open air seats and an outdoor (yet with a very cozy, almost cavelike cross-section) exhibition space, which is operated by








zone C - playground

zone D - connected workspace

2F indoor space: none

2F indoor space: 450 m²

10- Study/meeting room

11- Office 12- Coworking reception

13- Study hall 14- Discotheque

zone E - nightlife 2F indoor space: 70 m²

2F total indoor space: 1’910 m²


2F indoor space: 190 m²

1- Store 2- Public bathroom

3-Theatre (300 seats) + ticket office

2F indoor space: 1’200 m²

4- Restaurant 5- Cafè

6- Bar/Izakaya 7- Bar private room

8- Reharsal room 9- Lecture room


Axonometric Plan level 1F (ground)


3 1






zone A - suspended landscape

1- Store 2- Public bathroom

3- Stage 4- Playground


zone B - culture park 1F indoor space: 340 m²

1F indoor space: 230 m²

5- Open-air theatre 6- Cafè

7- Bar/Izakaya 8- Lecture room

9- Open-air seats 10- Open exhibition space

Axonometric Plan - Ground and Underground Interventions* 3

1 1

1 2

1 *highlighted spaces indicate new interventions on the existing site

1- Ungerground car parking

2- Heating/cooling power plant, electricity and water storage





3- Street converted to pedestrian-only 4- Area from which St. Mary’s Cathedral is now visible


2F indoor space: 450 m²

2F indoor space: none

10- Study/meeting room

11- Office 12- Coworking reception

2F indoor space: 70 m²

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13- Study hall 14- Discotheque

2F total indoor space: 1’910 m²

9 4 1




10 11




14 2





1 13



3 15


12 11

zone C - playground

zone D - connected workspace

11- Study/meeting room

zone E - nightlife

1F indoor space: 420

1F indoor space: 45 m²

12- Management office 13- Study hall

13- Discotheque 14- Study hall

15- Storage Room 16- Private room


1F indoor space: 1300 m²

17- Skatepark

1F total indoor space: 2’230 m²



1 3



Total underground parking space: 4’300 m²


a small indoor art gallery nearby. A café animates the cluster. On the other side, a multipurpose uncovered plaza is furnished as a playground and an open-air theatre for projections, small festivals and other events. Underground are located the theatre’s changing rooms, deposit, control room and other service spaces, together with a two-story large parking lot that serves the theatre and the whole zone. This is one of the few parts of the site in which the ground was manipulated in order to fit the program – the bicycle’s deposit slab was taken off, allowing a much higher central space, and the playground was reshaped. Further ahead is located Zone C. This area had the right characteristics to act as an extension of the neighboring elevated garden/park, gaining and empowering its identity. The barrier that separated park and Zone C was eliminated, and the zone’s central area was reshaped to accommodate a skate-park, a playground and open-air seats. This is one of the few green spaces of the whole site. It has only 45 m2 of indoor space, dedicated to the management of the park and to indoor relaxation. The existing garden was itself well-kept and big enough to bring livelihood and variety to the project. Reshaping the terrain allowed a better connection with the Groundscape, and now the nearby St.Mary’s Cathedral is also visible from the area. The whole block formed by Zone D and Zone E is mainly dedicated to students and office workers, whose presence is guaranteed by the large universities, dormitories and offices nearby. The zones are thought to be active throughout the whole day, yet Zone D mostly takes care of the daily activities of studying,

working and meeting. Starting from the South, a large site management office invites passers-by from the parallel streets inside the zone. It then merges at the 2F level with a series of intersecting walkways that feature small scattered volumes. The system is an indoor/outdoor co-working space, with most of the volumes being small offices and meeting rooms averaging 37 m2 of indoor space, and a reception is located at a central point. The upper level is still the quietest yet densest one. In this area many private open spaces gently interconnected are provided as natural continuation of the indoor activity clusters. This is the part of the project with the highest density of very small linked spaces. It is an exaggerated version of the ideal co-working space, where the architecture itself leads toward unsolicited or casual professional conversations, reducing the size of space dedicated to proper concentration and self-absorption, yet increasing the space for open confrontation within small groups of people. At the ground level another outdoor gathering space/exhibition space is set at the (more public) southern part of Zone D. Stores and larger meeting spaces are located ahead. The northern part of the zone features a relatively large indoor study hall that extends as a café on the Roofscape, spreading on long outdoor terraces towards Gokokuji Entrance and Street 435. These walkways loosely outline the spaces below, which are greener and more public. On the Groundscape are more isolated meeting/study rooms and a large public bathroom capable to serve the needs of both Zone D and Zone E.

Part 2 - Project

The latter zone loosely distinguishes from the former only through its program. Zone Eâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s role is to keep the Northern part of the site active at night in a healthy way, by addressing the lack of entertainment facilities in nearby dormitories. Around the zone, closed offices protect the neighborhood from noise and busyness. An izakaya (traditional Japanese type of mostly evening/night bar, similar to a pub in its activities) extends outdoor underneath a study room and on seats on top of a site management office. Other scattered small stores and the entrance of a discotheque at the very North invite users at the Gokokuji site entrance. The almost 1000 m2 club is divided by the modified Groundscape into a casual area close to the entrance and the bar, two private/lounge areas one on top of each other, stage and underground bathroom/deposit. Underground are a large parking lot and a Heating/cooling and energy storage facility.



One important aspect of the project is its division into small parts. These parts can be constructed separately in time and space, and they can be easily replaced or incremented if needed. Furthermore, this ephemeral method of additions permits to expand the intervention basically in all suitable portions of Tokyo’s infrastructure, while adapting to each different condition. As already explained, the partial construction of the implanted architecture can take place easily and without closing the whole site, so that other parts can be already active. The building process would follow four different steps. First the most economical parts of the project would be constructed. Zone A (first) and Zone E (second) would be quick to build and would immediately generate revenue, and the continuous piping system would be set in place. Also the Northern part of zone D would be constructed, to start the coupled day/night cycle of activity with the nightlife program. The economic and programmatic and energetic cycles at the base of the strategy would immediately start. Then the most difficult construction of all areas –Zone B- would start. Halfway through completion of Zone B, Zone C and Zone D would follow. The energetic system and the expansion system are closely related, since both structure and utilities are attached on the expressway’s deck. Designing an hybrid underground/elevated

piping system would be very difficult and would disrupt the continuity that makes this energetic system so valid. Two large underground spaces, connected through large pipes inside the space between highway’s beams, are the energetic cores of the project. From here electricity, air conditioning, water heating and rain water collection are controlled. The underground spaces collect geothermal heat. Conditioned air (hot in winter, cold in summer) is pumped from the same locations into each Zone. Pipes then branch into each capsule, from which air flow is controlled locally. Also electricity and hot water arrive to various areas of the site in the same way, so that the whole built system is flexible and expandable. Rain water is collected and used for those utilities that don’t need potable water, as well as being used for the cooling of conditioned air. The surplus electrical energy is stored or used in other areas of the neighborhood. The expansion of the whole building system could be very easy throughout Tokyo expressway’s infrastructural grid. Many neglected covered areas can be redeveloped into useful multifunctional centers using the economic acquisition methods already described. Each center would adapt to different conditions and respond accordingly, creating a net of facilities connecting different districts in Tokyo. If these centers would follow the same energetic principles of the project, the system would increase its capacity and bring utilities throughout the expressway’s net. One specific goal of Tokyo’s administration for the 2020 Olympics, as mentioned in Part 1, is to enhance the existing buildings by redeveloping its energy

Part 2 - Project

Energy Management and Construction Sequence






storage and distribution system. The presented project would be part of Tokyo’s infrastructural redevelopment planned for the 2020 Olympics, which considers both the replacement and the restoration of old infrastructures as well as the creation of new ones. The construction system is purposely made to fit future programs of infrastructural redevelopment, so that it could be integrated into future projects - it is to take into account how the effectiveness of the building system would exponentially increase with its expansion throughout Tokyo’s urban lattice. ___________________________________________________________ •• 1 See: Gastone Ave, “Città e Strategie: Urbanistica e rigenerazione economica delle città”, Maggioli Editore, Rimini, 2004; Chapter 17. Here are exposed many examples of pseudo-urban complexes with a single management purposely made for entertainment, like thematic amusement parks. Universal City Walk is a great example of private, single management of a proper “village” that doesn’t require any ticket for entrance. The first was made in May 1994 in Los Angeles. What developers call a “high-profile foot traffic” is enabled by strategically formed associations of companies that fill the program of the complex with different franchising. Another example, besides the increasing typology of the “city-like shopping center” (a thematic open-air mall which distribution and appearance mimic the one of an old historical European city-center) was the 1995 “Disneyland Times Square” project in New York. Even if extremely controversial for their obvious speculative nature, many things can be learned from the success these complexes gained.

Expansion through Tokyos expressway Bunkyo site Intervention Tokyo expressway

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2.5 Overall Project Visualization

Rendered Axonometry Only the interventionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s materials are realistically rendered. The expresswayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s deck is rendered as transparent. East-side buildings are cut horizontally T.S.= transversal section L.S.= longitudinal section View 2


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View 1





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View 3



Project Transversal Cross Sections





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Project Longitudinal Cross Sections

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PART 3 - A Critical Standpoint

3.1 Detailed Project Visualization

Rendered View 1, Zone B


Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint

Rendered View 2, Zone A


Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint

Rendered View 3, Zone E


Plan Zone “D” - level 2F

















1- Study hall 2- Cafè

3- Study/meeting room

4- Cafè’s private room

5- Study hall/entrance 6- Public bathroom

7- Study/meeting room

8- Bar/izakaya

Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint

Plan Zone “D” - level 1F




















3.2 Composition


Spaceman A: “using the relationships we’ve learned and the textures we’ve developed, we can design the ultimate and perfect dwelling EVER!” “So what do you think?” Spaceman B: “for sure it’s cool. But can I tell you a story about a caveman for just a minute? The caveman never set out looking for a 2-bedroom cave... Through trial and error, he discovered his preferences in dimensions. I am just not sure if you should be so objective about something intuitive”… “We’re in space, man. Why don’t you just relax and admit that you did it because it entices you?”1

In many ways the project presented here is an attempt to push the boundaries of architectural space by simplifying and redesigning basic architectural elements. Following this radical sentiment, if the design has to be exclusively made using clusters of indoor volumes and intertwined walkways (see Chapter 2.2) those volumes will have to be as small and scattered as possible, and the walkways will have to be as interconnected and porous as possible. These assumptions will then be confronted with all the material and spatial problematics that every normal building present. Following this method is like learning from the process itself, and letting it set

Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint

its own (new) limits. This culminated into the creation and use of certain spatial expedients, some of which might seem odd to western cultures but arguably not so much from a Japanese standpoint. These differences from “regular” life in buildings and public spaces are in fact closely related to cultural differences. A western designer that sets a project in Japan is actually enabled to exploit habits from both worlds, sometimes merging the more peculiar ones. Designing under a 1km-long roof enables to define more outdoor (yet protected) activities than usual, perceiving closed volume merely as that part of the programmatic cluster that cannot exist without being fully enclosed. As soon as there is no real threat or discomfort for the user, pushing indoor/outdoor limits and scattering of functions simply means that there will be a different, hopefully new, spatial experience. One thing that I learned from this design process is that as soon as the volume for the basic core of an indoor program is guaranteed, all the secondary indoor spaces can be scattered throughout, making the most from the in-between outdoor space. All the relationships within the programmatic cluster will be then set according to the capacity of the core volumes to serve their surroundings. In this respect scale is extremely important when defining primary and secondary volumes. For example, I provided a large number of very small study/meeting spaces in the upper zone D, sometimes just suited for gatherings of one small group of people. I was able to do that only because this cluster gravitates

around the relatively large study hall as its extension. Virtually, scattering enables one core volume to extend to secondary volumes with very different programs – all the functions that can relate to the core. In reality, this is facilitated by the fact that the study hall already presents a variety of functions. In this case, study rooms are linked with café’s private rooms through outdoor public spaces at the 2F level. Abundance of in-between space is key for the project to arrange its own programmatic limits itself: if study rooms are more popular as secondary volumes, then the outdoor spaces dedicated to the café might become full of studying people, affecting the atmosphere of the whole zone. A level of complexity is now added to the system: the former core –the large study hall- could well exist without secondary volumes, yet it couldn’t exist properly without access to additional bathrooms. This is true for all the other scattered nearby volumes as well. Yet the whole programmatic cluster’s field of action is so broad that the public bathroom nearby can easily be considered inside of it. The design process forced me to compact in one accessible volume all the necessary but separable functions that many closures might have in common. This is basically what a core volume is: the agglomeration of the same basic functions that can be useful in the cluster, giving it stable center to rely on. Yet there is no strong hierarchy, and nothing prevents a cluster to have multiple cores or even none of them. Certain programs don’t even need large volumes at all, and they p.163

don’t have programmatic hierarchical structure. A more experimental space of this kind is the co-working space – which consists of a net of small offices and meeting rooms. On the one hand, its core, which would be the reception, can easily be assimilated to all the other volumes – on the other hand, the whole cluster heavily depends on public bathrooms to function properly. Its openness to the more public Groundscape and its lack of clear divisions can be a double-edged weapon, depending on the environment and other factors. It could function properly, pushing the limits of traditional office environments, or it could fail and slowly become part of the study/meeting rooms cluster. As Ryue Nishizawa eloquently put it when Koh Kitayama argued that Moriyama house hadn’t any “core” [here intended in a broader, not merely programmatic, term]: “Not having a core conversely means that you can create a core. You might say, “I am the core”. Whenever you are in Moriyama House, you’re never on the edge of anything but instead feel like you’re enveloped in a big environment. […] I thought I might be able to use architecture to create a space that couldn’t be contained within an officially delineated area.”2 Another compositional expedient concerns the walkways. I realized that when composing space via topological approach, trimming surfaces can be extremely important. If it’s true that a surface’s shape determines the form of the voids to both its faces, then trimming the surface means reconnecting these two voids. For this reason, especially when dealing with projects that merge public and private spaces at different scales, a continu-

ous and porous net of surfaces can be way more appropriate than a single ondulating one.3 This becomes even more logical if we think how thick lattices and other coral-like structures maximize surface and tangential continuity (core elements in the arrangement of a building’s program, and not only structure) by finding the right compromise between number of connections and distance between them. When needed, trimming those structures maximizes design and construction flexibility, and retains the formal design concept from becoming an end in itself. This is why the compositional approach of the project went naturally into the use of intersecting walkways: they are the most versatile single architectural element given the project’s premises of smallness, porosity, coherence at large scale and accordance to surroundings, etc. Moreover, trimmed surfaces can shape open space by simply being on top of it, like secondary roofs. This is a subtle, gradated yet very effective manner to highlight or divide areas. For example, being string-like, walkways create the exhibition/public meeting outdoor space under the co-working area by surrounding it. They emphasize and characterize a space that before was only slightly divided by a change of height in the Groundscape. The more string-like they are, the less important their intersections become. What becomes important is instead the void delimited by those walkways, and its relation to the segments themselves.

Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint


I showed in the previous chapters the process through which this project became network-like. We still have to understand the whole project under the concept of Augmented Fields. If confronted with the theory, the existing site could be called a proper Existing Field. There are already many elements that resonate with each other both spatially and programmatically. As I mentioned earlier, this site finds itself in the particular condition of being the fringe of a large block upon the expressway has been superimposed. The buildings evidently transformed around the elevated deck. Four main elements – each having its own fieldlike character- resonate with each other: • The “groundscape”, or the planar ground-level landscaping surface of the urban void. It is an artificial landscape by itself, with a complex transversal section subject to small local height differences between one section and another, as well as consistent height differences from the beginning to the end of the site. • The expressway’s deck. This continuous horizontal element (with its own relative changes in height) gives character, stability and continuity to the area. Without this element, the urban void (meaning literally the void space beneath it) would be dispersed. This element’s cross-section further enhances the groundscape’s inherent differences, by giving them a relatively fair field of comparison – which is extremely important when evaluating relationships between elements.

The confrontation with this “leveling board” creates that extremely detailed confrontation of measures between heights that gives this site its “architectural” character. The expressway’s pillars – or, more likely, Tori (Japanese for “gate”). They constitute the proper “field” of the site: especially if seen in plan, they are a regular grid through which events flow. Yet their elevation reveal their longitudinal, tunnel-like rhythmical character. Even if it’s a constrained grid within a field of scattered buildings, The surrounding buildings, an extremely heterogeneous mat of isolated and densely packed objects.

A landscaping surface, a longitudinal regular surface, a regular grid, a cluster of objects. All these elements, which taken separately could be read under a single scale, are here clashed together. Each element aims towards different aspects of life, every group of objects speaks its own dimensional language. The relationship between different dimensions, the infusion of program into unprogrammed open spaces, behavioral patterns arise almost without any form of programmed prescription. On top of this environment, the new network-like architecture of walkways and programmatic clusters is superimposed. Let’s analyze the entirety of the area, considered after the project would be completed. Seen as a whole, the project can arguably fall under the characteristics that define Field Conditions. But it is not clear whether this would be true, reading the project p.165

from the compositional standpoint of Allen’s examples of formal compositions in the 2009 version of “From Object to Field”: even if these schemes are clearly generic indications and they shouldn’t be taken literally, their purpose in the text is exactly to clarify what can be considered a Field and what cannot. The existing site would be itself a superimposition of two “axial compositions” (expressway + pillars onto a strip-like urban composition of buildings), and the new intervention would be what is called “Linked Elements”.4 Each of these typologies have its own compositional terms, and are not listed under “fields”. It seems like the Field Conditions theory, from a compositional point of view, is not the best fitting to explain how the project can function. Though, I want to stress the fact that one of the main reasons because Allen’s essay is still so relevant nowadays is its focus on procedure and, most of all, the creation of conditions that aim to influence and shape events. There are three main reasons that make this project difficult to frame into Allen’s descriptions of Field Conditions: hierarchy, disconnectedness and Networked Architecture. All of these characteristics highlight the fact that there are still not many compositional theories about a dispersed way of making Architecture and about a chronologically stratified way of conceiving urban intervention – especially within Infrastructural Urbanism. Even if their philosophical and disciplinary identities may have been laid down, they are still yet to be formalized into an all-encompassing, iconic project. Field Conditions as envisioned by Allen are, by definition, non-hi-

erarchical. The five (four existing elements + the new intervention) macro-elements in which the Bunkyo’s site can be broken down are not pieces. Instead they are more likely sub-groups, each of which is further divided into architectural pieces (i.e. pillars) or architectural topologies (i.e. groundscape). These five groups constitute intermediate hierarchical levels between the “expansive system” and “every specific point” (quoting Mansilla+Tunon). The site is, compositionally speaking, hierarchical – especially the Field Implant. For this reason the new intervention is not strictly a field itself – it actually works by disruption of the regular and relatively orderly Existing Field. The added intervention was evidently composed algebraically, but its lack of homogeneity makes the architecture itself divided in bundles throughout the site. This disperse and extremely porous composition is very difficult to analyze, since it would arguably respect the way in which Fields and Mats are composed, yet it is divided into discrete groups. Indeed, continuity between the Field Implant’s bundles is not inherent in the whole compositional system, but it relies on the Existing Field’s character of being a truly “non-centralized expansive system capable of becoming specific at any given point”. The Field Implant is an architectural network that disrupts and multiplies the largescaled continuity of the Existing Field while maintaining it. In this way, it helps connecting the extremely various scales upon which the Existing Field’s elements were constructed. This is true for scale, program, form and space: each existing “macro-identity” within the site is connected, enhanced and further parcelised. Field Implant’s main role is to paradoxically “fill the gaps” of the

Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint

site by creating more gaps. The Implant is a partial, intricate, diverse system entangled with an existing condition through a generic and flexible design. It enhances the forces into the Existing Field, creating uneven peaks of intensity. This fact exhibits the difficulty for the Field Implant to being discussed as a field itself because of its hierarchical disconnections and its dependence on external environments to work properly. At the same time, this logic highlights the essential role that Field Implants have in creating an Augmented Field Condition. During the project, great attention was given to the fact that the existing conditions would have to be left as untouched as possible: if the Existing Field has to be augmented, its modifications have to be done by addition. I also decided to maximize the compositional and structural difference between the two. Even though it is not mandatory, in this case other operations would have invalidated its experimental premises. In this way it is possible to appreciate more the inseparability and

Greg Lynn, Stranded Sears Tower, Chicago, 1992

the interdependence of the two systems; the formal difference becomes the right image for the juxtaposition of “existing” and “added”. Even if Augmented Field Conditions can be achieved by many other ways, this would enhance the “surgical” character of each addition – or, it is important to notice, of each possible subtraction of the Field Implant. I would call Networked Architecture the way in which the presented Field Implant was composed. Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto explain in their “Atlas of Novel Tectonics” how certain systems don’t change with scale, but rather rely on ratios. “Internally consistent systems are inherently different from systems of collage. To illustrate this, one could take a radio and either condense its form until it is very small or distribute it, spreading it over a wide area. As long as no wires are cut the radio would still function, it would be still a radio” 5 Once the basic scale is found, the effectiveness of such an architecture is given by the proportion between segments and links. The larger the extent, the more the links.

R+U + Stan Allen, Gateway Project for Venice Biennale, Venice, 1991


In Networked Architecture void and volume, limbs and core become deeply interdependent, to the point they are not recognizable.The more string-like the architecture is, the less emphasis it puts on its connections rather than its joints. Furthermore, the void around these strings is homogeneously activated. An easy way to work with Networked Architecture is by the addition of tube-like modular elements or walkways with a set width. The Mat -like feature of expandability through an algebraic composition is achievable, but in a very different way that don’t rely on the successive attachment of spatial cells to one another. Here, the space between and around the network is what keeps the composition together. The presented Field Implant exhibits many of the Mat Building features, yet its partiality, its complete three-dimensional openness, its porosity, make it difficult to be categorized. “Mat building is anti-figural, anti-representational and anti-monumental. Its job is not to articulate or represent specified functions, but rather to create an open field where the fullest range

Steven Holl, Vanke Center, Shenzen, 2009

of possible events might take place. […] Mat-building cannot be isolated as an object – figure against ground – instead it activates context to produce new urban fields”6 Networked Architecture stretches this concept as much as possible. Yet while Mat Building aims to maximize density through the horizontal agglomeration of (often modular) spaces, Networked Architecture aims to maximize porosity through three-dimensionality. Furthermore, the latter is conceived with the same intentions, but with very different spatial outcomes. Mat Buildings born in a cultural climate that wasn’t completely rejecting modernist utopias. The potentially endless expandability of the Mat, which is one if its main characters, aimed to create a human-scaled, varied environment for local communities. It is not so strange to think that the Topological Architecture, defined by a single warped surface, could be its logical evolution. Yet it is difficult to sustain such a paradigm on large scales, as local conditions are too strong to fall under all-encompassing compositional theories – even if they are made to emphasize different identities.

Akihisa Hirata, Foam Form, Kaohsiung, 2011

Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint

The ideology behind Networked Architecture is to be completely disconnected and completely connected at the same time. Networked Architecture is finite by its very nature - the trimmed surface is one of its main formal paradigms. It is not a single surface, but a bundle of interconnected finite surfaces. Furthermore, it relies on enhancing connections between itself and existing contexts, enabling hidden characteristics of the space to arise. It can expand seamlessly into the environment exactly because it is discontinuous, yet it can expand only until there will be something to connect. In the words of Paul Lewis, discussing Megaform: “Any ramp that provides three feet of continuity provides some fifty feet of discontinuity along its edges. I’m less interested in the legibility of continuity in the form of image, but instead about how the form works and if it is able to dissolve its discontinuity or deal with it in a successful way.”7 Not less importantly, it enables the user to operate choices in an endless yet finite way. The user is no longer left alone to roam free in infinite spaces of shallow differences, it is now forced to feel the consequences of his choices at every junction. The choices it makes during its path are linear and not reversible. In this sense, Networked Architecture introduces discontinuity into Topological Architecture – or, better, it introduces an endless feeling of discontinuity. Things are all connected and all reachable, yet they are set into a confusing labyrinth of choices. The density of three dimensional links that Networked Architecture can achieve is not thinkable within the relatively orderly and static realm of Mat Buildings.

For example, given the length of many of the walkways in the presented project, once the user has chosen a path it might be difficult to reach places that are physically very close. Many times, the walkways will run parallel without intersecting, making the path somewhat frustrating, yet enhancing the three-dimensional character of the possible social interactions. The paradox of extreme connection is here transformed into and awkward yet surprising way of approaching the experience of space. Frustrating physical disconnection is often compensated by possibilities of great visual and social connection – not dissimilar to what the internet enables us to do. Better, social interaction can be experienced in other unsuspected ways. ___________________________________________________________ •• 1 Jimenez Lai, “Citizens of No Place: an Architectural Graphic Novel”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2012; p. 43-46 •• 2 Koh Kitayama, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Ryue Nishizawa, “Tokyo Metabolizing”, TOTO Publishing; Tokyo, 2010; p.105 •• 3 See how elegantly Sou Fujimoto used this technique in the Musashino Art University Library to gradually scatter the space of the library at the first floor into small linear private spaces, yet spatially connecting them to the large entrance hall below. See also Akihisa Hirata’s 2011 competition project “Foam Form, Kaohsiung, Taiwan”. •• 4 Stan Allen, “From object to field: Field Conditions in Architecture + Urbanism”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; p. 217-242. To my knowledge this is the latest version of the essay; the various explanatory diagrams were given different notations than in previous versions. See image in Chapter 0.5 •• 5 Reiser+Umemoto, “Atlas of Novel Tectonics”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2006; p. 56 •• 6 Stan Allen, “The Thick 2-D: Mat Building in the contemporary city”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; p. 198 of the book. •• 7 Weiss/Manfredi, “Public Natures: Evolutionary infrastructures”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2015; p. 170





How does a network behave in space? As seen in the explanation of the role of “cores” in this project (Chapter 3.1), networked space relies on the concept of “place”. As soon as there is a certain strong commonality between scattered elements within an environment, that enviroment is recognized as one. This is the main strategy that I use to enhance the inherent characteristics of Bunkyo’s urban void. It is really difficult to physically define a scattered identity, since there is no center to pinpoint and no defined boundary that contains it. The project takes advantage of this lack of clarity, and leaves situations defining themselves just by hinting possibilities. One could find the concept of “gradation” in opposing aspects of Japanese life: from the way in which spaces are traditionally left blank to maximize difference of program, to the way in which architectural thresholds are treated, to the nested nature of dimensions in Tokyo – only to name a few aspects within the field of Architecture. The concept of Oku and its specific use by Maki epitomizes those characteristics. “The use of the term [Oku] with respect to space is invariably premised on the idea of okuyuki, or depth, signifying relative distance of the sense of distance within a given space. [It] also has a number of abstract connotations, including profundity and unfathomability, so that the word is used to describe not only physical but psychological depth.” Maki then associates Oku with

Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint

the term “innermost”, or inner space. It’s the void space that constitutes the unreachable end of a path or a scenery. It is the element that, through veiling and negation, triggers the whole process of “traversing” space. “Inner space emphasizes horizontality and gains symbolic power by concealment. [It] can be called an invisible center – or, more precisely, a convenient alternative to the center, devised by a culture that denies absolutes such as centers. People are free to decide for themselves what constitutes such a “center”; there is no need to make it explicit.1 […] As an ultimate destination, innermost space often lacks a climactic quality. Instead, it is the process of reaching this goal that demands drama and ritual. The design of an approach is a matter of manipulating horizontal depth rather than height.” This is a direct consequence of the way Japanese cities were laid out. “In Japan, instead of a fixed core, territorial integrity was based on something indeterminate, and enveloping or enfolding this basic “something” (oku) was the operational principle of territorial formation. In contrast to active demarcation, enveloping implies passivity as well as flexibility – that is, a capacity to adapt the envelope to the form of what is to be enveloped. […] I believe that Japanese cities have grown out of the soil rather than being made by carving a measure of abstract space and architecture out of an infinite expanse of space, as is the case with cities in center-oriented civilizations”2. So thanks to oku, one could even argue that the culture of “gradation” in Japanese Architecture is indeed a reflection of the concept of “place”. Until one find himself within an area that for some reason he perceives as unique, that place is still in his con-

sciousness “domain” – even if he’s not physically perceiving its entirety. This sentiment perfectly emanates from the description of the prototypical Japanese sacred places: “Originally Japanese shrines were not buildings. For instance, it is claimed that Miwa Jinja in Yamato in Nara prefecture, said to be one of the oldest shrines in Japan, had no buildings at all. The mountain – called Miwa – was itself the object of worship; at its foot was established a ritual site where a simple threshold (iwasaka) had been set up, and, a sacred enclosure (himorogi) erected. […]Visiting Ise shrine today, we encounter next to each active sanctuary a large geometric space that intrudes upon the view, encompassed by the dense green of the surrounding forest. This is kodenchi – the old, unoccupied site of each dismantled twin

Iwasaka formed by two rocks representing Izanami and Izanagi , the patron gods of Japan. Futami Okitama Jinja in Ise, Mie.


structure. […] This scene without architecture may teach us even more about the elemental form of Ise than would the actual site in use. Let us imagine how the Ise sanctuary began. First one takes stock of the vast forest and demarcates a sacred domain; if we set simple hedges or fences around it the place would become iwasaka; with the addition of a sacred central column it would be more properly himorogi. To achieve the prototypical status of archi-image of “shrine”, these minimal acts – siting and demarcation – suffice. It might even be that the architecture that takes from above ground is just an appendage”3[bold added]

A himorogi at Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Kamakura

We always find the concept of identities originating from the ground itself – or more realistically, from an “environment” defined by the relationships of the elements that it contains – or that it doesn’t contain, in the case of “innermost” Oku. The design project presented in this research tried to simply grasp those sets of relationship-defined identities, and enhance them in a radical way. An Implanted Networked Architecture resonates together with the Field it relies on, in the same way in which a network of relationships relies on the concept of “Place”. A paradoxical, pragmatically utopian early project by Sou Fujimoto perfectly embodies this concept. 1997 “Network by walk” envisioned houses “scattered” around Tokyo, formed by 2 to 4 cells enclosing basic functions such as kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room. The houses are nothing more than “service areas” within the user’s possi-

Kodenchi in Ise Shrine (on the bottom of the picture). Ise, Mie

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ble paths around the neighborhood, which are based on a set distance radius. This simple method of design is potentially applicable in every other city yet extremely tied to Tokyo’s inherent characteristics discussed throughout this thesis. Simple and adaptable rules of aggregation create a seamless field between scattered rooms and their surroundings, and together they constitute a “place”. It is noticeable that this project, if compared to Reiser+Umemoto’s theory of networks that rely on ratios (and not scale), could still work to a certain extent. In fact, if the radius that delimits the networked house would be expanded (expanding the house in scale), the concept could still work, as soon as other cells would be added (respecting indeed a certain ratio). Fujimoto introduced his project in this way: “What exists in between architecture and the city, or between a dwelling and urbanity?[…] In this project, houses depart from their existence as exclusive objects, and are constructed rather as fragments of a greater complex network subsumed within the city. […] All Architecture is in a sense a city, and every city is a Sou Fujimoto, Network by Walk, Tokyo, 1997


large and complex piece of Architecture. I believe this richness of Architecture emanates from such contradictions.”4 Similarly to the “Networked Architecture” methodology I described, this cohesion of Architecture and its environment unfolds new possibilities: one of the most interesting parts of Fujimoto’s project is that different houses are set in the same area, hence the different networks that constitute them are often overlapping on the same streets. Users can belong to discrete networks that pertain to the same place. This concept is both practically and theoretically extremely useful and fascinating. It reminds of both the virtual space, in which different users interact with each other (they occupy a “place” in a net) without physically being in the same space, and the real field-like space. The concept of “place” will be examined later on as the key to understand the dichotomy physical space/virtual space presented here. This concept of Field of forces, or “place” that is “suggested” by demarcations - yet that invariably outdoes them - has useful and almost physical terms: “In Japanese, words like kinjo and kaiwai [both of which might be translated as “neighborhood”], suggest that you are at the core of something. For example, even if you were on the edge of the first block of an urban development project, and you said something about “this neighborhood”, the spatial expanse would extend past the administrative boundaries of the first and second block – because you are already at the core of the area.”5 The respect for both the community and the personal space of

each of community’s member is crucial for the definition of the spatial identity in Japan. This focus on individuality is extremely important for the project I presented, and it was extremely useful both for the project to fit in the city and for the design methodology to stretch the boundaries of Architecture. It might be true that, if the real “core” of space resides within ourselves, we might be more able to flexibly adapt to the fluid changes in our cities’ environments. “[in Tokyo] No one thinks about uniformity, buildings are developed simultaneously. […] Nobody sees anything strange about a super high-rise building going up next door to a two-story wooden house. Basically, no one is really interested in what goes on next door”, and the landscape of the city itself somehow appears to be a community or a group of people.”6 One needs to consider that, even if it is not so evident, many “western” features were embedded in the project as well. While the scattering of capsules can be seen as opposed to the way in which westerners conceive space, the way in which program is experienced within those clusters is often close to that of European squares. Most noticeably, many outdoor seats are embedded in the architecture as part of the programmatic clusters. It is important that people could seat and occupy in-between space for as long as possible, while multiple elevated layers of walkways enhance the density of the interactions. Japanese social interactions generally require a defined, if not enclosed, space. In Europe, instead, casual strolling and chatting can be done in the same outdoor space in which people are laying on the ground, playing, eating or drinking in groups. So it is not unusual to keep

Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint

on drinking or eating on the way from one bar/café to another – exactly how users are free to behave in zones of this project, if that’s their choice. While European people are used to drinking and eating in open public spaces, it is uncommon in Japan. Urban spaces in Japan are not intended for these activities, and only few, characteristically “western” examples can be found in touristic central areas. It is visible how Japanese people (especially more “global” Tokyoites) are appealed by these places, even if they are perceived as slightly “exotic”. I will explain in the next paragraph to which extent the whole project is supposedly fitting Japanese and Tokyo’s characters from a urban (not social) standpoint. The intricate “dense intimacy” of the spaces created in this project, and the layering of public/private spaces, allowed me to merge opposite vernacular lifestyles. The multiplying of routes create a cozyness that stem from bigger spaces. This is a way to merge Japanese social needs for intimacy and European outdoor social interaction. For this reason, many of the secondary capsules are thought of as extensions of indoor café/bar/izakayas: these capsules are physically private yet visually open public rooms. While European plazas are usually large interconnected open spaces, it is always important to keep in mind that the whole system of this project’s outdoor spaces is basically always covered: nested horizontal surfaces, the first of which is the large roof of the expressway, cover almost the whole site.



It is evident how this thesis’ project wants to be an all-encompassing methodology that doesn’t identify with one cultural specificity, but rather aims to control generic urban features in order to reflect those cultural specificities. Stan Allen explains how the material choices regarding SANAA’s New Museum (New York, 2007) are not driven by semiotic references, but by their inherent optical and social performances. He then relates SANAA’s stylistic approach to a concept antipodal to Minimalism: Dirty Realism. The term was first used in 1983 in an article of Granta Magazine by Bill Buford, yet here Allen refers to Frederic Jameson’s text “The constraints of postmodernism”7: “Jameson’s definition of dirty realism as a “collaborative built space, in which the opposition between inside and outside is annulled”8 seems to describe almost exactly the experience of the New Museum’s street-level entry. […] It does not seem coincidental that for Jameson, the concept of dirty realism can be traced back to the urban space of Tokyo: “The fantasy of dirty realism indeed draws strongly on the way in which, in parts of Tokyo, the street is somehow inside, so that the city as a whole, which has no profile, becomes one amorphous unrepresentable container that realizes the essence of the geodesic dome without the dome itself…”9 […]Jameson does two things that serve to open up the term. In the first instance, he distances dirty realism from its more obvious connotations of neoregionalism and the vernacular, or rath-

er, ties it more intimately to a contemporary vernacular that is itself the local manifestation of a larger totality. For Jameson, dirty realism is more about the interstate highway system and Wal-Mart than about back roads and overlooked rural enclaves. […] The key difference between an architect more readily seen as “realist”, such as Frank Gehry, and OMA or SANAA, is not the use of vernacular materials or forms, but rather the way in which their architecture embraces and is embraced by the strange new totalities of global post-metropolitan life.[…] The differences are structural and syntactic, rather than semantic. […] The point then is not that the architecture itself is “dirty”, or quotes vernacular sources, but rather the degree to which the architecture opens itself to the unplanned chaos of contemporary urban life. […] Realism, often associated with the picturesque, or intricate local detail, can instead be understood as a way of accurately reflecting – and refiguring – the abstract, totalizing, diagrammatic quality of contemporary life.”10 Allen then confronts the concept with SANAA’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (Kanazawa, 2004): “If this is dirty realism, it is realist to the degree that the plan geometries of the building itself are somehow continuous with the totalizing organizational diagrams of global corporate capitalism; but it is dirty to the degree that the conventional hierarchies – between culture and everyday life, between high and low, public and private, museum and city, between the pristine and the messy, have all been refigured. [… SANAA’s] claim is not to privilege social effect over material

Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint

practices, but rather to assert that social facts and material culture can never be disentangled. […] They strip things down, not to arrive at some irreducible truth, or to offer a corrective to an imperfect world, but to construct a new form of complexity, a complexity truly adequate to the strange artificial reality of the world today. Theirs is not a quantitative complexity, created by the formal elaboration and the multiplication of parts, but a qualitative complexity, that, like life itself, creates a maximum of social, cultural, and political effects with a minimum number of elements.”11 Under this light, the project presented in this Thesis would be a further adaptation of contingent and “global” characters of a specific site in Tokyo. As already argued, the reduction and reframing of the compositional elements of Architecture create a new, flexible approach to “global corporate capitalism” - and in particular the creation of varied, effective and self-sustainable POPS - whilst “refiguring conventional hierarchies”. Dirty Realism would further categorize this project as being Global in its approach towards architectural style. Furthermore, this project would be Japanese not in its regional stylistic specificities, but in the way its spatial organizations reflect Japanese social constructions. The same is valid for the project as one being based in Tokyo: the project’s architectural style doesn’t directly refer to the vernacular and contemporary style of Tokyo’s Architecture (the design’s compositional methodology is too generic to do such a thing), but Japanese cultural specificities are reflected in the way the organizational approach reacted to the specificities

SANAA, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 2007

SANAA, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, 2004. Courtyard


of the site and those of its surrounding buildings. Ultimately, the design methodology presented here wants to be the most generic possible way to react to local specificities and existing socio-cultural organizations. The more the system is simple, generic and flexible, the better those specificities will be reflected by the system itself. This is what I would call a “globalized” approach to culture, where general characters of the culture are respected and emphasized within the most generic, non-regional architectural style. This approach implies that while the overall spatial and organizational characters respond to local culture, the project’s strategy is mainly concerned with generic local features, at a scale too small to be that of a specific city among others. 12 The practical proof for this explanation would be that the compositional methodology could be easily transposed onto a different site in a different country. Arguably, the methodology would still be valid as architecture, yet the spatial, programmatic and material organizations would be completely different. Imagine, for example, building the project as an implementation of the ongoing “Undergardiner” public project in Toronto, where the site’s borders are not clamped by small messy buildings, where the height and size of the expressway are increased, where the whole urban setup is more orderly and spacious, etc. The width of the walkways, the size and relationship of the programmatic capsules, the organization of form and program according to the various programmatic macro areas - everything would change in size, arrangement and character. Yet, every-

thing would still be the same, in the sense that the design methodology and its detailing (from set programmatic relationships to structural construction) wouldn’t change. Even the structure itself could become, with the right arrangements, a trilithic one. The relationship between architectural elements would largely be modified by their reflection of a Western society in a specific site in Toronto. Anyhow, I still believe the awkwardness of the approach would be more easily embraced in Japan – referring to its generally “Asian” view of “place” as loosely defined and context-driven space, which is opposite to the concept of “place” as enclosed space. Whether or not this project can be classified as “Dirty Realism”, thanks to this concept we can better frame its paradoxical style, based on the simplest two compositional tools (intersecting walkways and clusters of closures), yet exhibiting an almost mannerist complexity of spaces. Depending on the scale from which the project is analyzed, It can be extremely generic or extremely local.

Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint

_______________________________________ •• 1 see Nishizawa talking about oneself being the very “core” of a place, in Chapter 3.1 •• 2 Fumihiko Maki, “The city and inner space”, in Ekistics, Vol. 46, No. 278 (SEPTEMBER/ OCTOBER 1979), pp. 328-334 •• 3 Arata Isozaki, “Japan-ness in Architecture”, MIT Press, 2006 (collection of essays made between 1960 and 1985); p. 149-151 •• 4 Sou Fujimoto, “Sou Fujimoto, Architecture Works 1995-2015”, TOTO Publishing, Tokyo, 2015; p.16 •• 5 Koh Kitayama, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Ryue Nishizawa, “Tokyo Metabolizing”, TOTO Publishing; Tokyo, 2010; p.105 •• 6 Koh Kitayama, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Ryue Nishizawa, “Tokyo Metabolizing”, TOTO Publishing, Tokyo, 2010; p.103 •• 7 Fredric Jameson, “The Constraints of Postmodernism”, in “The Seeds of Time”, Columbia University Press, New York, 1994; p. 129-206 •• 8 Ibid. •• 9 ibid •• 10 Stan Allen, SANAA’s Dirty Realism”, in Ed. Florian Idenburg, “The SANAA Studios 2006-2008”, Lars Muller Publishers, Baden, 2010, p. 58-67” •• 11 Ibid.

SANAA, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, 2004. Inside Leandro Erlich’s permanent installation “The swimming pool”, in the courtyard.


Ryue Nishizawa, Moriyama house, Tokyo, 2005. Reflections from outside.

Part 3 - A Critical Standpoint

Ryue Nishizawa, Moriyama house, Tokyo, 2005. View from inside tenantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s house.



BIBLIOGRAFY BOOKS: Ed. Jessie Turnbull, “Toyo Ito: Forces of Nature”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2012 Toyo Ito, “Tarzans In The Media Forest and Other Essays”, Architecture Word 8, London, AA Publications, 2011 Sou Fujimoto, “Primitive Future”, INAX Publishing, Tokyo, 2008 ed. Hashim Sarkis, “CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and the Mat Building Revival”, Munich: Prestel/Harvard Design School, 2001 Reiser+Umemoto, “Atlas of Novel Tectonics”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2006 Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; (Expanded Second Edition) Ed. Gail Peter Borden, Michael Meredith: “Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2012 Terence Riley, “light Construction”, Department of Publications The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1995 Manuel Orazi, Yona Friedman, ed. Nader Seraj “Yona Friedman: The diluition of Architecture”, Park Books, Zurich, 2015

Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kajima, “Atelier Bow-Wow: Behaviorology”, Rizzoli International Publications, New York, 2010 Jimenez Lai, “Citizens of No Place: an Architectural Graphic Novel”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2012 N. Tajima, “Tokyo: A Guide to Recent Architecture”, Konemann Verlagsgesellschaft, Cologne, 1995 Andrè Sorensen, “The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty First Century” - Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies series, London: Routledge, 2004 Tanaka Kakuei, “Building a New Japan; a plan for remodeling the Japanese archipelago”, Simul Press, Tokyo, 1972 Ed. Cristoph Brumann and Evelyn Schulz, “Urban Spaces in Japan: Cultural and social perspectives”, Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies series, New York, 2012 Weiss/Manfredi, “Public Natures: Evolutionary infrastructures”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2015 Riken Yamamoto, “Riken Yamamoto”, TOTO Publishing, Japan, 2012 Ed. Thomas Hauck, Regine Keller, Volker Kleinekort , “Infrastructural Urbanism”, DOM publishers, Berlin 2011 Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kajima [Atelier Bow-Wow]


and Junzo Kuroda, “Made in Tokyo”, Kajima Institute  Publishing Co.,Ltd., 2001 Kengo Kuma, “Anti-Object: the Dissolution and Disintegration of Architecture”, AA Publishing, 2008 Gastone Ave, “Città e Strategie: Urbanistica e rigenerazione economica delle città”, Maggioli Editore, Rimini, 2004 Ed. Darko Radovich and Davisi Boontharm, “Small Tokyo”, Flick Studio Co. Ltd., Tokyo, 2012 Stan Allen, “Points + Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City”, Princeton Architectural press, New York, 1999 Koh Kitayama, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Ryue Nishizawa, “Tokyo Metabolizing”, TOTO Publishing; Tokyo, 2010 Arata Isozaki, “Japan-ness in Architecture”, MIT Press, 2006 (collection of essays made between 1960 and 1985) Sou Fujimoto, “Sou Fujimoto, Architecture Works 1995-2015”, TOTO Publishing, Tokyo, 2015 Ed. Florian Idenburg, “The SANAA Studios 2006-2008”, Lars Muller Publishers, Baden, 2010

ARTICLES AND ESSAYS: Thomas Daniell, “The Fugitive”, in Toyo Ito, “Tarzans In The Media Forest and Other Essays”, Architecture Word 8, London, AA Publications, 2011 Julian Worrall, “The Deep Field: Resolving a Japanese Constellation”, in ed. Sarah Resnick, “A Japanese Constellation”, MOMA Publishing, New York, 2016 (published along with the exhibition at MOMA by the same name) Toyo Ito, Generative Order, 2009, in: ed. Jessie Turnbull, “Toyo Ito: Forces of Nature”, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2012 Toyo Ito, “A Garden of Microchips: the Architectural Image of the microelectronic age”, in ANY Magazine 5, 1994 Stan Allen, “The Thick 2-D: Mat Building in the contemporary city”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; p. 192-215 Stan Allen, “From object to field: Field Conditions in Architecture + Urbanism”, in the Second Edition of Stan Allen: “Practice, Architecture, technique + representation”, Routledge Publishing, New York, 2009; p. 217-242 James Corner, “not unlike life itself”, in Harvard Design Magazine, Fall/ Winter 2004:21 Stan Allen, “From Object to field” in AD, n5/6 May/June 1997: 67


Stan Allen, “Diagrams Matter.” ANY 998:23

chitectural project and the production of subjectivity”, in Harvard Design Magazine 2012:35

Nader Tehrani: Stan Allen, “BOMB” Magazine, Spring 2003:123 Alison Smithson, “How to Recognize and read Mat-Building; Mainstream Architecture as it Has Developed Towards the Mat-Building”, Architectural Design 1974, n.9, September, 573-590” Alison and Peter Smithson, Team 10 Primer. edited by Charles Jencks and Karl Kropf, “theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture”, Academy Editions, Great Britain; 1997:219 Timothy Hyde, “How to construct an Architectural Genealogy; Mat-Building…Mat-Buildings…Matted-Buildings”; in: ed. Hashim Sarkis, “CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and the Mat Building Revival”, Munich: Prestel/Harvard Design School, 2001; p.106 Fumihiko Maki, “Notes on collective form” in “Japan Architect”, Winter 1994: 248 “50 Years since Group Form”, Ja 78: Redefining Collectivity, Japan Architect Publisher, November 2010 Alejandro Zaera-Polo, “A Scientific Autobiography. 1982-2994: Madrid, Harvard, OMA, the AA, Yokohama, the globe.” James Corner, “not unlike life itself”, in Harvard Design Magazine, Fall/ Winter 2004:21 Pier Vittorio Aureli, “Redefining the autonomy of architecture. The ar-

Shuto Kosoku Gaidobukku, Tokyo Institute of Technology Student Research Compilation, 1998, p.17; translated by Nathan Elchert Heike Rahmann, “S,XS, XXS”, in “Small Tokyo”, ed. Darko Radovich and Davisi Boontharm Flick Studio Co. Ltd., Tokyo, 2012 Julian Worrall, “High resolution urbanism scalar diversity at Kichijoji”, in “Small Tokyo”, ed. Darko Radovich and Davisi Boontharm, Flick Studio Co. Ltd., Tokyo, 2012 Salvator-John A. Liotta, “Architettura reincarnata”, Domus 969, May 2013. Domus Editorial, Milan Fumihiko Maki, “The city and inner space”, in Ekistics, Vol. 46, No. 278 (SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 1979), pp. 328-334 Fredric Jameson, “The Constraints of Postmodernism”, in “The Seeds of Time”, Columbia University Press, New York, 1994 Stan Allen, SANAA’s Dirty Realism”, in Ed. Florian Idenburg, “The SANAA Studios 2006-2008”, Lars Muller Publishers, Baden, 2010, p. 58-67”


WEBSITES: Bunkyo Ward Municipal website: Tokyo University website: Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government website: jp/ENGLISH/index.htm JR stores: Assemble Studio:

MOVIES, VIDEOS AND LECTURES: Stan Allen in conversation with Preston Scott Cohen, Oct 20, 2011 at Harvard University GSD William H. Whyte, “The social life of small urban spaces”, Municipal Art Society of New York, 1980 Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window, 1955 Shoei shigematsu (Head of OMA New York) in conversation with Bjarke Ingels (BIG), in an event part of OMA/Progress exhibition at Barbican Art Gallery (6 Oct 11 - 19 Feb 12).



15th of July 2015, at Sou Fujimoto Architects, Tokyo, Kagurazaka. *note: bold is added throughout the text to highlight key concepts. I have modified the text as little as possible, and I often preferred to keep ambiguous or colloquial expressions as they were made on the moment. I think Fujimoto’s intuitive and visionary approach to Architecture can be best appreciated this way.

A.S.: I’ve prepared some questions related to my Master’s thesis proposal. What I’m trying to discover is how the last decade of Japanese Architecture can be related to the more global architectural discourse and to which extent they reverse Rationalist compositional rules in their projects. For example: how do we explain and analyze compositional rules that are bottom-up, not hierarchical, and that work with the relationships between parts rather than with the parts themselves? Furthermore, even though many contemporary examples exhibit really different forms, there is always a certain character of local variety within overall coherence - which associates those projects. S.F.: Wow.. it’s a big question. Of course you’re describing a kind of composition that I use as well, especially from 10 years ago onwards, or maybe a bit more, 15 years ago. I tried several types of compositions in my carreer; one of my earlier works is an hospital facility [Chidren’s Cen-

ter for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Hokkaido] with some kind of -how to say- complex order to create a city-like space. It’s a complex composition created by means of a simple method. I’m not sure how, what was that specific compositional rule that determined such an outcome; at that time I was interested in – and I’m still now - some kind of new way to create architecture, and new geometries or a new order. At that time I was aiming to a nice integration of simplicity and complexity, or a new order created by the mutual relationships of each local piece; not to create a strong, overarching order, but to think about mutual relationships between each other. The composition, then, doesn’t look ordered, but if you “see” carefully then you notice that it’s slightly ordered, or organically ordered... So, that was one of my starting points. Even before this kind of projects (you can see it in my book “Primitive future”, published in 2008, where I show the Aomori Art Museum entry that won the second prize) we tried to create that kind of relationship between small pieces. The final product looks like a forest, it looks like an old medieval city, having a natural, merging, soft order. A.S.: Yes, I know the book. S.F.: That book is more like a poetry book. It has many images, and in some of them you’ll see the metaphor which these kind of ideas originated from. A.S.: You use many metaphors in your work. How do you see your early works now, in relation to your latest production? I’d


argue you are changing.. S.F.: Actually yes, I’m slowly changing, because at that time the final appearance of the composition was interesting to me- the resulting patterns didn’t look like architectural patterns, but more like.. something new for me. But then fortunately I realised that project [Rehabilitation Center in Hokkaido] and I experienced the spaces. Yes, that was very interesting, but at the same time I realised that I wanted to go beyond that. For example in the House NA, or even House N, or the Serpentine Gallery Pavillion .. The geometry themselves are simpler, a straight xyz geometry. So I’m not dealing anymore with this kind of freeform composition, but I’m still aiming for different kinds of complexity. They [house NA, house N, Serpentine Gallery Pavillion] have simplicity and complexity, a straight order and a soft order in a sense. The Serpentine is a grid, but the experience of the space itself is soft and dynamic. I felt that it could be more dramatic to come closer to a rigid order, and then to go away from it. We understand the grid, we create meaning out of the grid. And it also has the interaction with the human scale. Gradation (both inside and outside) is a big theme in my work, and it has started 20 years ago. Very slowly I developed the ideas to layer the inside and outside by small different grades. A.S.: I have a question about the latest exhibition that you did in TOTO Gallery [“Sou Fujimoto: Futures of the Future”, Gallery MA,

Children’s Psychiatric Center, Hokkaido, 2006

Serpentine Gallery Pavillion, London, 2013

Tokyo, April-June 2015]. It might seem that you’re really trying to steer in another direction from the other Japanese architects of your generation and the generation before – like SANAA. S.F.: Really? In which point? Because I myself I’m not really sure about that either, so I’d like to know at which point of the exhibition you felt that. p.189

A.S.: I was struck by the ready-made that you were showing. I’d like to know how meaningful they are in your thinking now. Are they just experiments, or you were actually stating something with the ready-mades? I can see that they are a way to push forward the concept of the cave – humans that adapt to architecture, and not architecture that adapts to human needs. Furthermore, If you take SANAA as an example, they are known for their “diagrammatic architecture”, transposing material organization directly into actual design. Yet with the ready-made, you’re exhibiting exactly the opposite approach. You’re taking what already exists and you’re doing a direct transposition to architecture. S.F.: Yes, I see.. I’m not sure if I’m so serious or not with that ready-made project [laughs]. Recently I’m more and more interested in the integration of different scales. Your first question was about the cave. Of course the cave idea is one of my fundamental concepts, but my method is not just to directly start from the cave to create experimental spaces (like the ready-made). Recently, I see the concept of “cave” more as an experimentation on scale. Take as an example this project [House before house, 2008, Utsunomiya, Japan]. After several years from this building, I felt that it has only one scale. Now I’m more interested in the integration of different scales in one building. The Serpentine Pavillion was created from one element (of about

Fujimoto’s “ready-made” at “Future of the Futures” exhibition, Gallery MA, Tokyo, 2015

40cm). The repetition of this element creates sometimes huge scale, sometimes micro scale, radial scales, communicating with the human body. Expanding and shrinking scale in one architecture is quite fundamental for me. That is why I recently talked about the forest [lecture “future of the futures”, July 2015]. And that is why I’m recently more and more interested in gothic architecture, because in gothic the main space is like the Serpentine Pavillion. The whole system might seem boring, but if you see the decoration of the columns, or if you see the strange spaces attached to the sidewalks, then you notice several different –almost infinitely different- scales. Different directions are strangely integrated together in one system. It’s almost like a fractal, an


irregular fractal. This happens in the forest as well: sometimes you see tree leaves, sometimes tree branches, or big trees, or big spaces, or narrow spaces. Now, coming back to the ready made: it is the trial to explore throughout scales. So, it’s fun to see how usual, daily things can be changed into architectural objects. But behind that, behind that apparently funny thought, how to treat integration of scales is more important for me. I think nature has that kind of cross-over structure of scales. Good architecture throughout history exhibit that: both gothic and Japanese architecture have it sometimes. So in that sense I’m getting more and more interested in the secrets of scales. A.S.: And in a way you’re really strict on your research, even if your compositions are really different from each other. Your obsession with scale can be seen from the very beginning of your projects, like the wooden cubical house [Final Wooden House, 2006, Kumamoto]. S.F.: Yes. But recently my interest is getting wider and wider, and I’m enjoying that. Of course scale is one of my fundamental topics, but I don’t want to have a focus only on that. Recently, I’m enjoying different styles. For example, the Bauhaus building [Bauhaus Museum Competition, 2015] is a cube. It’s the opposite of the fractal geometry [of the Serpentine Gallery]. But inside we have a network of staircases; so cube and anti-cube

are existing together. Program-wise, it has a really neutral exhibition space in the middle. It’s a completely flexible, universal space, surrounded by a network of staircases. It changes completely the meaning of the cubic (or universal) space. Or, in the Budapest Competition [Liget House of Hungarian Music, Budapest, 2015] we have a big roof –so in that sense, again, it’s completely different from the Serpentine Pavillion. The position of the openings are more random, and some of them are relating to the existing trees. So here the theme is the translation of the forest itself into architecture. In a sense that is one of my challenges to do something different. For example, ten years ago, I could say that my method, or my principle, was based on this [fractal character of scale in nature], but recently I couldn’t say what my style is anymore, or what is my interest. From the metaphor of the forest you can talk almost about everything, you can get any different kind of inspirations: you can talk about scales, you can talk about the natural shape of the earth, you can talk about atmosphere itself.. so the kind of diversity that the forest has is very interesting to me. The idea of the forest is coming from these kind of topics, so it is continuous - but it’s always changing. A.S.: You said there are good examples of modernistic architecture that merge different scales. Would you say that Japanese Architecture was influenced in this during the 50s 60s and 70s? We can take take as an example the famous project by Le Corbusier in Venice. p.191

S.F.: Yes, the hospital [Le Corbusier Hospital in Venice, 1964]. A.S.: Alison Smithson was trying to relate all these different buildings to the typology of mat building. One question is: are you inspired by some of them or do you have some thoughts about that in relation to Japanese architecture? S.F.: Actually I didn’t study those movements in detail. Le Corbusier’s Venice project was one of my early inspirations, and maybe Louis Kahn’s early works, where he used modular systems, as well as Frank Lloyd Wright’s brick houses.. They led my inspiration of the wooden house I think [Final Wooden House, Kumamoto, 2006]. Of course, in Le Corbusier’s hospital the unit was bigger, it was the size of a room. Or for example Louis Kahn’s projects – the ones that look gigantic, maybe because of the cross-influences with the metabolists.

Louis Kahn, City Tower, Philadelphia

A.S.: The City Tower Project in Philadelphia [1952]. S.F.: Yes. [After the wooden house] I was interested in those kind of things, which could be more and more integrated with the furniture scale, to recreate or redefine the meanings of architecture and the relationship of architecture and furniture. I was interested also in the way Frank Lloyd Wright designed. His furniture is always integrated with the architecture. The Primitive Future House [Primitive Future House, concept, 2003] is inspired Final Wooden House, Kumamoto, 2006

Primitive Future House, concept, 2003


by that. I’m limited because I didn’t study other movements in detail, so I had more influences from old, “great” architects. I tried to re-invent architecture from their works. A.S.: Thank you. I’m very interested about your concept of nature. You speak a lot about the relationship between Tokyo as a landscape, as a forest, presenting the juxtaposition between nature and artifice. Yet you refer to the concept of nature as something given - you don’t question it. So I’m asking you: what is nature for you? And also, what is the difference between Tokyo and your concept of nature? S.F.: You currently live in Tokyo, so I hope you understand- you can feel really cozy, surrounded by small pieces of messy environments. I feel it’s almost like a forest. Of course, materials and appearances are different, but the composition, or the order itself is almost like the natural one. In that sense, nature is more like a “pure nature”, and in my case, around my home [where I grew up as a child], we had a small forest, and my memory of playing around in the forest is the origin of my concept of nature. A.S.: I see. S.F.: Nature for me is not like a big desert, or a big mountain, but more like a small forest. It is closer to the human scale, it protects creatures, it creates their areas and territories, but it still open, and diverse. In that sense nature is like a forest for me.

Tokyo is, of course, at the opposite side of nature, with different materials and different orders. Yet I feel sometimes, walking around these neighbours, going into the backstreets, that I’m not surrounded by nature but I’m anyway in the middle of a forest –an artificial forest. So for me Tokyo and nature is in a sense the same concept, but at the opposite sides of that concept. A.S.: I see so many contemporary architects being influenced by Tokyo and its artificiality. If we take breeding as an example, we can control some natural species and we can decide whether we want to keep those species as they are or change them. In the last century we’ve tried to protect natural species as well, but at the same time we inevitably control them. This blending of artificial and natural is an ever-encreasing phenomenon. I cannot discern anymore what is artificial and what is natural, because everything is so blurred.. Instead, for you nature is more like an ideal image? S.F.: Apart from my metaphor of nature, of course, as you said, these days it’s getting more and more possible for human beings to control fundamental parts of nature. Still, I think it’s impossible for human beings to control nature as a whole, because it’s too complicated. For example, in trying to control everything, we can handle each species, but we cannot exactly foresee what would happen after that. We cannot predict what kind of relationship those species have with the environment. The whole ecosystem is too complicated – in a positive sense. For me nature can be defined as something we cannot p.193

control, we cannot predict. In modern age, one hundred years ago, the thought that we could control everything was more common. Then, 50 years later, in the mid of the century, people started to understand that it’s difficult to control nature. If you try to closely control something, then something completely unexpected always happens. So push this [gesture with fingers], and then something is coming from the back. Complete control is, I think, impossible, because of natural complexity. So, I think that hopefully we can start a new philosophy of spacebased on this point. We have at least one thing that we can’t understand completely: how do we manage that? One answer is, for example, the idea of the cave. Let’s say that the cave is our representation of nature: now we know we cannot control the cave. Yet we can enjoy the cave, we can make a communication with the cave, we can find something inside the cave. This is not necessarily achieved through control. We don’t need to change everything inside the cave, but we can make new understandings of it, we can invent new behaviours around it. So that is – at least for now- my vision on nature. A.S.: The last question is about philosophical thoughts. I don’t see your architecture as being just about connection (as instead it’s often depicted), I see it more like a research on separation and connection in space. So, do you have some specific philosophical thinking about this,

or do you have some philosophies you’re particularly inspired by? S.F.: Well, actually that concept [being both connected and separated] was inspired by a lecture by Hiroshi Hara. It was more than ten years ago, and he asked “what is space in the internet age?”. That’s a really simple question [ironic], and then he said “in internet you can be connected with everyone”. At that point I thought “wow, if this is true, then what is architecture”? architecture is not the internet. What is possible solely in architecture? I thought [the reality is that we are] not just connected, but sometimes slightly connected, or almost separated but still connected, or almost connected but slightly hidden. That kind of really strange duality between connected situations and the separated situations – that is the uniqueness of the real space. It’s like the anti-thesis, or anti-attitude for [Hara’s] description of space in the internet era. Afterwards, in the same lecture, he hinted that architecture’s space could be something different from the internet, but he didn’t know how to create it. Then we made a proposal for a competition - after [the lecture] maybe half a year later. [project for Annaka Environmental Art Forum, Gunma, 2003] This space is connected and separated at the same time. People can choose where to stay according to their activities, according to their position, but they could still hear the surrounding sounds. So there, different kinds of connection and separation are possible in the real space. In a sense, how to connect and how to separate is the most fundamental


topic of architecture, I think. Planning is how to organize connections and separations; amazing things happen when you create a gradation between connection and separation. I don’t have any philosophical definition [for this].. What it’s happening now is that we are facing each other, but we could have a conversation even if you were over there [points at open-plan office area] –if we would speak loudly enough. Everybody could hear what we say, so everybody could listen to that conversation: that is a quite different situation. That could only happen in the real space. Or we could change that situation quickly if we would sit at your desk [points at the shared desk in the open-plan office]: we would have to talk quietly, and the conversation would suddenly get really private. So that kind of dynamic shift of situations between people and people and between people and the surroundings, they’re really part of architecture, I think.

Annaka Environmental Art Forum, Gunma, 2003

A.S.: So the self-awareness, the awareness of the fact that you’re actually physical, and that there is no such thing as total connection or total disconnection in the ‘real’, non-virtual space, is the beginning of your architecture..? S.F.: Yes, definitely, I think so. A.S.: That was really interesting and greatly inspiring, thank you very much for your time.



Department of Architecture Graduate School of Engineering The University of Tokyo 7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8656 Japan

Tokyo, 22 September 2015

Andrea Samoryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Master Thesis project contains elements of real innovation. It aims to organize space, structure, utilities and program using a single and clear architectural gesture. Furthermore, it exploits the concept of minimal intervention also to create a sense of place, trying to simply react to situations which are already existing on the site at various scales. The project highlights the rigidity of the standard approach to architectural design - a method based on single-volume buildings, where programs are often disconnected, and where each architectural element (such as structure, partitioning and utilities) belongs to a fractioned, independent system. The project clearly shows the willpower to move towards a discipline that merges Urbanism, Architecture and Landscape Design, where the task of an architect consist in the development of a process, rather than in the design of a single object. I was pleased to supervise his work, which I strongly stand for. Sincerely,

Kengo Kuma Second Thesis Supervisor Professor, Kengo Kuma Laboratory, The University of Tokyo


6th March 2017

Dear Sir or Madam, I am honored to appraise Andrea Samoryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Master Thesis project, which I had the pleasure of supervising its progress. The thesis is insightful, challenging, and imaginative. Notwithstanding the spatial sequence and programmatic complexity, it achieves a unified, sensual and provocative architectural gesture. Moreover, he attempts to posit a criticism or antithesis of his own to the formal hegemony of the 20th Century. Neither supple nor folded, singular nor plural, but connected and conflated field of branching networks. The project endeavored to balance the emergence of ad-hoc-ness and localized necessity. It breaks down the silos of speciation and reconfigure the elements of design into a holistic approach to architecture, urbanism, landscape, and better yet, infrastructure. I hope that the committee will find his thesis satisfactory for the completion of masterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s course, which seems to me very meritorious. Yours faithfully,

Kaz Yoneda Assistant Thesis Supervisor M.Arch2 (hons.) Harvard GSD Adjunct assistant professor at Keio University; Founder of bureau 0-1



I am deeply thankful to each professor, researcher and consultant who took the time to discuss this project with me:

My heartfelt thanks to Kuma sensei for his pragmatic and community-oriented supervision on the project, and for being a tireless promoter of international exchange in the architectural discourse.

Structure, utilities and technical detailing: Jun Sato, Professor, Head of Jun Sato Laboratory, University of Tokyo; Yasunori Akashi, Professor, Head of Akashi Laboratory, University of Tokyo

I thank Luca Emanueli for his continuous support over almost three years of research and for his insights over a multidisciplinary approach to Architecture, Landscape Urbanism and Infrastructural Urbanism. I thank Manabu Chiba for his constant help in every aspect of the design process. I thank Kaz Yoneda to be so open and supportive on my ideas – even when they were not fully formed. He helped me transform my insecurities into ambitions.

History and Theory of Architecture: Stan Allen, George Dutton ’27 Professor of Architecture, Princeton School of Architecture; Brendon Carlin, Professor, Architectural Association School of Architecture; Manuel Orazi, Professor, School of Engineering and Architecture, Bologna University Design: Toshiki Hirano, PhD candidate, University of Tokyo Tokyo’s Urbanism: Fumio Shinohara, Director of Social Development Research Department, NLI Research Institute Technical Material: ​Kurato Endo, ​​Metropolitan Expressway Company Limited​, Tokyo Bunkyo Town Hall, Tokyo


My sincere thanks to Stan Allen for taking the time to discuss this project’s theoretical background with me. His academic and architectural works lead my passion in Architecture, and I hope this project will earn his appreciation. I am greatly thankful to Riken Yamamoto and Sou Fujimoto for taking the time to expose me their insights on Architecture. I profoundly admire their tireless dedication to their work. I thank all the Kuma Lab member for creating an amazingly inspiring and motivating environment to work in. I am honored that I have been a part of it, and I am greatful for the kindness and the professionality that each member of the Kuma Lab showed me. I thank Professor Yusuke Obuchi for being so open on my participation to his laboratory’s activities, and for teaching me so much about Japanese and American theory of Architecture.

I thank Nanami Kawashima for helping me learn about Japanese culture and for interviewing local residents with me. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to know Jun Shimada, Nanami Kawashima, Yuta Ito and Itaru Yamamoto - among others. My perception of Japan would be really different if I had not known them, and I’ve learned much from the discussions we had. I thank Aurelien from Aurelien Dedap Films for his pictures. I thank the tenants of House N/A and Moriyama House for welcoming me in their homes. Ringrazio mio fratello Mattia per tutto l’aiuto che mi da, e per mantenersi così diverso da me. Ringrazio mio padre per aver creato un’immagine di me più viva di quanto non sia il mio corpo stesso. Ringrazio mia madre per tutto il supporto che mi ha sempre dato. Ringrazio Andrea per poter sempre contare su di lui, e Pedro per la sua mancanza di pragmatismo. Ringrazio Michele, uno dei pochi di cui mi interessi davvero quello che pensa di me, insieme a Pietro e Peppe.




In this project, every detail at the small scale is an important part of the overall condition (both before and after the intervention). Furthermore, space is experienced as continuous yet never fully grasped all at once. Following this ideology, the projectâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s presentation was made to enhance the perception of local variety within the flow of a continuous display. The presentation boards consist in two 5 meters-long scrolls, resembling traditional Japanese emakimono - long enrolled drawings that display different scenes of the same subject without solution of continuity. They can be read only through the linear succession of the scroll, but they can never be seen in their entirety. Here are displayed in a scaled version, divided following the module upon which they are based. The first presents the themes in which the thesis has formed, and the siteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s current state, while the second presents the project. Reading them linearly, from left to right, enables the viewer to follow the conceptual explanation of the project through the objective, simple, abstract schemes on the top strip, while intuitively grasping visual information about scale, atmosphere, texture on the central and bottom strips.


Profile for Andrea Samory

Augmented Field Conditions: Networked Architecture in Contemporary Japan's Artificial Landscape  

Master's Thesis Book

Augmented Field Conditions: Networked Architecture in Contemporary Japan's Artificial Landscape  

Master's Thesis Book