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KUMA LAB: Weaving Kengo Kuma prototype installation for DESIGN Canberra LIXIL Gallery, Tokyo, Japan 5 July – 25 September 2018 NAMAKO: Kengo Kuma Inaugural DESIGN Canberra ephemeral architecture installation Aspen Island, Canberra, Australia 5–25 November 2018

NAMAKO in situ, Aspen Island, Canberra. Photo: 5Foot Photography

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Exhibition of NAMAKO prototype, LIXIL Gallery, Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Tokyo University


Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre is one of the longest-running visual arts-based membership organisations in Australia. We promote excellence in craft and design, and support artists, makers, and craftspeople at every stage of their careers. Our annual DESIGN Canberra Festival celebrates and promotes Canberra as a global city of design. Throughout November, Canberra will be home to over 150 events, talks, exhibitions, tours, activations, markets, collaborations, artist studios, and open homes, to showcase the thriving and globally-connected design community that Australia’s capital city is home to. One of our long-term ambitions is to pursue the listing of Canberra as a City of Design within the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The UNESCO City of Design accolade aims to promote the development of local creative industries, and to foster relationships and resource-sharing between fellow Cities of Design. To achieve City of Design status, cities must have a thriving design industry fed by design schools and research centres, and practising groups of creators and designers. Craft ACT conceived the inaugural DESIGN Canberra ephemeral architecture project — Kengo Kuma’s NAMAKO — as an expression of this ambition. I firmly believe that this project, which has encouraged and forged important local and international connections between educational facilities, architects, creative institutions, urban planners, and craft and design practitioners, demonstrates that Canberra is more than worthy of being a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Design.

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Aspen Island, Canberra. Photo: 5 Foot Photography.


The National Capital Authority (NCA) is pleased to sponsor the DESIGN Canberra Festival 2018, and in particular, support and enable the DESIGN Canberra ephemeral architecture project on the iconic Aspen Island. The ephemeral sculpture by Kengo Kuma, located on the Island, brings a new sense of cultural diversity and ideas to Canberra, and enlivens and enhances the setting of the National Capital as a global city of design.

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University of Canberra Fabrication team, Canberra. Photo: 5 Foot Photography


Design, and its closely-intertwined canons of experimentation, innovation, and creation, is firmly embedded into the bedrock of the urban laboratory and atelier that is Canberra. These are the foundations on which we build. They strongly inform the University of Canberra’s identity as a national cornerstone of learning and thought. As such, the decision to sponsor the DESIGN Canberra Festival once again this year was clear. NAMAKO, the inaugural ephemeral architecture project, redefines the relationship between people, place, and architecture. This is a collaboration we’re proud to be involved in, and we’re grateful to Artistic Director Rachael Coghlan, CEO of Craft ACT, for the opportunity. For the project, our students worked with world-renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and the University of Tokyo KumaLAB laboratory in Japan. It has been an extraordinary chance to broaden their language of architecture and design, and to understand their place in Canberra’s ongoing design legacy. We would like to thank Ann Cleary and Milica Muminovic, who have led the University of Canberra’s contribution to this project with vision and commitment. We hope that those who appreciate the craft of meaningful design will enjoy and be inspired both by the NAMAKO project, as it comes to life on Aspen Island in Lake Burley Griffin, and the DESIGN Canberra Festival.

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rich not because of its natural environment, resources or skilled craftspeople, “a placebutisinstead gains its value through the relationship between those things K EN GO KUMA , IN K ENNE TH FR AMP TO N , KENGO KUMA: COMPLETE WORKS (201 2)


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NAMAKO prototype (detail), Japan. Photo: Ann Cleary

Gratitude and the power of an ingenious idea

2017 was a turning point in the life of the DESIGN Canberra Festival. Together with increased private and public funding, the festival enjoyed greater visibility and attendance, and deeper engagement with critical issues facing the sector, including the social responsibility of design.


This presented an opportunity for longer-term planning to build a sustainable future for DESIGN Canberra. The festival showed great promise as a platform to support designers and craft practitioners, initiate cross-disciplinary and international collaborations, and promote marketplace connections. But many of us could see so much more potential. Given this increased stability, we wondered: what would our festival look like if we were able to provide it with a regional and global focus, and build it into a critical and collaborative forum for contemporary, relevant, experimental, and authentic design? For me, a high-profile and ephemeral project was at the heart of this vision. The festival itself is an ephemeral intervention, a precious but fleeting moment to experiment, promote, and create a dialogue about the past, present, and future of design — in Canberra, a city of design. By its nature this allows us to try new ideas, collaborations, and materials which might not be considered for a more permanent project. Ephemerality is one of the greatest strengths of our festival, and I wanted to push its boundaries with an ambitious project. As Artistic Director, I’m fortunate to be able to initiate and pursue programming which is strategically interesting, creatively satisfying, and meaningful to the contemporary craft and design community.

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NAMAKO prototype (detail), Japan. Photo: Ann Cleary

I believe in the power of an ingenious idea to capture people’s imagination. As a not-for-profit organisation, Craft ACT is not in a position to gain influence from our budget — our ideas, energy, relationships, and values are our currency. I wanted an ephemeral architecture intervention which could reimagine our city, bringing a new perspective and a new dialogue to our familiar yet iconic spaces. A project to nurture the next generation of designers. I wanted to locate this project at a symbolic and visible location, to capture the hearts and minds of both design-lovers and our broader community. I wanted a high-profile Japanese architect. Why? The main reason, unapologetically, is that I am a great fan of the contemporary Japanese aesthetic — its poetry, minimalism, construction, and materiality. It was also pertinent that 2018 is the 25th anniversary of the treasured Canberra–Nara sister city relationship; that Japan’s proximity to Canberra allows access for dialogue and exchange; and that the profile of Kengo Kuma, one of the world’s leading architects, would augment the project. I nurtured an engaged and passionate consortium of partners to realise the project; specifically, the National Capital Authority and the University of Canberra. I needed people who shared my vision, could amplify the rich possibilities of the project, and importantly, who could embrace the spirit of open-ended collaboration that was essential to this project. Together, we envisaged that the ephemeral architecture project would be made up of:

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* opportunities to support remote student learning and work-integrated training in collaboration with the University of Canberra’s Faculty of Arts and Design, and specifically the school of architecture, and; * the design of a temporary installation to activate Aspen Island in Canberra, to encourage people to interact with the site and its spirit of place. To borrow a phrase, we had a compass but there was no map to show us how to reach our destination on Aspen Island. Once I had secured the support from the National Capital Authority and the University of Canberra, I wrote a letter to Kengo Kuma, inviting him to participate in DESIGN Canberra’s inaugural ephemeral architecture project. I promised that the project would promote experimental and authentic design, fostering international collaboration and design education. Many, many people are intrigued about how I managed to engage Kengo Kuma for this project. To some extent, it can be explained by the fact I’m tenacious in my pursuit to promote and support Canberra’s community of craft practitioners and designers. Surely there’s no harm done in simply asking one of the most significant figures in contemporary Japanese architecture to be part of our festival? Remember, I believe in the power of an ingenious idea to capture people’s imagination. The letter I wrote to Kuma (and the letters I write to many people to support the festival) was carefully crafted. Firstly, there must be a powerful idea; the deepest respect for Kuma’s extraordinary vision, legacy and philosophy; and an openness to collaboration in the most authentic sense. | 21 |

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Nevertheless, I was both surprised and delighted when Kuma wrote back and accepted our invitation. Thank you, Kuma, for your design leadership and support of this project. Thank you also to Toshiki Hirano, who heads up the KumaLAB at the University of Tokyo. The National Capital Authority and the University of Canberra have been treasured partners throughout the project. It would not have been possible to realise this without their financial and emotional investment. From making the iconic Aspen Island site available to us for the duration of the festival, through to incorporating this project into the syllabus of Masters students; from participating in a masterclass on the weaving process in Tokyo, to fabricating the installation over many weeks in the University of Canberra’s new workshop, your support is vital, meaningful, and invaluable. I wuld like to thank Sally Barnes for her leadership, and Ann Cleary and Milica Muminovic for their expert and engaged contribution to the project team. Thanks also to the ACT Government for their multi-year funding of DESIGN Canberra, which allowed us to imagine more expansive future possibilities and embark on this ambitious project. Thank you to Kate Nixon who led the project management of the NAMAKO project with determination, patience and good humour, and to the entire Craft ACT and DESIGN Canberra team. I am so grateful to everyone involved in realising this ambitious project — please help us to ensure its success by engaging with NAMAKO throughout DESIGN Canberra in November 2018.

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NAMAKO fabrication (detail), Canberra. Photo: 5 Foot Photography

Enfolding suppleness

In the quiet light of time, we weave, finding our rhythm and pace, enfolding one transparency over another, layering softness and translucency. We are immersed in a searching for a language of architecture that is supple and responsive.


It is an elusive quality that focuses our concentration and attunes our thoughts. As we intertwine material and temporality, our understanding deepens towards an architecture of time and place, where the interrelation between the material and the immaterial, the known and the not yet known is prescient, embodying in Kengo Kuma’s perceptive words an ‘ambiguous condition’. Kuma describes this as a persistent search, one that continues even after the exigencies of a particular effort; to try yet further, to find and reveal and finetune. It is in this sense we are aware we are contributing to an evolving matrix of explorative searching, testing of possibilities, and methods of transgression, to open up ways of thinking. The fibrous nature of NAMAKO’s materiality, its translucency and layered softness, offers a way into an architecture of openness and dissolving threshold. As Kuma reflects, Right now what interests me the most is architecture that is soft and supple like cloth. Observation shows that the bodies of animals are made up of overlapping layers of fibres. The [human] body itself is made up of many soft layers and then it is covered by further layers – clothes. Architecture as fibre adds even more layers... Taking this position seriously could dissolve the oppositions between architecture and the body, between architecture and landscape, and between the natural and artificial. kengo kuma: a lab for materials (2018)

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University of Canberra NAMAKO prototype fabrication team with Kengo Kuma (centre), Japan. Photo: Tokyo University.

Entitled NAMAKO, after the Japanese word for sea cucumber, the design references the unique qualities of softness, suppleness, and transparency innate to its own organic nature. Composed of a fibrous mesh of bio-acrylic rods and zip ties wrapped around a layered understructure, the design continues Kuma’s exploration of an architecture that is supple and responsive. The notion of ephemeral architecture is enticingly freeing, allowing a degree of experimentation and willfulness otherwise not possible. Kuma’s concept of ‘reckless’ weaving sits readily within this intention and allows us scope to imbue NAMAKO with a lyricism and abandonment attuned to its making by many hands, as well as its siting alongside the extraordinary resonance of the National Carillon on Aspen Island. As we have woven the many thousands of zip ties into the layered transparencies, we have been drawn into the tactility of NAMAKO’s haptic nature, enticed by the subtleties of the woven tectonic. This woven tectonic is fundamentally within the tradition of architecture, as theorist Gottfried Semper suggests, and the research into an architecture that returns to the realm of the particulate condition is at the forefront of Kuma’s striving. It is our privilege to be contributors to this striving; to be part of the persistence towards finding an architectural language of contemporary value, grounded in material responsiveness. It has been an exciting initiative of international collaboration shared by the student architecture cohorts at the University of Tokyo and the University of Canberra. The collaboration extends an ongoing relationship of cultural learning and exchange that the architecture program at the University of Canberra has been furthering over the last few years, particularly in relation to successfully grant-funded Faculty Led Programs to Japan. | 29 |

NAMAKO fabrication (detail), Canberra. Photo: 5 Foot Photography

In our most recent program visit to Japan this year, the cohort of UC architecture students contributed alongside the KumaLAB students in testing the ‘weaving’ language for the ephemeral architecture project with the project prototype exhibited at Lixil Gallery Ginza. Kengo Kuma opened the exhibition, describing his explorative research into material culture and his interest in the interwoven context of architecture made in relation to nature, people, place, and time. Toshiki Hirano, leading the KumaLAB at the University of Tokyo, articulated the experimentation and scope of the project. We spoke of the temporal nature of the project within Canberra’s legacy as both an ancient place and a contemporary design ideal. Our design process, explored initially through the making of the Tokyo NAMAKO on display in Lixil Gallery Ginza, underwent a further iteration of making for the Canberra NAMAKO in the UC Design Workshop, with close exchange of learning between the two studio cohorts. In this evolving process, the weaving technique and material attributes have been adapted with Australian eucalypt ash dowel replicating the Japanese bamboo components of the design, while the woven mesh of translucent white zip ties and clear acrylic rods continues to express the contemporary search for an open, soft, supple, and responsive architectural language. Our intention within the project is to promote an understanding of design-led exploratory research as a platform to test innovative ways of thinking and making, exploring possibilities for new architecture. An invaluable partner in this project’s realisation, and co-leading the Faculty Led Program to Japan, teaching colleague Milica Muminovic notes that the project aims to go beyond the ideas of simple assemblage to explore methods of shaping architecture for experiential awareness. We jointly wish to thank Toshiki Hirano of KumaLAB for | 31 |

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his perceptive engagement and highly-valued support throughout the project interface. We also express our thanks to the two student cohorts at both KumaLAB Tokyo and UC architecture Canberra for their insight and commitment to the project scope. Their interpretive capacity for the ‘reckless’ weaving intent and supple architectural language has been inspiring. We are particularly appreciative to Artistic Director of DESIGN Canberra, Rachael Coghlan, for envisioning this inaugural ephemeral architecture project and offering the scope within the project for the educational interchange that has been of such value for all the students involved. Her aspiration for the project in this initiative with Kengo Kuma has been instrumental. We also express our sincere thanks to Kate Nixon for her astute project facilitation and support throughout. We also wish to thank engineer Ken Murtagh for his invaluable expertise, sculptor Geoff Farquhar-Still for his inimitable fabrication assistance, Bill Shelley and Sam Tomkins in the UC Workshop for their always-ready hand, and Erin Hinton, Steve Basson, and Sally Burford within the Faculty for their underpinning of guidance and commitment. We also sincerely wish to express our deep gratitude to Kengo Kuma for his generous intent and conceptual vision, and for seeing the possibility within the project for an integrated learning platform shared by the students in the KumaLAB laboratory and the UC studio workshop. With insight for the transient, Kuma has absorbed the qualities of vast time and expansive thinking that our design city Canberra has embedded in its bush capital scale, drawing an understanding of material culture and the | 33 |

NAMAKO fabrication (detail), Canberra. Photo: 5 Foot Photography

continuing challenge it lures us through in attuning to differing conditions and contexts. In this sense, NAMAKO questions architecture as object and strives to find a language of suppleness emerging as ‘presence’. It is our great privilege to be a contributor in this extraordinary venture with Kengo Kuma in the realisation of this inaugural ephemeral architecture pavilion for DESIGN Canberra 2018. We are thrilled to have worked on this shared initiative as part of this year’s DESIGN Canberra Festival to contribute to Canberra’s legacy as a design laboratory exploring new directions for design-led thinking.

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Nineteenth century architectural theorist, Gottfried Semper, coined a concept that “production of architec ture is fundamentally a process of weaving. He reached this idea by observing various villages in the world. Our laboratory investigates the possibilities of weav ing through many projects and other activities. This includes our ongoing pavilion project in Australia, shown in this exhibition, produced through a reckless weaving process.



Nengo Kuma, drawing NAMAKO, Japan. Photo: Toshiki Hirano

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Toward Democratic Architecture

Modernism in the 20th century made architecture exclusive. The industrialization of building construction systems, such as concrete structures, limited the construction process to professional workers, and the aesthetics of modernism turned architecture into a ‘high-brow’ form of art. It also accelerated the


standardisation of building materials; no matter where a building stood, it was made of the same materials. Contrarily, I wish to develop architecture that everyone can participate in constructing, giving a sense of belonging. What I seek is an inclusiveness of architecture which celebrates the diversity of people, cultures, and places. One of the keys to achieving this is a concept of smallness. I have been exploring a number of ways of making architecture by accumulating smaller units into a larger whole. The use of smaller units allows people to handle materials without any special construction machinery, since each unit is small and light. Another key is improvisation. I’m interested in creating a system which allows improvisation by different actors — people participating in construction, or building components — and which achieves rich qualities by accepting new ideas. This also lets people with different skill sets participate in the construction process. The name of the pavilion, NAMAKO, is from a Japanese word for sea cucumber. It represents the unique, hairy, and translucent texture of the pavilion which is achieved by a combination of different types of material: acrylic rods, eucalyptus dowels, steel rings, and zip ties. These different materials are woven together with zip ties and become a structure. There is no fixed hierarchy between these materials; solid eucalyptus dowels

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Exhibition of NAMAKO prototype, LIXIL Gallery, Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Tokyo University

are more prominent in the tail part to achieve its stiffness, but transparent acrylic rods become dominant towards the head, and the surface becomes softer so that the pavilion can be naturally deformed by gravity, topography, and other external forces. The pavilion can be built with different local materials depending on where it is built; when we built a mock-up of the structure in Tokyo, we used bamboo sticks instead of eucalyptus. This allows the pavilion to reflect the diversity of the world. Anyone can be a part of the construction process. Weaving the materials consists of a simple repetitive procedure of tying zip ties alternately, and the precision that architecture usually requires is not needed; it allows improvisation. In Tokyo, students from the University of Tokyo did the construction of the mock-up, and here in Canberra, students from University of Canberra. NAMAKO has been one of my smallest projects. However, I believe that the pavilion is full of suggestions about what architecture in the 21st century should be. I hope that people who visit NAMAKO enjoy the pavilion and think about how democracy in architecture can work.

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NAMAKO is the inaugural ephemeral architecture


Yu Uchikura

installation for the DESIGN Canberra Festival, the

Kengo Kuma

Kazuki Masaki

Kengo Kuma and Associates

Mariana Marmelada

This ambitious project is the culmination


Shaw Luo

of two years of collaboration, imagination,

KumaLAB, University of Tokyo

primary outreach program for Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre.

communication, coordination, education and inspiration.

Toshiki Hirano Andrea Samory

NAMAKO has been realised with the support and

Manuel Caldeira

investment of these generous individuals and

Koji CrisÃ


Luciana Tenorio Sarah Wellesley


Nicola Cortese

Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre

Giorgia Barale

and DESIGN Canberra Rachael Coghlan Kate Nixon | 45 |

Martina Mellogno Sakiko Noda Yuta Nakamura Junki Tougo

Armin Unterkircher Sengi Sei PROJECT PARTNER AND PLATINUM SPONSOR National Capital Authority Sally Barnes Deborah Matthews Carly Lowe Justine Nagel Sandy Jacobson Kate Still Olivia Stafford Carly Porreca

Renee Aked

Joseph Ilheo

Alexa Munro

Nina Andersson

Patricia Jao

Rachel Mugridge

Merryn Rosalie Appleby

Mark Johnson

Devesh Naidoo

Angela Bailey

Nikola Kajtez

Lyn Norton

Ann Cleary

Richie Belong

Georgia Knobel

Tayla Nowlan

Milica Muminovic

Gabriele Borscz

Patrick Kolodziejczyk

Cornelius Pau

Bill Shelley

Isabella Cadona

Stephen Kreskas

Jason Papillaud

Sam Tomkins

Rachel Clements

Tuan Ky

Emily Phillips

Erin Hinton

Daleth Djokic

Joshua Laurie

Lynette Reid

Steve Basson

Dua Zahid Dua

Luke Lindfield

Sam Shiels

Mark Bersolto

Nicholas Eccles

Andrea Mago

Chloe Steinhardt

Stephanie Cooper

Michael Edwards

Sienna Maill

Chris Smith

Bethany Daniel

Sienna Ming Eggleton

Christopher Majuta

Rachel Thomson

Peter Deans

Ursula Embry

Sika Manteaw

Courtney Thoo

Yifei Feng

Grace Ephraums

Greg Manttan

Elle Walters

Jack Hitches

Eden Graham

Duncan McConchie

Yumi Wang

Anthony Maish

Goodwin Girdler

Emily McCormick

Kaitlin Wright

Laurence Marin

Sidratim Tasneem Haque

Elizabeth McDonald

Rawan Yamani

Nathan Pauletto

Kaitlin Hargreaves

Rick McEwan

Ben Pierce

Belinda Harris

Rose Mollica





Caren Florance

Geoff Farquhar-Still


Consulting engineer

Davey Barber, Five Foot photography

Ken Murtagh

Ann Cleary Toshiki Hirano

LIGHTING DESIGNER House of Vnholy Matt Adey

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PRINTING Bytes & Colours

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DESIGN Canberra is so grateful to the Japan Foundation, Sydney for supporting us to produce a catalogue to commemorate our inaugural Ephemeral Architecture Project. Their promotion and support of Japanese culture in Australia is invaluable. Thanks to their help, this catalogue aims to deepen understanding of Japanese architecture and relations between Japan and Australia.

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Profile for craftact


Exhibition catalogue for the inaugural DESIGN Canberra Ephemeral Architecture Project, featuring renowned architect Kengo Kuma. NAMAKO, buil...


Exhibition catalogue for the inaugural DESIGN Canberra Ephemeral Architecture Project, featuring renowned architect Kengo Kuma. NAMAKO, buil...

Profile for craftact