[1] [2] [3]




Ando viewing the skyscrapers of Manhattan from the rooftop of a building in Chelsea.

Q. What are your thoughts on New York after the events of September 11th, 2001?

A. From the rooftop of a building on 27th Street in Chelsea, I looked out over the skyscrapers of Manhattan for the first time in a long while. Spread before me was the same view as always, but it looked somehow desolate. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and drizzle was obscuring my view, but I don't think it was just because of this. The city of New York certainly seems to have changed since that day...

Q. Can you tell us about your first visit to Manhattan, and your impressions of the city at that time?

A. My first visit was in the summer of 1967. I'd spent a few months traveling by Greyhound bus from Los Angeles on the West Coast. It was a dollar-a-day trip, so I'd sometimes take a short nap at a bus stop. In this way, I got to see everyday life for Americans living in Smalltown, USA. Just as I was changing from being surprised to being bewildered by the vastness of the country, I finally arrived in New York.
 The first things that caught my eye were the glittering Brooklyn Bridge with the setting sun in the background, and the powerful silhouette of the skyscrapers soaring behind the bridge. There before me was the city of New York, which I'd dreamed of and which had been burnt into my consciousness through the media. In my excitement, the first thing I did was to go up to the observatory in the Empire State Building to view the skyscrapers. At that moment, I was totally convinced that what lay before me was the masterpiece of the twentieth century.

Q. The masterpiece of the twentieth century?

A. Yes. Those skyscrapers were realized with high-rise building technology --- the elevator and fireproof steel construction --- which was developed in Chicago at the end of the nineteenth century and became universal during the twentieth century. In New York we can see skyscrapers ranging from such historic buildings as the pioneering Woolworth Building, to the Chrysler Building --- which, like the Empire State Building, entered the battle for the title of the world's tallest building --- and the Rockefeller Center, the forerunner of the multi-use urban complex. Among those crowded together behind them are the Seagram Building by Mies van der Rohe, Lever House by S.O.M., and the Pan American Building by Walter Gropius. From the feast of brilliant Art Deco architecture to the masterpieces of post-war Modernism that flourished in America in the 1950s, the city's distinctive high-rise buildings thrust upwards into the sky as if asserting their presence or competing with each other. I saw in them the inexhaustible energy of human desire. I was moved by the freedom of expression and its possibilities, and I kept thinking to myself, "How different each of us is at heart."

Q. Speaking of Manhattan, the grid of city blocks is impressive.

A. When looking at Manhattan, there isn't any need for academic knowledge of urbanism. The essence of the city can be understood at a glance. On a lump of bedrock caught between the Hudson and the East Rivers, the city's 2028 blocks are marked out by streets on a regular north-south east-west grid, with Broadway cutting diagonally through this simple, abstract composition. The incongruence generated by this single diagonal line brings a human quality to this artificial layout.
 This unique urban structure was created at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Another example of a similarly gridded city is San Francisco. In San Francisco, the complexity of the hilly topography results in the formation of contingent urban spaces like Market Street here and there around the city, which help to make the city more attractive. Because of the overwhelming density of Manhattan, the incongruity of Broadway slicing through the simplicity of the grid has a powerful impact.

Q. In Manhattan, what is your favorite place?

A. Rather than a favorite place, a place I find somehow energizing is Central Park. Central Park is a void boldly cut out of the middle of Manhattan, which is a microcosm of wealth and power. The park's designer was Frederick Olmsted. This extensive landscape stretches four kilometers north-south, from 59th to 110th Streets, and 800 meters east-west, from Fifth to Eighth Avenues. It includes luxuriant forests and lakes, and also serves as a cultural oasis, with a zoo, a skating rink, an open-air theater, and so on.
 Central Park was deliberately planned in the mid-nineteenth century in recognition of the grave future ahead of the steadily urbanizing island. Looking at the history of cities around the world, this was a fascinating period when particularly important reforms were effected. At about the same time that Central Park was being constructed, the urban reorganization around the Ringstrasse in Vienna and the transformation of Paris by Baron Haussmann were also underway. These projects had important consequences in forming the basic frameworks of today's cities. Japan missed the opportunity to build such urban frameworks, and the ineffectiveness of post-war urban planning has allowed Japanese cities to expand chaotically. These factors have certainly resulted in the current disorder of Japan's cities.
 Anyway, this vast green space still exists in New York, which stands out internationally as a hyper-modern city. Thanks to this, which I think is almost a miracle, people can really live in Manhattan.


[1] [2] [3]