Q. Why are you engaged in architecture?
||In the atelier in Oyodo, Osaka,
26 people are pursuing their architectural dreams.
A. Architecture involves working with other people,
so an architect can't simply become absorbed in his own world
like other types of artist. However, if he's swamped by everyday
demands and forgets his own drive for personal expression, he
will lose his raison d'être. Even if he enters a design
competition, the probability of losing is overwhelmingly high.
Thinking about it, there's no other profession like architecture,
in which the rewards don't always correspond to effort. Nonetheless,
I've been pursuing this career for over thirty years. This is
because I love architecture. This profession has been irresistibly
fascinating for me.
Q. What is it about architecture
that's so fascinating?
A. It always provides opportunities
for new encounters and discoveries. Take the project of the Fondation
d'Art Contemporain François Pinault, for example. For that project,
I studied the history of Paris' transformation since the nineteenth
century, and considered the construction of the Eiffel Tower and
the consequent raising of the curtain on the age of iron. I also
reviewed the development of the "Grands Projets" along the Seine,
reflecting on the significance of the river, and analyzing current
social conditions. In this way, I make myself aware of every issue
I can think of around the problem at hand. This is how I begin
my architectural studies, pursuing discoveries, seeking the answers
to questions, and engaging in ongoing, abstract dialogues with
the histories, cultures, and societies of various places.
In the process of realizing a building, there also needs
to be down-to-earth discussions with many people. Clients, consultants,
construction companies, workers on the site, and all kinds of
technicians contribute to the project. In architecture, unless
we communicate effectively with others, we can't get the project
done. With overseas projects in particular, I get quite exhausted
just from the effort involved in coordinating the views of the
different teams and unifying them into one. Nonetheless, I learn
a lot from these discussions, and they sometimes produce unexpected
Q. What does Osaka, or the Kansai region, mean
A. Perhaps because it's where
I was born and spent my impressionable twenties, you could say
this place is my origin. For instance, in the 1960s, there was
a space called Gutai Pinacotheca in Nakanoshima, Osaka.
It was a base for the Gutai art movement --- a group of avant-garde
artists led by Jiro Yoshihara, and which included such people
as Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga as members. They pioneered
what we now call performance art --- one running around on the
banks of the river in Ashiya, with another releasing balloons
into the air... Anyway, it presented me with a series of stimulating
experiences, and made me wonder if what they were doing was really
art. Another memorable place was a café called G-Sen ---
or G-string --- on Center Street in Sannomiya, Kobe. Its
interior was designed by Yoshio Hayakawa, and it was another of
the Kansai region's cultural hotspots, frequented by such people
as the graphic designers Ikko Tanaka, Tsunehisa Kimura, and Tadanori
Yokoo. Looking from a distance at these people working so energetically,
I also tried to find a path for myself. The time I spent in Osaka
was the most fascinating and stimulating.
Also, it was the people of Kansai who, after I started my
own architectural office, gave me opportunities to design. Many
courageous people put their energy behind my bold endeavors and
shared my dreams. The climate of Kansai has made me what I am
Q. Why do you continue
to stay in the Kansai region?
A. One reason is that there
are things one can never grasp unless you keep working in a particular
place and a particular context. In my case, most of the projects
I've been involved with are located around Osaka. They're concentrated
in the region that stretches along the old Yamato River, where
the Sayamaike Historical Museum and the Chikatsu-Asuka Historical
Museum are located, to Osaka Bay and the Inland Sea. Their proximity
was not intended, but in pouring my energy into each project,
I've developed my own ideas about the relationship between the
city and architecture, or between place and architecture.
Also, it's the city of Osaka which is the subject of my
proposals for urban spaces. For example, my project for the Osaka
Station area involves arranging freely-accessible roof gardens
on the high-rise buildings around the station, and our project
for Nakanoshima, which should be regarded as a key area in Osaka,
is to renovate the island as a bastion of culture. I am currently
planning such things as a floral exposition on the banks of the
Okawa River, where Osaka is still remembered as a city of waterways.
These proposals were generated of my own accord without any particular
clients, so I don't know if they'll be realized or not. Nonetheless,
I want to tackle these projects with the same passion I give to
everything else. After all, the city of Osaka is the place where
I live as an architect.
. photo_Daichi Ano
. translation_Shoko Yamashita, Andrew Barrie