In the atelier in Oyodo, Osaka, 26 people are pursuing their architectural dreams.

Q. Why are you engaged in architecture?

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 ideas.

Q. What does Osaka, or the Kansai region, mean to you?

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 now.

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