Posts Tagged ‘inverse architecture’


Architecture: Realism; Metabolism; Idealism & the Laundry

November 17, 2014



Hong Kong is known for high density living, usually in the form of “Modern” apartment blocks like the one here, and trust me, it is surreal for a Westerner to wake up expecting to see the morning sky only to discover an intimate view of a couple of hundred neighbors looking back at you from the same exactly measured boxes only made different by colorful laundry strung helter-skelter like banners in all directions.  Add the noise and smell of rush hour boat traffic on the Aberdeen channel below, and you have a picture of middle class life in Ap Lei Chau.  But I digress, this is not a travel blog.  Finally, I end up smitten with the sheer visual mass;  rigid, regular, homogenous structural framework completely animated by the chaos of life.  One without the other is unthinkable.  Such was the vision packed happily away in my photos file until I was forced, by a recent article about sustainably built apartments, to to dust it off.




During the late 50’s and early 60’s; and keeping in mind that architectural academics love anything that can be defined by the attachment of an “ism” to the end of a word, a Japanese mega thinker and luminary by the name of Kiyonori Kikutake along with 3 others came up with a philosophy that has come to be known in architectural circles as “Metabolism.”  Motivated, at its core, by the quest for more versatile solutions to the ever expanding post war urban environments, Metabolism had some interesting manifestations.  Kikutake, for example, proposed supporting apparently floating floor planes in multistory buildings with structural mesh; think structural columns that look like Chinese finger traps.  Floor planes, as it turns out, were not the only thing he floated.  In response to the scarcity of urban real estate he actually designed an entire floating city.

Not to be overlooked was Kisho Kurokawa, another perhaps more pragmatic member of the group, who contributed to the architectural notions of Metabolism by the introduction off organic structural flexiblity in the form of capsule architecture, a real live example being the Nakagin Capsule Tower shown in the photo.  Removable pods were actually made in a shipping container factory.




Sustainability being the current architectural mantra, the image in the article (India Art n Design:  Mongkok Residence – Sustainability & the Skyline) is, nevertheless, mostly remarkable because the apartment is nestled between two modern towers.  Dialectically speaking, what could more completely summarize the issue.  Funny thing about opposites; they cannot be opposite unless they are somehow alike.  No matter how they are skewed, upon what type of rigid or flexible structural frame they rest, whether the boxes are fabricated in a container factory or simply real containers, boxes piled one on top of another end up looking like piled up boxes.  Quite possibly, they only become something else by introduction of the infinitely chaotic laundry.


Should architects start hiring real people?

February 16, 2014


I don’t know much about either one of these houses except that they are both in Japan.  It is not hard to figure out which one turned up on the slick architectural blog arch daily and which one  came from flickr?  If you have any doubt click the photos and follow the link to find out.  I posted them together to demonstrate the profound paradox between architectural fantasy and living reality.  The beautiful sculptural form on the right becomes something else entirely when subjected, as is the house on the left, to the messiness of human interaction.  As landscape architect Margie Ruddick pointed out in the April issue of Dwell, at bit of mess is where life happens. I keep thinking the two must somehow intersect for architecture to happen really.

As an aside, anyone who has ever spent a night in a Japanese royokan understands the national tendency to separate the private and public space.

As another aside,  the word slum, though well defined in the  dictionary, has no comparable in the Merriam Webster online Thesaurus; meaning that neither is there an antonym.  It appears to sit alone in the English language.


Light as art leads to art as light.

September 6, 2012

An important service that an architect provides is one the cannot be measured. It has to do with making connections. Connections that can best be made if one has built up, through education and experience, a large stockpile of references.  If measurement were possible the value placed on architect’s work might increase substantially . Recently the emphasis on sustainability has taken over the collective psyche. It has become the rage in all things political and even moral as if we have suddenly made some new discovery.  Architects, though, know that their profession is not referred to as a “practice” for nothing.  Discovery is, rather,  revealed through proficiency built up over time by a continual process of repetition, precedent and perfection.

Spanish Solar Pailion

This is not to criticize or imply that some wonderful work is not in progress.  On the contrary exciting projects like the Spanish Solar Pavilion are happening everywhere.  Touted as “Genius Design” it is an experimental project designed to limit interior summer heat gain,  maximize solar exposure required for the photovoltaic installation, maintain quality interior light and views and that says nothing about how fantastic, in all senses of the word, it looks.   It is pre-fabricated too!

Tower of Shadows by Le Corbusier, Chandigarh, India, 1951-1965

As one who has personally seen it, I wonder if  Le Corbusier’s “Shadow Tower” is related enough to share the title of genius.  It would appear that light as a source of art has finally lead to art as a source of light.  Do I have another case of “Inverse Architecture?


Inverse architecture.

November 29, 2011

No architect in site here.  Never was, never will be.  Just a local guy taking care of his property.  Looks like he owns the one next door as well.  They must have had a sale on turquoise paint.   Architects like to call this vernacular.  That way they can pinch and rename an idea or two for later use.  If properly sealed the CMU and concrete porch will hold up to the weather and the balusters are pretty amazing.  I couldn’t tell if they were pre-fab concrete or just vinyl.  Either way, if there is such a thing as inverse architecture, this is it.