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Continuing their influential body of work examining the city from fresh angles and novel frameworks, Atelier Bow-Wow’s Momoyo Kaijima and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto will cocurate Made In Tokyo: Architecture and Living 1964–2020 at New York’s Japan Society. The show, scheduled to open in October, will examine Tokyo in the period between the 1964 and the 2020 Olympics, both of which were hosted in the Japanese capital and marked shifts caused by enormous infrastructural investment. Made In Tokyo, a close examination of the flows of everyday life and urban institutions, will feature models, drawings, and photographs of a collection of architecture and art that developed around the city in this period of extraordinary change. AN executive editor Matt Shaw exchanged emails with the iconic duo as they prepare the exciting exhibition.
The Architect’s Newspaper: What can we expect from this show? How does it relate to your book projects, particularly Made in Tokyo, which shares a name with the exhibition?
Atelier Bow-Wow: What you can see from this exhibition is the Tokyo of the two Olympics, seen through the evolution of various urban institutions. Our book, Made in Tokyo (2001), showed the life of this unique city through the observation of “hybrid” metropolitan structures. By applying this lens to the urban institutions that were being created in 1964 and 2020, the years of the two Tokyo Olympics, we will showcase the change, or metabolism, of the life of Tokyo.
How did you sort through almost 60 years of architecture and development of the largest metropolis in the world? What were you looking for as you made your framework?
The urban architecture that was built between the last Tokyo Olympics and the upcoming Tokyo Olympics can be categorized in two ways: architecture that supports the everyday life of Tokyo (transit stations, city halls, offices, houses, etc.) and architecture that supports the nonroutine life (capsule hotels, stadiums, department stores, etc.). Comparing these two kinds of architecture and observing how the environments, conditions, and social expectations for each type has changed will reveal how life in Tokyo has transformed.
What are the major transitions you identify? What built works illustrate them?
Size. The size of the Olympics, the size of cities, the size of economic impact, the technical environment—namely, the internet—how families should live, the way of working, commercial services, demographics of cities, etc., have all changed drastically.
Were there surprises that you came across as you surveyed the city and its history? What assumptions about Tokyo might be upended?
We are the generation of the previous Tokyo Olympics and cannot hide how surprised we are at the tremendous turnover of city spaces from what we remember in our childhood memories. Since the government handed over the reins of urban creation to the private sector, the logic of capital and industry has entered into every corner of the city and started determining the shapes of life and urban spaces. Although it is widely said that the 70-year period of peace in Tokyo—without war or huge earthquakes—has contributed to cultivating a city that values quality over quantity, I think in reality it is livelihood that is servicing capital and industry.
From the outside, 1964–2020 in Japan seems to be a very positive and optimistic period of growth. Is that true?
Since World War II, we had grown in both population and economically until around 1990. Various urban institutions were created with great productivity and enthusiasm. Especially in the 1960s—15 years after the end of the war—young architects were allowed to creatively contribute to diverse architectural designs. Now, in contrast to those times, the institutions that were built in the 20th century are showing their age and need to be renovated. In high-value areas in central Tokyo, there is an incentive for large capital and organizations to move toward mass redevelopment that increases the total floor space, thus covering operating costs. On the other hand, buildings in the other areas are left to the tides of time and tend to be unoccupied and deteriorating. These buildings are often revitalized by young architects and activities rooted in their neighborhoods. In short, bipolarization is happening, and we cannot be positive about the situation.
Now we are moving to the idea of “revival” and localism of the countryside rather than Tokyo’s centralism. Tokyo has been established on the support of the rural areas, but the fact has become more apparent and Tokyo is getting situated as one of the cities in the network of lives.
You include several avant-garde artworks, including some performance pieces, that are critical of Japanese economic development and consumerism. How do those fit into your narrative? Why did you include them?
They show what “ambiences” are surrounding architecture in each era. Along with focusing on urban institutions, we would also like visitors to imagine the backgrounds and conditions that surround the institutions.
(These responses were translated from Japanese into English.)
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After facing harsh blowback online, the Serpentine Gallery stepped in to announce that it was unaware of the practice at the time of Ishigami’s selection and would require Junya Ishigami + Associates to pay anyone working on the pavilion. The news quickly sparked a discussion over unpaid labor, and a number of other studios defended their decision not to pay interns, or to admit their culpability. Ishigami + Associates has stayed silent on the matter and refused a request for comment when the news originally broke. According to Archinect, students and faculty at MIT had viewed the lecture on April 18 as a chance to ask the firm about the controversy and wanted to schedule a separate event to discuss the issue. The studio demanded that there be no Q&A session at the original talk, which was to have been an account of its work, and declined to participate in a secondary discussion. Ishigami + Associates ultimately canceled the original event. On April 25, the Architecture Lobby released a statement on unpaid internships to Archinect. “Meanwhile,” the open letter reads, “as recently reported by Dezeen, Karim Rashid insists that unpaid internships are a ‘fork of furthering education.’ Rashid offers a four-month unpaid internship in his office, justified by his claim that ‘an intern can learn in three months more than a year or two of education, and education in USA is costing that student $60,000 to $100,000 a year,’ making universities, in his view, ‘far more’ exploitative. “There is no lesser evil in worker exploitation and a prohibitively expensive education system, and there is plenty of work to be done in fighting to change both.” The full statement can be read here.
No BBQ-ing Allowed
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From Mall to Office
Plan to transform Jerde’s postmodern wonderland in San Diego moves forward
A preliminary plan to transform the Jon Jerde–designed Horton Plaza Mall complex in San Diego has taken several steps forward in recent weeks as developer Stockdale Capital Partners detailed plans to reconfigure the dazzling postmodern shopping mall into a mixed-use technology campus.
In mid-April, San Diego’s economic development committee unanimously supported a change of deed request made by the developers to reduce the amount of retail space that must be included in the development. Currently, guidelines require that at least 700,000 square feet of retail spaces be provided on the site, a figure the developer seeks to slash in half. In exchange for the reduction, the developer would build a 772,000-square-foot tech office campus on top of a 300,000-square-foot retail podium.
The plan, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported, would require Stockdale to take responsibility for a city-owned park located on the site, as well.
A recent batch of renderings unveiled for the new complex depicts glass curtainwall facades and dark metal structural elements. A mix of indoor-outdoor spaces and ground level shops, gyms, and restaurants would serve up to 4,000 tech workers who could be located on the site.
At the economic development committee meeting, Stockdale cofounder Dan Michaels said, “We’ve done this before,” referencing the firm’s successful redevelopment of a similar mall complex in Scottsdale, Arizona, that brought a slew of marquee tech companies to the city, adding, “[Horton Plaza] is the opportunity incarnate.”
The plan, however, is not without controversy.
Several cultural heritage and historic preservation groups have challenged the plan, which would remove all of the postmodern elements of the complex. Organizations like the San Diego Architecture Foundation and the La Jolla Historical Society have publicly asked the developer to take steps to somehow preserve the iconic postmodern facades that mark the mall’s interior courtyard.
In a letter supporting the preservation of the existing complex, Heath Fox, executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society, said, “Horton Plaza is a highly intact, signature example of postmodernism by an important architect, and large-scale examples of postmodern architecture are exceedingly rare.”
Designed in the early 1980s during an era when defensive urbanism reigned supreme in American cities, Horton Plaza was conceived as a microcosm where some of the unexpected and organic qualities of traditional urban environments were recreated inside a tightly-controlled private development.
As a result, Jerde created stacked and broad covered interior streets that offer new and delightful experiences around every corner.
Richly detailed with traditionally-inspired cornices, pressed tin ceilings, ordered columns, and ever-changing and sumptuous materiality, no two vistas within the mall are alike. Massive mosaic tile-covered facades protrude into the central space to create the illusion of organic development while walkways slope to connect different levels as they might in an Italian hillside town. In other areas, variously styled storefronts project from larger facades and stuccoed expanses of cerulean, goldenrod, and rose-hued masses collide and explode every which way.
The development, heralded as a transformative success when it originally opened in 1985, has fallen on hard times in recent years, even as the areas around it have thrived due to the urban resurgence the complex initiated.
If Stockdale is successful in its efforts, the project could take shape as soon as 2020.