Posts tagged with "Japan":

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Japanese engineering gets its due in Structured Lineages

Structured Lineages: Learning from Japanese Structural Design Edited by Guy Nordenson Published by the Museum of Modern Art MSRP $45.00

Western architects’ fascination with Japan is indisputable, a tendency most famously personified by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright. Contemporary practices are contributing to what is perhaps the third or fourth wave of Japanese influence on American architects, and this group was the focus of the 2016 Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition A Japanese Constellation: Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond, organized by Pedro Gadanho and Phoebe Springstubb. There is something simple yet sophisticated in the examples of contemporary Japanese architecture selected for this exhibition—attributes one can trace to the synthetic nature of Japanese design itself.

To accompany the exhibition, Guy Nordenson, a structural engineer and professor at Princeton’s School of Architecture, organized a symposium that sought to delve more deeply into Japanese design from the vantage point of the structural engineers who have collaborated with these architects. (Nordenson himself has a significant engineering practice, and worked with SANAA on the New Museum in New York and Johnston Marklee on the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston.) The resultant publication, Structured Lineages: Learning from Japanese Structural Design, illuminates key figures of postwar Japanese structural engineering and the hybrid nature of their consulting on the major works in the MoMA show. Consulting is not the right word for the essential, creative contributions of these talented engineers. As Nordenson noted in his introduction, “In Japan the cultures of architecture and engineering are entirely intertwined.” Laurent Ney observed that the architect and engineer Saito Masao titled an exhibition that he organized at the Architectural Institute of Japan in Tokyo in 2008 Archi-neering Design, coining a term that neatly grafts the two disciplines. Aspiring Japanese architects and engineers study together at university in the first phase of their education and specialize only later on. Design and technical skill are given equal weight academically, which forges a hybrid of both disciplines from a unified way of thinking.

The Structured Lineages symposium highlighted various practitioners of this fusion of art and technology: In addition to Masao, Yoshikatsu Tsuboi, Mamoru Kawaguchi, Gengo Matsui, Toshihiko Kimura, and the most significant contemporary structural engineer, Mutsuro Sasaki (who has collaborated with architects like Kenzo Tange and Rem Koolhaas), were given their rightful prominence by experts such as Marc Mimram of l’Ecole d’Architecture de Marne-la-Vallée, Mike Schlaich of Technische Universität Berlin, Jane Wernick of Jane Wernick Associates, and William F. Baker of SOM. Three roundtable discussions, moderated by Sigrid Adriaenssens, John Ochsendorf, and Caitlin Mueller and transcribed in the book, explored the basis for this “intertwining” of disciplines. These revelations—of what would be considered in Japan to be open secrets—feel like the discovery of why there is such qualitative consistency in Japanese design and architecture.

Numerous structures are presented throughout the book. Little known architect/engineer Mamoru Kawaguchi’s Fuji Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, the book’s cover image, could easily be mistaken for an early Ant Farm proposal (or a late Zaha Hadid project), with its colorful inflated tubular skin and curvaceous geometry. Toyo Ito’s innovative Sendai Mediatheque, with its occupiable structural elements engineered by none other than Sasaki, makes an appearance. MoMA curator Sean Anderson details how, in 1954, a traditional Japanese house came to be the third constructed “House in the Museum Garden,” following designs by Marcel Breuer and Gregory Ain.

This newly published book of the symposium offers essential enlightenment into the thinking, philosophy, and technical explorations behind these canonical buildings. It adds insightful analysis of and commentary on the special circumstances that gave rise to these projects, even though these significant Japanese structural engineers may be unfamiliar to the average American architecture student (and quite possibly for the average American architect). The documentation of the technical contributions, coupled with the high regard in which these projects are held internationally, makes Structured Lineages a necessary companion text for those with a deeper curiosity about the basis for the uniqueness of the design and structural experiments that have come to define architecture in contemporary Japan.

Craig Konyk is an architect and the chair of the School of Public Architecture at the Michael Graves College at Kean University in New Jersey.

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Japan House Los Angeles displays exquisite furniture handcrafted in the Hida region

A dense forest 300 miles wide spans the distance between the bustling Japanese cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. In the northern region of this divide lies Hida, a city in the Gifu Prefecture that has maintained a vibrant woodworking tradition for over 1,300 years (the first use of the term Hida no takuma, or “master craftsman of Hida,” first appeared in a written document in 467 AD). Wood bending machines introduced to the region from Germany and Austria between 1906 and 1909 led to the flourishing of the region's industry; perhaps most notable among them is Hida Sangyo Co., Ltd., a furniture manufacturer established in 1920 whose work now adorns the Japanese imperial palace and regularly exhibits at the Milan Furniture Fair. Japan House Los Angeles, one of three global exhibition spaces conceived by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is currently displaying Hida Sangyo Co.’s signature products with an in-depth look at what goes on behind the scenes. The show, Hida: A Woodwork Tradition in the Makingdemonstrates the range of handcrafted products originated by Hida Sangyo a century after its founding, as well as the range of creative talent the company has called upon, including designers Kenya Hara, Enzo Mari, and even architect Kengo Kuma. Exhibition designer Daigo Daikoku interspersed woodworking tools and untreated wood samples throughout to underscore the work's deep connection to handicraft. A table demonstrating the company's patented wood bending technology, for instance, reveals how an unremarkable block of wood is shaped into a finely-detailed chair back and set of armrest using only three steps. Another table features six glass domes containing wood samples—among them, cypress, Japanese magnolia, five-needle pine, and sansho pepper. Visitors are encouraged to lift the domes, “take a deep breath and experience the abundance of Hida's beautiful forests through all five senses.” Nearly all six, I was convinced, could easily be distilled and sold as cologne for the rugged consumer market with little alteration. Along the back wall, Daikoku included a series of wooden toys of his own design. His stacked, compressed wood blocks and the interlocking boards both recall toy designs produced by Charles and Ray Eames, the mid-century duo that also found success in experimenting with wood and wood bending devices. “Please enjoy the charm of wood in tune with the soul and aesthetic of Japanese craft," Daikoku implored the viewer, “and imagine you are walking through the forests of Hida.” The exhibition succeeds in showcasing the phenomenal tactile qualities of wood and its seemingly limitless potential as a resource for design. Hida: A Woodwork Tradition in the Making will be on display until April 12.
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Super Nintendo World will open at Universal Studios Japan for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Nintendo fans, rejoice: The company just provided a first "look" at Super Nintendo World, a Mario-themed expansion to Universal Studios Japan, that chief executive officer of Universal Creative Thierry Coup described as a "life-size, living video game" in a press briefing yesterday. Set to open this summer in Osaka to coincide with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Super Nintendo World will be the most immersive, mobile technology-dependent theme park to date for Universal Parks & Resorts. Before engaging with the park's attractions, visitors will first receive electronic wristbands, called "Power-Up Bands," and sync them with their smartphones via a proprietary app. Visitors will then use the wearable technology to navigate the grounds, create profiles, and compete among themselves to "collect" virtual coins scattered throughout the park. Though it is speculated that these attractions will be partially mediated by Augmented Reality (AR) in a manner similar to that experienced in the Pokémon Go mobile game first launched in 2016, sources have not yet confirmed its role in the park. In fact, much of the concrete information about how the park will look and feel has been gleefully packaged within a fast-paced electropop music video produced by musicians Galantis and Charli XCX, titled "We Are Born To Play," that shows players leaving the familiar world behind for Mario's candy-colored stomping grounds. While it's still unclear exactly what exactly visitors can expect in the physical park based on the video, the grounds will maintain a number of roller-coaster style rides and a castle that will house a Mario Kart attraction. Otherwise, it's safe to assume that the park will contain numerous "levels" and architectural elements from the games, including a Yoshi ride. The news comes five years after plans for a Nintendo-themed park was first announced by the company in 2015. Following Super Nintendo World's opening in Osaka, the Universal Studios theme parks in Hollywood, Singapore, and Orlando are scheduled to receive similar expansions of their own in the near future.
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Muji’s newest prefab home has ample open space and zero stairs

Muji, the famed Japanese retailer of “no-brand” home goods—and over the last 15 years, entire small homes—has released its fourth, and latest, prefabricated abode in Japan. Dubbed Yō no le (Plain House), the dwelling is a noted departure from the retailer’s previous venture into prefab housing, a slim and decidedly stair-intensive abode geared for impossibly tight urban lots named Tate no le (Vertical House) launched in 2010. While Yō no le is predictably compact and ultra-unfussy in keeping with Muji’s pared-down aesthetic, it’s the first prefab home offering from the company to be entirely stair-free and geared more toward rural environs than cramped Japanese cities where there’s not much room to go aside from up. Sporting 800 square feet of interior living space with a generously sized deck with room for container gardening out back, Yō no le’s flexible single-floor, single-bedroom layout is geared to appeal to homeowners who want to settle down and stay put in the same space for the long haul. A particular target market is seniors and empty nesters looking to live a more minimalist—and low-maintenance—lifestyle. Boasting clean lines, light wood, and loads of natural light, the highly customizable home (Muji also makes pretty much everything under the sun one would want to customize the home with) was described by the company as being designed to “accommodate wide range of generations and provide more choices for places to live, thus supporting a variety of lifestyles.” Although Muji has a healthy retail presence across the globe including over a dozen stateside stores mainly in New York and California, Yō no le, like the company’s other prefab homes, is only available for sale in Japan at an affordable $160,000. Of course, Muji isn’t the only purveyor of home furnishings to delve into the production of simply designed and assembled homes catering specifically to baby boomers and beyond. In 2019, IKEA announced a partnership with Swedish construction behemoth Skanska to erect a series of modular homes in the Stockholm suburbs for elderly inhabitants living with dementia.
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Fate of Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower still up in the air

After years of back and forth, Tokyo’s iconic Nakagin Capsule Tower may face demolition after all, according to Citylab. The 13-story building, which has stood in the Shinbashi neighborhood since 1972, is a distinct relic of the Metabolist movement that dominated architectural discourse in post-World War II Japan. Maintenance issues have plagued the site for over a decade, with certain stakeholders now reiterating that demolition might be the most economical option.

Many architectural historians consider the Nakagin Capsule Tower to be one of the best surviving examples of Metabolism, a movement that explored methods of large-scale reconstruction for Japan’s war-ravaged cities. Between the 1950s and 1970s, Metabolists like Pritzker Prize winners Fumihiko Maki and Kenzo Tange emphasized the need for Japanese architects to emulate organic systems in their designs for urban megastructures, highlighting how metabolisms in complex organisms work to maintain living cells.

Kishō Kurokawa, a prominent voice in Japan’s post-war cultural resurgence and the author of the 1977 book Metabolism in Architecture, designed the Nakagin Capsule Tower at the request of the Nakagin real-estate company’s president, Torizo Watanabe. The structure is an agglomeration of 140 prefabricated “capsules” affixed in varying orientations to two concrete cores. Each unit is one hundred square feet in area and has a single porthole window. The highly formulaic design enabled construction crews to assemble the entire structure in only 30 days, resulting in a tower that hosted both commercial offices and private residential space. Kurokawa also intended for the capsules to be removed and replaced as needed. Ironically, the ability of capsule occupants to refurbish or replace their individual units was supposed to preclude any sort of large-scale demolition of the building. Perhaps the current state of affairs in Shinbashi is a reflection of the model’s shortfalls.

Over the years, not a single one of the 140 capsules have been removed or replaced. Many are still in use as apartments or offices, but some have been repurposed as storage compartments or outright abandoned. Certain owners have made an effort to preserve or restore their capsules, but many have fallen into visible disrepair. In 2007, the tower’s management company announced that asbestos had been found in many of the units and cleared the entire building for demolition. Financial difficulties at the construction company that was tapped to lead the lot’s redevelopment stalled the project, and the debate over whether to tear down the Nakagin Capsule Tower has remained at a standstill ever since.

By 2018, Nakagin Integration, Inc. had become frustrated with high maintenance costs and sold the land under the building, which currently operates as a condominium, to a real-estate company. In a move permitted under Japanese law, the new land-owner then prohibited any new sales in the tower and considered the site’s potential for redevelopment. As Jiji Press reported last month, though, an unnamed foreign buyer has expressed interest in purchasing the land and preserving the tower.

While maintaining the Nakagin Capsule Tower has grown into too great a burden for some managers and unit owners, the movement to preserve the building has also amassed support. Activists and organizers formed the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building Conservation and Regeneration Project to protect the building from developers in bustling Shinbashi. One member, Tatsuyuki Maeda, now owns 15 units in the building and hopes his investment in the property will help tip the scales in favor of preservationists.

Regardless of one’s standpoint on the importance of architectural preservation, the Nakagin Capsule Tower’s status as a rare built example of Metabolist architecture is indisputable. Investors will ultimately decide whether this legacy is worth defending, but preservationists are slowly accruing more of a stake in the building.

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L.A.’s Little Tokyo combats displacement with summer arts series

The Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) has announced its Little Tokyo Summer Arts Series, a series of free, all-ages, public events exploring the theme of “Ending Cycles of Displacement” from August 17 to 30. The series will include work from the LTSC's five artists from the three-month-long 2019 +LAB Artists in Residence (AIR) Project that began in June. This year’s residency focuses on creative place-keeping and addressing the most recent cycle of displacement affecting Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo. Established in 1884, Little Tokyo is L.A.’s second oldest neighborhood and the largest of four remaining Japantowns in the United States. In its 133-year history, Little Tokyo has withstood numerous acts of displacement including the demolition of entire tracts of housing, businesses, churches, and temples that occurred during the city’s urban renewal of the 1950s through the 1970s. Today, roughly nine square blocks remain. The latest threat to the area is the market rate housing boom in Downtown L.A., making the neighborhood less accessible to small businesses, individuals, and families of all income levels. The three public events are as follows: Future Echo: Public Hearing, an audio installation of stories of displacement, resistance, shared struggles, and acts of radical hope; Festival of Shadows: Mapping Invisible Dances, an immersive, intergenerational performance displaying a landscape of dance, video, installations, and shadow play; and Past Present: Conversations with the Future, where large projections and soundscapes will accompany conversations of the past and present, separation and displacement, and the future of solidarity, community, and home. The 2019 +LAB fellows include traci kato-kiriyama, an L.A.-based artist, cultural producer, and community organizer, Isak Immanuel and Marina Fukushima, a Bay Area-based duo working together on intergenerational dance performances, and Misael Diaz and Amy Sanchez, a Santa Ana-based collective working across disciplines and mediums to engage transnational communities relating to topics of displacement. AIR is a partnership between the LTSC and four community cultural institutions: the Japanese American National Museum, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Visual Communications, and Sustainable Little Tokyo. LTSC is a social service and community development organization preserving and strengthening unique ethnic communities in Southern California.
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Why doesn't the U.S. design buildings to survive earthquakes?

Earthquakes have been in the news lately with increasing regularity: Southern California recently experienced a July 4th quake registering 6.4 on the Richter scale followed by one just a day later at 7.1. It's predicted that within the week there's an 11 percent chance that a major quake could follow, and, of course, there's the looming specter of the so-called Big One. But despite the relative frequency of seismic activity on the West coast and in other parts of the United States, in general, the U.S. lags behind other earthquake-prone countries, especially Japan, in terms of earthquake readiness. A recent New York Times investigation asked why, when buildings can be designed to stand up to earthquakes, the United States has so few of them. Though there are notable exceptions—like older retrofits such as Los Angeles’s city hall, and luxurious new construction like Apple’s Foster + Partners-designed headquarters, a ring that floats on base isolators rather than being fixed to a traditional foundation—most buildings in the States feature concrete cores, relatively un-rigid construction, and no seismic shock absorbers or isolation systems. Even those that do, the Times reports, are of varying quality of construction, with many failing basic preparedness tests. Simply put, while Japanese buildings are, in general, designed to sway in an earthquake and minimize damage (and use a steel grid to make up their core), American buildings are designed primarily to fail and collapse in a way that will hopefully minimize loss of life. This can mostly be chalked up to not only weak regulations, but to economics. It’s more costly to build an earthquake-ready building, though obviously only in the short run. A federal study demonstrated that rebuilding after a quake in urban centers will cost billions of dollars, and is four times as expensive as simply building a structure that can stand up to an earthquake in the first place. However, with lax laws and a real estate and development market that prioritizes short term ownership and thinking, building owners and developers remain wary of spending the extra cash up front; estimated to only add approximately 13–15 percent in cost in a seven-story building, according to the Japanese construction company Nice Corporation. Though, per the Times, engineer Ian Aiken says that some systems “can cost as little as 5% more.” Tokyo, which experiences more than 1,000 seismic events each year, is also anticipating its own big quake in the next 30 years, a follow up to the devastating 1923 earthquake. while predictions of the potential damage remain calamitous, there is perhaps no city more ready to take the hit. Not only are high rises, skyscrapers, and smaller buildings all designed to withstand significant seismic activity, but, as The Guardian reports, “parks feature hidden emergency toilets and benches that turn into cooking stoves, and the city has the world’s largest fire brigade, specifically trained to prevent the kind of flash blazes that spread after earthquakes.” The city is not only a world population and business center, but also a major tourist destination, something that's likely to become only more true with events like the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. But even new construction for the Olympics is getting the high tech treatment. Seismic isolation bearings are being placed inside the new Tokyo Aquatics Center and the Ariake Arena, which will be home to Olympic volleyball and wheelchair basketball games. The aquatics center and arena are using Bridgestone Seismic Isolation Systems, an update to older methods that relied on increasing the rigidity of buildings or adding additional framing. Instead of adding greater rigidity, base isolation systems use rubber bearings ranging in size between approximately 23 inches and 70 inches to allow structures to sway slowly and cause only minor disturbances, if any at all, on the floors above, instead of allowing the whole structure to shake violently. Similar such bearings can be found in buildings like Tokyo Station and Los Angeles's City Hall. While the isolators are often placed in the foundations of buildings, for the new arenas, they’ve been located in the roofs, a common approach for buildings with large open spaces that helps decrease the stress on the roof’s support elements. Still, all the technology in the world only goes so far if the community isn’t prepared. As Tokyo-based disaster preparedness specialist Ronin Takashi Lewis told The Guardian, even all this tech, “If you look around the Tokyo skyscrapers it’s incredible how advanced a lot of technology here is, especially seismic resistance – but my concern is preparedness at the community and individual level.” As per usual, technology alone won’t save us. Still, hopefully the United States can learn from Tokyo and invest in resilient buildings for safer cities and communities.
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The Japanese tradition of moon-viewing lights up Tsukimi in the East Village

An assuming brick building in New York’s East Village houses an elegant and warm Japanese restaurant on its first floor that’s been designed as an ode to the mid-autumn full moon. Tsukimi, located at 228 East 10 St., recently opened under the tutelage of renowned chef Takanori Akiyama and was inspired by the festival tradition of tsukimi, or “moon viewing,” which happens at the start of fall harvest each year. Designed by Brooklyn-based firm Studio Tack, the modest space “aids in slowing the mind down” and utilizes both expressive and simple patterns to focus guests on intentional eating and community. White oak is the primary material found throughout the restaurant and is visible in everything from the two communal tables that face each other, to the shelves underneath, and the tambour wall paneling behind. The soft tones of the wood and its various textures are mixed to produce a comforting and relaxed feel. The design team further honed in on the tsukimi symbolism by enveloping the interior with a pleasant glow, one that also extends to the street via the corduroy glass on the windows. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com. 
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Junya Ishigami's use of unpaid interns draws criticism after Serpentine selection

Junya Ishigami, this year’s Serpentine Pavilion designer, has come under fire after an Architect’s Journal report brought the Tokyo-based Junya Ishigami + Associates’ internship policy to light. A student who reached out to the firm to apply for an internship reportedly told the Journal that they would be expected to work six days a week, from 11 AM to midnight, for free and would have to supply their own computer and accompanying software. The internship would last for 8 to 12 weeks, “or longer,” according to emails reviewed by the Journal. Prospective interns would also be on their own in relocating to Japan and in acquiring a visa. The student ultimately decided not to apply, citing the extreme workload and high price of living in Tokyo. Unpaid internship culture is still pervasive in Japan, but a number of British organizations have come out against the practice, including the Serpentine Gallery. A Serpentine spokesperson told the Journal that they weren’t aware of Ishigami + Associates’ use of unpaid labor and would be looking into the situation. Additionally, they noted that “the Serpentine only supports paid positions on all of its projects and commissions, and is a London Living Wage employer.” This isn’t the first time a Japanese Serpentine Pavilion designer has drawn flak for using unpaid interns. The 2013 pavilion architect, Sou Fujimoto, was accused of doing the same and defended himself in Dezeen, saying that "in Japan we have a long history of interns and usually the students work for free for several periods. It’s a nice opportunity for both of us: [for the employer] to know younger generations and for them to know how architects in Japan or different countries are working." AN has reached out Junya Ishigami + Associates for comment and will update this article accordingly.
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Japanese architect Arata Isozaki named the 2019 Pritzker laureate

Japanese architect, planner, and theorist Arata Isozaki has been awarded the 2019 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Isozaki, born in 1931, was deeply influenced by the aftermath of World War II and the destruction of his hometown of Ōita, after which he became fascinated by the temporal nature of the built environment. “When I was old enough to begin an understanding of the world,” writes Isozaki, “my hometown was burned down. Across the shore, the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, so I grew up on ground zero. It was in complete ruins, and there was no architecture, no buildings and not even a city. Only barracks and shelters surrounded me. So, my first experience of architecture was the void of architecture, and I began to consider how people might rebuild their homes and cities.” After founding his own practice in the 1960s, Isozaki left Japan to cultivate a broader knowledge of world architecture. In his sixty years of practice, Isozaki has continued to build in a manner known more for its programmatic solutions and contextual nature than solid adherence to a single style or typology. From the Ōita Prefectural Library built in 1966, a stalwart example of Japanese Brutalism, to the 1986 Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Isozaki has never shied away from tailoring his approach to specific projects. Following the reconstruction period after World War II, Isozaki made his name as one of the few Japanese architects to build abroad beginning in the 1980s and in doing so, exported a truly international style to the West. “Isozaki is a pioneer in understanding that the need for architecture is both global and local—that those two forces are part of a single challenge,” wrote Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Jury Chair in a statement. “For many years, he has been trying to make certain that areas of the world that have long traditions in architecture are not limited to that tradition, but help spread those traditions while simultaneously learning from the rest of the world.” The jury’s citation notes Isozaki’s importance in facilitating a global dialogue on design. “Clearly, he is one of the most influential figures in contemporary world architecture on a constant search, not afraid to change and try new ideas. His architecture rests on profound understanding, not only of architecture but also of philosophy, history, theory, and culture. He has brought together East and West, not through mimicry or as a collage, but through the forging of new paths. He has set an example of generosity as he supports other architects and encourages them in competitions or through collaborative works." Isozaki is the eighth Japanese architect to be awarded the prize. The 2019 awards ceremony will be held sometime in May at the Château de Versailles, which will be followed by a lecture in Paris.
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Suspended structure will house research into space-exploring Japanese robots

New York–based firm Clouds Architecture Office has designed a suspended research facility for AVATAR X, a partnership between ANA Holdings Inc. and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Japanese space agency, developing space-exploring robots. The levitating building will be at the center of the AVATAR X Lab Oita campus, which will host office and laboratory space for various tech companies invited to participate in the partnership's research, along with a lunar-like landscape for testing remotely-operated vehicles. AVATAR X is focused on developing avatars, specialized robots that humans can direct and manipulate from a remote location, thereby obviating the need for humans to go to space themselves. The floating lab structure will stand nearly 60 feet above the bottom of an artificial crater at the center of the campus. A series of other buildings will complete the campus in Oita prefecture, Kyushu, Japan.
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GSAPP’s DeathLAB examines evolving attitudes towards mortality

The SANAA-designed 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art at Kanazawa, Japan, is hosting the exhibition DeathLAB: Democratizing Death, featuring works by the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP)-based, transdisciplinary lab, led by associate professor of architecture Karla Rothstein. The exhibition is free and runs through March 24, 2019. The exhibition covers DeathLAB's architectural and artistic proposals that address the changing nature of spaces of death in contemporary society, a topic with particular relevance to Japan. The Japanese urban landscape is stressed by over-population, declining birthrates, and an aging population. Due to a shortage of space, people have begun seeking affordable space-saving burial measures. For example, in Tokyo, CNN reported on the Ruriden, a repository of LED-lit Buddha statues, and Shinjuku Rurikoin Byakurengedo, a futuristic temple designed by Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama of Amorphe. It contains a “smart library for ashes” that transports people using a conveyor belt system to underground urns. Alternative practices such as online funerals are also on the rise. The exhibition showcases DeathLAB’s ongoing work in this area through a three-part film and architectural models. The films feature interviews with experts in areas ranging from philosophy to historic preservation.
An illuminated model of Constellation Park, a 2014 unbuilt project, has been assembled for the show. According to a statement by the museum’s curator, Yoshiko Takahashi, “the project proposed nesting thousands of light-emitting ‘memorial vessels’ underneath New Yorkʼs iconic Manhattan Bridge. Harnessing the human bodyʼs latent bio-energy, the memorial vessels would be populated with calibrated microbial colonies to gradually decompose corpses over the course of a year, generating methane that would, in turn, be used to illuminate the vessel network in a dazzling constellation of mourning lights.” The lab believes that death transcends differences of “ethnicity, religion, and political/economic constraints." Constellation Park is meant to be an example of how death can be “democratized” in the metropolis. The project reinterprets the process of biodegradation present in natural burials. It is inspired by the 1960s Japanese Metabolist movement that was enamored with the relationship between organic biological growth and architecture. Check out this link for more details.