Friday, September 11, 2009

Kengo Kuma interview

There was a Kengo Kuma interview on CNN. I like the subtle treatment of materials in his buildings. And of course, he started the talk with Japanese tradition and materials.

He feels that reconstructing cities in Japan with concrete after WWII destroyed the Japanese tradition. I sort of agree. But I am not sure if you can simply blame the loss of tradition on the change of building material. There are so many other dimensions to it. Reclaiming tradition can't be just restoring the use of traditional materials. Concrete is not a traditional material in Japan (you may say it's hardly traditional in any country...), but there were certain reasons in a particular period of history that determined its popularity. He said, "20th century architecture is concrete, iron, and glass. People didn't pay attention to materials." I would argue concrete, iron, and glass are materials as well. It was the attention to these new materials that nurtured the innovations in structure, hence the revolution of modern architecture. Why is architecture only nice when built in wood and paper? To me, Japan is probably the most successful country in remaining a national architectural identity in the flashy modern world. Many of its architects are using concrete, iron, and glass.

Fortunately his approach is not that literal. What he aims at in his career is actually the quality of tradition - in the case of Japan, softness, delicacy, and warmth. "Our approach is to capture the atmosphere of the place... by communicating with the people there," he explained. "Therefore it's important to go to this place several times or to live with these people - to eat, and drink with them." He also sees the importance of checking on details and touching the materials in person. As a result, he travels a lot - meeting people, visiting construction sites and trying to control the quality. Working on 55+ projects at the same time, he only rests about one or two days in a year! But for him, it's a lot of fun. What's more exciting than doing something that you love and care about? "I will keep working until I collapse."

Kuma compares architecture to sushi making. "There are two important things to make sushi. One is the material and the other is the skill..." After listening to him, I would add another one - care.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

One year anniversary

It's been a year since I launched the Scribbles! In this year, I posted 82 entries - one per 4.5 days in average. I think this sounds quite OK given the fact that I worked 56.3 hours
in average per week all year...

Out of the 82 posts, 48 are related to architecture or design. (That's inevitable and I am glad that I am still interested in the profession.) After that, art and science seem to have a good balance. (They say architecture is both art and science, right?) Poor books only earned 3 entries. (I still read. It's just hard to write about them. Partly because I only have time to read bit by bit - excitement from reading becomes more stretched and less intense.)

I love stats. Here's an attempt to find out the relationship between posting and work load. Strange enough, work schedule doesn't seem to affect the pattern of posting that much, except for two occasions when big competition deadline hits. The other extreme is posting also stopped during vacation. January is a hard-to-find example that fits my assumption, where low work load resulted in
a more steady and frequent posting pattern...