It had been a long journey. I first met Akio at UIA Brighton in 1987.
Tony at the UIA Assembly
We were then together again, along with Fujico and Masamitsu Nozawa, in Prague for the Velvet Revolution in 1989. After our involvement in ending the Cold War Akio invited Sven Thiberg, Oscar Margenet, Dana Belohlavkova, and me to Tokyo in 1990. Among other activities, centred around a mini-conference, we wrote the Tokyo Charter, which focused on “Designing our way out of the environmental crisis”. 21 years later this was to be the theme brought forward to UIA Tokyo 2011 by President Louise Cox. Over the years I had also worked closely with the Japanese delegations to Montreal, Chicago, Barcelona, and Berlin, as well as Habitat II in Istanbul. When the Japanese bid in Berlin, in 2002, to host a UIA Congress, failed, they gave me a copy of Hiroshi Watanabe’s “Architecture of Tokyo” to thank me for my help. At last, at UIA Istanbul 2005, yet another bid was finally successful. I flew up to Tokyo for the UIA Council Meeting where the details were sorted out later that year.
In many ways this was also the end of a journey. Louise Cox’s three-year term as President ended at UIA Tokyo 2011. It seemed unlikely that there would ever again be a President from Australasia. Gaetan Siew’s term as immediate Past-President also ended. He had been the UIA representative with me in Turkey for the judging of the Gallipoli Peace Park competition. After three presidents from the southern hemisphere, the other one being Jaime Lerner, this key role moved back again to the north and Europe. It felt as though history had taken a step back. Kazuo Iwamura finished his term as Vice-President and he decided not to run for President. We had worked together on sustainability issues for many years. It was time for me too to celebrate and take a little rest. I would not be going to Durban.
My involvement in preparations for Tokyo had been intense and very rewarding. I remembered the wonderful dinner with Tadeo Ando, and the little yakatori bar where Louise and I had celebrated the Council meeting. Then, just as everything at last seemed to be coming together, disaster struck.
The Tokohu earthquake and resulting tsunami not only killed 20,000, and did an astonishing amount of damage to north-eastern Japan, but it also caused the melt-down of the Fukushima nuclear power station. The extent of the radiation hazard remained shrouded in mystery. A number of my friends evacuated from Tokyo. From a distance I feared that UIA Tokyo 2011 might be cancelled. Information was sparse. I was hesitant. With all this uncertainty only two of us went up from New Zealand. Once I would have taken twenty students with me, but my stroke had changed all that. You can only play your game with the cards you have been dealt.
Tadeo Ando's Children's Library
Only a week before UIA Tokyo 2011 there was a 4.8 earthquake in Tokyo, and then a few days before delegates arrived a typhoon swept across the city. However during the Congress and Assembly the sky was blue, the sun was shining and temperatures were pleasantly high. Radiation levels were low. Disaster was on the agenda but far from participants’ minds. Life in Tokyo seemed very normal.
Any UIA Congress has at least four overlapping streams of activity. The first is a “show and tell” which consists of presentations by architects and others, usually on their work but sometimes on their ideas. In theory there is a Congress theme, but in my opinion most speakers ignore this. All this is the pattern architects expect from any NZIA Conference. At the second level the UIA work programmes normally get on with their job, with fierce debate about the issues of the day. Unusually in Tokyo there seemed to be no work done, but rather a series of short “show and tell” presentations. Apart from questions there was little interaction. Perhaps this was a cultural problem, or perhaps everyone was just subdued by disasters. Either way, at this critical time, global debate did not seem to move forward. The Congress seemed to have no memorable outcomes, and nothing seemed to have been learned from the many global disasters. A pity. An opportunity lost. It was rather like the Wynyard Quarter learning nothing from Christchurch. Locally, as well as globally, architects are in denial.
At a third level there is a service sector for the academic industry. This is where hundreds of academics present learned papers on nothing in particular so that they will be able to say how many papers they have presented in their lives, and thus go back home and get promoted. It’s just a game. No one listens to any of this, except perhaps to support a friend. One exception to the paper-mill was Graeme Bristol, speaking on Human Rights. I however never met anyone who had heard him, although he did get an award, presented by Louise.
New Zealand delegation
At the fourth level numerous specialist groups run their own show, taking advantage of the opportunity presented by many architects gathering together from all over the world. Poorer countries can often get support from governments or institutions, which would not be available for smaller gatherings. Ideally these groups meet just before the main show, but in Tokyo everything happened at once, resulting in considerable conflicts of interest. At a UIA gathering anyone interested in writing, for example, can meet up with everyone else who is interested in writing. The architectural critics present a “show and tell” variation which can in turn be called presenting a “paper” for CV purposes. If you have a favourite author they will probably be there talking about something.
Tokyo is a maze of wires
Student participation can challenge the conventional wisdom. In Tokyo the students were kept away from the Forum with a jamboree in another part of town. I never got to meet a single student and they never got to challenge anything. I have no idea as to what happened to them. In ten year’s time today’s students will make up more than half of the world’s architects.
Texting each other?
After intense debate behind the scenes Congresses can endorse a declaration. Chicago, for example, is remembered for the “Declaration on Interdependence”. Tokyo ended up with no debate, and only an inconsequential and meaningless statement which would have been forgotten by the time delegates arrived home.
Of course there are tours, usually both before and after the Congress. Some are just for a day. Others can be for a week or more. You tend to meet interesting people on bus trips because there is enough time to get beyond polite conversations.
The Assembly follows the Congress. This is the business meeting of the UIA, and for practical purposes the only chance individuals have to bring about significant changes. At Montreal I managed, for example, to get a motion passed directing all the Institutes of the world to have an environmental policy. That was a considerable achievement. No one realised that at that time New Zealand was not yet a member of the UIA. As in any political situation you need to get the numbers, which is not easy. Motions from the floor need a three-quarters majority which makes it even more difficult. Each country now has a number of votes proportional to their membership. In Tokyo New Zealand had two.
Akio in CPM
The usual round of reports can be either boring or provocative. Most write what they hope posterity will remember, avoiding what needs to be said. The work of the UIA however has a considerable impact on the life of every architect, although most are not aware of it. The UIA has three Commissions, on Architectural Education, Professional Practice, and International Competitions. At the next level down there are numerous working groups. They all report. Then voting follows, with most positions fiercely contested. The grand finale to voting is the vote for the venue of the Congress in six years time. Parties, films, and presentations curry favour. In Tokyo Seoul was chosen as the 2017 venue.
It seemed to me that the atmosphere in Tokyo was sombre and subdued. There was little excitement and no flamboyance. This was very different to my personal experience of Japanese architects over the years. I have found them to be an eccentric, playful and quirky bunch. Everything this time round was on time. Nothing went wrong. The Japanese ran a very tight ship. After so many global catastrophes it seemed the world could never be the same again. But it was.
Texture of Tokyo
My diary fleshes out the UIA Tokyo 2011 story for anyone with the interest to read it.
Metabolim in Mori
Friday 23 September 2011
Karaka Bay – Tokyo
We left Karaka Bay around 5.40am in Helen’s little Honda. It was a perfect, magical morning. The sky was flooded with red. A sharp crescent moon was hanging over Motukorea. I gave thanks for my place and my life. I knew that this was the place I wanted to return to. By 6.30am we were at the airport. An effortless check in with an e-ticket. My check in bag was only 11kg. It could have been 23kg. My carry on bag was 5kg. That could have been 7kg. I was well within my 30kg allowance in spite of all the heavy books. A coffee and I began work on the notebook which was to become my trip diary. A sudden panic when I realised my flight was flashing red for boarding.
My new e-smart passport sent me off through a special lane. My passport was read by a machine which issued a ticket, which you then pushed into a slot to have a photograph taken. I set off the security alarms, but it seemed to be the coins in my pocket and the buckle of my belt as much as my hip. After some fussing around I was on my way. I had not thought it through, but realised when eyeballing the security check that a letter or a card to say I had had a hip replacement could have easily been a fake, and thus would have made no difference. Later I realised the only problem was going to be getting back onto the plane, or possibly getting in to the Congress. It was almost impossible to find Gate 4 lost among all the duty free shops, but by the time I arrived they had not yet started loading.
10K was the best seat in the 777-300, ahead of the wing as well as the turbulence and noise from the engines. The window was in a perfect relationship to the seat. Starboard. We took off to the east. Astonishing views across Waiheke and Ponui to Coromandel and the Barriers. Then Leigh, Goat Island, Pakiri and the Whangarei Heads, all the while looking into reflections from the rising sun. New Zealand had never looked more beautiful. Cloud cover over the north. Then a magical skyscape all the way to Japan.
An astonishing collection of islands and atolls. A string of islands stretching both north and south from Port Vila in Vanuatu. Probably Honiara in the Solomons. A string of islands and atolls stretching north from Guam. The magic continued as we descended into Narita, doing a few twists and turn as the airport controllers changed the runway we were to land on. Rice fields and wind farms. Very intensive and very Japanese. Along the way we had indulged in breakfast, a very late lunch, and lots of water. Celebrated the wonder of it all with a glass of champagne.
I should have been taking photos but it was all too awkward when jammed into the seat on the plane, as I was not yet organised. Thought about my GAPS presentation and decided that I needed a whiteboard so that I could sketch, rather than being tyrannised by PowerPoint. From time to time my mate in the aisle seat headed off to the loo and I took each opportunity to get some exercise. I was delighted when I had no swelling whatsoever in my legs and did not need the elastic stockings I had taken in my hand luggage.
A hassle-free entry. Paid 1000 yen for a ticket on Kesei from Narita Airport to Nippori. 120 yen from there to Takadanobaba on the Yamanote line. 200 yen from there to Iogi. A slightly terrifying moment when I found myself on an express and I was not sure about the correct station to change to a local train. Made it at Saginomiya. Only two stops from there to Iogi. Easily found Akio’s house. This time I knew what I was looking for.
A great welcome from Akio, Kazuko and their new dog, Pop. The ritual of opening presents. Gave them “Home Work”, the “Ata Whenua” DVD, and cards and a painting from Helen. Akio provided three huge A1 sheets of Congress presentations, which I discovered much later, were actually at the Earth Catalogue exhibition space. Miki had been working upstairs in her office, and said hi as she headed home. Natuski had evacuated to the hills north of Kyoto to get away from possible radiation.
I moved into my wonderful Tokyo home and was in bed by 1am New Zealand time, or 10pm Tokyo time.
The completed dome
Saturday 24 September 2011
Tokyo – Earth Catalogue exhibition
A fantastic sleep and no after effects from the flight. Perhaps a little numbness in my hands. Put away my bedding, and it was already 8.30am. Time for breakfast, but no one seemed to be around. By the time I checked again they had finished and mine was waiting. Five wonderful dishes. Tea with dried herbs from the garden. Natsuki rang Kazuko, so I had a yarn with her about her reasons for moving away from the nuclear radiation. Organised a rough itinerary for my stay with Akio, and checked through the programme of “Earth Catalogue” presentations. Sorted out all my gear and settled in. Moved my watch three hours back. 1pm became 10am.
Packed my “Tokyo bag” to head out into hot sunshine. A gentle breeze. The typhoon had well gone. The 4.8 earthquake two days ago was forgotten. “None of the books fell off the shelf.” Kazuko prepared a wonderful lunch. Soup made from vegetables out of the garden, fish, toast with home made jam and coffee. A walk in the garden.
Down to the bus with Akio, and on to Ogikubo station. 210 yen seemed to be the standard fare regardless of the distance travelled. Akio paused at a camera shop, and then sorted out a “Suica” card for me, which was the same as the one he had. For 2000 yen it seemed to offer free travel on buses and trains. It took me another day to discover that the fare was deducted from the card for each journey, nothing was free, and you then needed to charge it again. It provided convenience rather than any cost-saving. The hassle of getting tickets was soon forgotten. Swipe the card and just walk through. The Chuo line was the fast and direct way to Tokyo station. Half the people on the trains seemed to spend their time on their cell phones. The rest were listening to iPods.
To the Forum. There was little happening inside, but the whole length of the façade was devoted to panels from the 10,000 architects web project. Five of the panels were from New Zealand. John Palmer, Andrew Lister, Murray Robertson, Carolyn Smith and Les Dykstra. Not the people I would have expected. 95% were Japanese, of every persuasion, with only a few addressing the real environmental concerns. Used my LX5 for the first time for real photographs.
Over to the “Earth Catalogue” exhibition in an adjacent building. Some familiar old faces among the panels. A display by Paulo Soleri, still advocating Arcosanti mega-structures. The co-op housing in Sweden and Denmark was familiar, but in Tokyo I discovered there were three high-rise dense experiments in communal living. Some exhibition panels highlighted material from Mitsbishi and other big firms, providing systems for projects such as the space station. Minamota was the most interesting. Toxic mercury outflows there had destroyed the health of the inhabitants. They were re-establishing the community through ritual, the lighting of candles, and becoming an “open air museum to show what might be”. They had much to teach Christchurch.
Akio needed a coffee so we went next door to ”Pub Cardinal Maranouchi” (PCM). The dark wooden panelling was reminiscent of an English pub. A woman came in and sat in the far corner. She looked around, saw me, and filled everyone with astonishment as she raced over to give me an enormous hug. It was Fujico Nozawa. She was working as a translator for the Earth Catalogue and taking a quick coffee break between sessions. She went back to work and we had another coffee.
Back to the exhibition for a 90 minute round table discussion on an experiment in involving the community and children in the design of schools. A very high profile gathering of all the key players, but sadly a very small audience. Fujico did a fantastic simultaneous translation, never pausing for a whole hour, but I think it was only for me. A long discussion afterwards with Hikaru Kobayshi about what Enviroschools was doing in New Zealand in really empowering children rather than just letting them play someone else’s game. He wanted to follow up.
We returned home on the Chuo express, across Tokyo to Ogikubo, and then by the direct number 5 bus to Iogi. Kazuko provided another wonderful meal with many dishes. The Geiger counter on the table measured the radiation at 0.1, whatever that meant. We were not sure.
Sunday 25 September 2011
Tokyo - Metabolism
Another fantastic sleep. This was a real holiday and my body was beginning to appreciate it. Breakfast at 8.30am. Rice with naito, vegetables, fish, coffee. An enormous black butterfly was enjoying the garden. Another small yellow butterfly was also darting around, along with others. Akio suggested it was common to have many butterflies.
With Akio by bus to Ogikubo and then on the Chuo line to Tokyo Station. We walked to the Forum. I went straight to the Press Registration Desk only to find that my name was not on their list. I was devastated. After getting everything to come together it was now falling apart. They were not very helpful, only suggesting I should come back tomorrow afternoon when they would not be busy. It did not seem to me that they were busy right now. I insisted. They sent me up to 605. No one there was helpful. They insisted that my problem should be resolved back at the Registration Desk. I was caught in the familiar cycle of everyone passing the buck. They insisted that they had never received my application. Eventually I gave up.
Akio in contrast had taken only minutes to register, so that it became embarrassing to waste his time. I suspect he did not really understand what was going on, but neither did I. Later I found that when Patrick Clifford turned up they had also lost his registration. Probably they were embarrassed however to have messed up the President of the NZIA, and they gave him a “guest” registration until they finally got his registration sorted out.
Over to the Earth Catalogue for a round-table presentation on temporary timber housing for the emergency in Fukushima. Rather like a Lockwood construction, so the architecture was reasonable enough, but rather extravagant on resources when the whole countryside was littered with available building materials. Sadly the layout of the village was like a work camp. The tyranny of the straight line and the right angle.
Architects profess to be great lateral thinkers, but this presentation left me feeling they were woefully incompetent. Why did the housing need to be temporary? The architects were more in denial than the government. The radiation was not going to go away for some generations. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were small in scale compared to the bomb they had dropped on themselves.
Another assumption of the architects was that you cannot make a place your own almost immediately. It is only bad, control-freak architecture which makes this impossible. Architecture gets in the way. A nomad can personalise a space as soon as they arrive. The long row of doors in the work camp were deserted and the architects could not see why.
Later I was to learn that it all got worse. When you were living under a tarpaulin funding was available from the government. When you moved into emergency accommodation the government help dried up. Now you had a bill for power, water and other services, but no job and no income. Those who could stayed under tarpaulins because at least the architecture was not working against them.
We had got it all wrong in Christchurch and now they were getting it all wrong in Japan. Fifty-five years ago in the Oxford Unit we had concluded that the best way to help the victims of a disaster was to keep architects away. Nothing had changed over that time. Unfortunately the whole session was in Japanese with no simultaneous translation so that I was not in position to ask questions.
The organisers of UIA Tokyo 2011 had changed the theme to “beyond disasters”, but it took Tadeo Ando or SANAA to pack 5000 people into Hall A. Social responsibility involves changing the way we think.
Akio took me to lunch at a franchise with which he was familiar. Slightly “Hungry Horse”, but very good Japanese food. A beer to wash it down.
Off with Akio to Roppongi. City Hall was cold and ugly like most contemporary architecture. There were architects everywhere but no one was allowed up the stairs. Akio and I sat for a while “people watching” and then went up to the cinema. It had every gimmick from water cascading down sheets of glass to dark seductive lighting. Our cinemas are bad enough, but this was worse. Akio had never been here before, and I got the feeling he was never likely to be there again.
When access to the Mori Museum was finally opened they could not cope with the crowd, and the queues stretched for great distances. The organisers hoped that the architects would move quickly through the “Metabolism” exhibition. Not much chance of that, with hundreds of interesting captions to read. Then I complicated matters, as I did not have a registration. I thought they were going to turn me away, but finally 1000 yen opened the right doors. We packed into the exhibition. Perhaps the highlights were the superb models of unrealised project along with computer generated fly throughs. This was the first time the whole of the metabolist movement’s work had been brought together in one place. A magnificent catalogue complemented the exhibition.
Akio was keen to move on to the “welcome party” but that proved to be something of a nightmare. The people were packed so solidly it was impossible to move anywhere or do anything. Louise was somewhere in the throng, making a speech along with other dignitaries. It was impossible to get to wherever she was but we did see a little on a video screen. The organisers made a plaintive plea for quiet, but no one took any notice. By now it was well dark with expansive views across the lights of Tokyo, but to enjoy them you needed to get to the perimeter, and no one was going to move to make that possible. Travelling on peak-hour trains was essential training for a party like this.
Akio could not get to friends lost somewhere in the crowd, and eventually decided he had had enough. We extracted ourselves and headed home.
Contrast by Tadeo Ando
Monday 26 September 2011
Tokyo – UIA Congress
A patchy sleep. I was worried about my registration, and pondering the best next move. Up at 6am. Akio called me to breakfast around 7am. We headed off soon after 8am. By bus to Ogikubo and then by Chuo to Tokyo station to walk on to the Forum.
Everyone at the Registration Desk greeted me with great smiles. They had found all my documentation and it was sitting on the desk. I was registered. With a yellow band to my name tag I was in business. When I eventually arrived back in New Zealand I found an email telling me the good news.
On to the Opening Ceremony at 10am in Hall A, with the Emperor and Empress in attendance. The Japanese seemed be awestruck by this and security was tight. Apparently they never go to anything. So different from New Zealand. I thought of the time an overseas visitor had asked me who was the man in the corner laughing with great gusto. When I said this was the Prime Minister he did not believe me. David Lange. I thought also of Helen Clark making her own coffee, or playing the piano while we all gathered around singing Christmas carols. Humility befits a leader. It is dangerous when anyone loses the common touch.
I wondered about the role of the Emperor in the Pacific war. A deity to die for. A justification for the most inhuman atrocities and torture. My recollection was that it was only after difficult negotiations that peace accord allowed the Japanese to keep the emperor. I was very hazy and I needed to check.
Before anything began we watched a 20-minute collection of the best still and movie press footage on the tsunami. There must have been enough warning to get a helicopter into the air. Watching the water rising perhaps 40 or 50 feet to then surge over the top of the defensive walls and sweep inland was almost beyond belief. Then when the water receded it took everything out to sea along with it. Awe inspiring indeed.
The opening ceremony itself was dull and boring. Tedious speeches with nothing to say and no flair. Later some Japanese expressed dismay to me that the Emperor had not even mentioned Tokohu or Fukushima. They were hoping for some sense of direction or even sympathy. No leadership. Nothing. A long line of wooden puppets playing a safe game.
After everyone had gone two performers appeared in traditional costume and I was able to enjoy exquisite shakuhachi. I thought of Farrell. Strangely this was to be the only nod to a very rich culture. I felt the need for waiata to lighten the tongue. More than endless speeches. I had expected a rich mix of everything from Noh to Kabuki. From a cultural viewpoint the Congress could have been in New York.
Out into the sun to take some photographs of the building going up in the courtyard. Doing a job is always more interesting than looking at the result. It was particularly interesting to watch the Japanese building. Every component was perfect. The quality of the timber was exquisite. Building as an art form.
Back into Hall A for “How to regain the hope of living”. I presumed this would kick the Congress off to a great beginning, but instead it contributed little to either hope or life. It was really a waste of time, but I kept telling myself that soon they would get around to lifting the spirit of those who had suffered from disasters.
Pratina Joshi was from www.shelter-associate.org India. Beyond natural disasters there were man-made disasters, such as the economy. She showed one of her new housing projects. Her key theme was struggling to change the attitudes of government officials. A universal problem, but she had no solutions. They used the slum dwellers to do their own surveying, but not their own building, although many of them ended up working for the firm doing the rebuilding. She never thought to question why the architect should clutch power while the dispossessed were left out of the game. We make people incompetent because we assume they are incompetent and need to be told what to do. I thought of Paul Pholeros when she explained that no one used the kitchens provided for them. Instead they cooked out on the balconies. The only good thing she showed was the invention of a smokeless chullah, which meant those doing the cooking did not also become blind.
I gave up and headed off to Hall D5, wishing I had been there all the time. The Region IV work programme “Architecture for a Sustainable Future” consisted of a series of short presentations. They were all over the place but interesting for providing a snapshot of current thinking.
Ben Nakamura advocated turning Fukushima into an energy farm, as it was useless for anything else. Lots of windmills and solar panels. Skidmore, Owings, Merrill explained that their building was sustainable because they had fire-proofed the lift-shaft so that it could be used by firemen to prevent the building burning down. No one laughed. Everyone was very polite. Manfred Hegger was very German.
Ken Yeang made some good points. 1) Don’t believe in all the rating systems. They are too narrow in their focus. 2) We need to look beyond individual buildings, and even beyond eco-systems and eco-regions. 3) We should not focus on new buildings. We need to retrofit our cities. 4) We need to change our life-styles. Humans are the entire cause of our ecological problems. We need to change our clients and ourselves.
Kazuo Iwamura’s wrap-up mentioned New Zealand. Patrick Clifford had spoken earlier, but unfortunately I had missed his presentation, not aware that it was happening. Not getting my registration had got me off to a really bad start as I did not get any documentation early enough to make it possible to plan.
Kazuo went on to explain that we would need an ecological disaster before people would move to renewable energy. His concern was not only with energy, but also materials. 95% of rare-metals become waste. Less than 1% was being reused. Comfort was a dinosaur. The EU was aiming at no houses below “passive house” level. Kazuo had unfortunately really lost the plot, but only because he was working so hard that he was not able get out of the sustainability smoke screen. He did not realise that constantly redefining the problem is not a very effective technique for changing the way people think.
Vassilas Sgoutas spoke about how he had suggested “architecture for the future” and then Kazuo had changed it to “sustainable architecture for the future”. He noted that disasters are often used to evict people. I did not waste my time suggesting we might do better to build appropriate architecture for now. At least people in the future would thank us for that.
Back in Hall A Christo was a breath of fresh air. He observed that his work is “completely irrational, illogical and with no justification beyond lifting the human spirit”. Above all he never repeated anything, so that he did not solve any problem, and he never indicated a future direction. No ethics were involved and none of his work made sense. That is why people loved it. If they missed it then it is gone forever. He had realised 22 projects. He was motivated by the sheer joy of being alive. His honesty was so refreshing, and probably quite beyond the greenwash architects who think they are saving the world.
Off to the “Architecture for all” work programme in D5. This would once have had a title like “access for the disabled” but now the world had changed along with the terminology. Joseph Kwan noted how these changes had been incorporated into the UN Convention. Egress to safety was critical, for example, in the event of a fire. Architecture which made it possible for everyone to lead a full life. A pity that he did not go so far as to say the architecture of our cities cripples the life of those who are forced to live in them.
Paul Keogh from Ireland presented a housing project he had done for the Society of St Vincent de Paul. It was right in the middle of town so that everything was within walking distance. Very humane. A bench was provided outside each door so that residents could sit in the sun. Vernacular architectural language. Modest and very Irish. I loved it.
Theme Session 2 was another disappointment. It was supposed to bring into focus the latest trends in politics and town planning but was just about playing games with buildings or on computer. Jordi Guimet, an engineer from Spain, Hidetoshi, an architect from Japan and Yu Liu, and architect from China were the panellists. Architect Ryuji Fujimura from Japan was the co-ordinator.
Tadao Ando was immensely popular, with 5000 packed into Hall A, and an overflow hall needed as well. Unfortunately I missed that so I could get to a RIBA gathering, but Akio enjoyed it.
Akio had suggested it would be just as quick to walk to the British Embassy as to go by subway and he was right. It was wonderful to walk around the moat of the Imperial Palace and get some fresh air. Along the way I found the Supreme Court, sandwiched between the Diet and the National Theatre, Shin’ichi Okada won a competition for the design in 1969. It used so much granite that the price of gravestones in Japan rose dramatically.
The RIBA Reception at the British Embassy was very British, even down to “fish and chips” being provided for those longing for home after sushi and sashimi. The tight security checks suggested they were a little nervous. The rioting however seemed to be back in London. The ambassador exhorted us to support Japan, and Angela Brady, President of the RIBA, said all the right things. I was able to congratulate her on her recent election.
Rumour had it that there was a better party at the Swiss Embassy, and by 8pm only a few of us were left. After doing some circles, and jumping in and out of taxis, three of us walked to the Hanzomon subway station. I was able to take a train through to Nakai on the Seibu-Shinjuku line, and then a local train to Iogi. It was early enough to enjoy the luxury of a furo in my own space.
School design meeting
Tuesday 27 September 2011
Tokyo – UIA Congress
I was awake at 7am. A full Japanese breakfast. With Akio by bus to Ogikubo and the Chuo express to Tokyo Station. Walked to the Forum.
Theme Session 3 had begun in Hall A at 9am, and in the customary way it of course had nothing to do with the theme. Madhula Prematilike from Sri Lanka presented a tropical refurbishment of an old building. The lush greenery reminded me of Karaka Bay. It seemed to leave everyone else green with envy. The opulence left no hint of disaster. It seemed that their tsunami was as remote as the genocide of the Tamils.
Thomas Lechner was from Germany but operating internationally. A small line of squares below his slides showed how far through his presentation he was. A brilliant idea. If a speaker was hopeless you could know how much time you had to do something else. If a speaker was brilliant you could know how little time there was left to hang on every word. I resolved to try and do this with my own presentations. He began with an illustration of his grandfather’s house, which used no energy as was built only with the aid of a horse. It was a message which everyone needed to hear, but it seemed to me that no one was listening. They were consultants to Foster on Masdar. Cutting down at the beginning was the way to go. I could not see how that related to Masdar.
Masao Koizumi was supposed to be the co-ordinator but somehow managed to explain his “open-ended house”. A complex, high-tech, analytical approach to design. Architects are salesmen. You cannot stop them once they see an opportunity.
In the lobby I met Yuichiro Kodama quite by chance. We had not seen each other since I had helped Graeme organise the PLEA Conference in New Zealand, and Kodama had stayed in my house at Karaka Bay, along with many of the other delegates. Great bear hugs. I think Akio was beginning to wonder about the un-Japanese exuberance of my friends. Kodama sent an email to invite me to the PLEA meeting. I did not get that until I was back in New Zealand, but fortunately he copied it to Akio.
Tried the “earthquake truck” which was demonstrating the effectiveness of base isolation. You could dial up a 6, for example, and then try a base-isolated 6. The theory was impeccable. I decided to reserve judgement until I saw how Te Papa survived a slip on the Wellington fault.
A display of traditional Japanese craftsmen in timber had been set up close to the information kiosk. The master-craftsman planed off a single sliver of timber for me. It was paper-thin. I marvelled that a plane could be so sharp in the same way that I marvelled at the plaster in Akio’s Maebashi restaurant. Culture goes far beyond skill to questions of attitude.
Up to find the media room at 608. It was disappointing and of no help. Above all there were no press releases and no up-to-date information about what was happening. I thought of WUF3 where the media room had a video link into every venue. You could easily check exactly what was happening anywhere in the whole complex, and who was speaking. Then you could select your venue and head off to it. On that occasion the icing on the cake for me was when I was working late. All the screens had died except one. It featured a superb display by Cirque du Soleil. I assumed it must be a film. Then the penny dropped. They had forgotten to turn off the video and I was actually watching a dress rehearsal of the closing ceremony. I dropped everything and raced off to be the only spectator in the hall with my very own performance of Cirque du Soleil. Unforgettable.
The lack of information led to the frustration of a very hit and miss engagement with the Congress. You can be fast on your feet if you know what is going on, but it is no help to just know that, for example CICA was running their own show for three days. My great disappointment was that I missed Graeme Bristol talking on “Human rights”.
Japanese computers left me baffled, like so many of their systems. Every key seemed to be multi functional and even my attempts to hook into the internet failed. Normally there were staff to help reporters, but in Tokyo you were on your own. I only went back to the pressroom once more to gather up press releases, but there was nothing. For all their concern about accrediting press, and wanting good coverage they made it impossible.
On to the UIA work programme on Children in D5. The Shimuzu Open Academy runs free programmes which anyone can attend. For example you might want to know more about earthquakes. In a day there is a theoretical introduction, the experience of different magnitudes and types, and demonstrations of how different kinds of buildings or junctions perform in an earthquake. I would have sent every New Zealand politician and reporter off to do their course. Everyone ought to understand basic ideas like why chimneys collapse and how shear walls perform. If the architects for the Grand Chancellor had done the course they could have saved many people a lot of heartache. I would have sent Bob Harvey so that he could understand liquefaction. In fact, most of those who did any of their numerous free courses were students, usually university students.
I then discovered Architectural Gymnastics, also in D5. People acted out buildings. It was fun and a way of getting people to look more closely at both architecture and their own bodies, with some chance of seeing the connection between the two. They have published a book but I failed to find it.
In Austria Architecture is part of the school curriculum, and they have intensive training programmes for the teachers who will implement the curriculum. In New Zealand I had failed to get architecture introduced into the new curriculum, largely because of last minute opposition from the NZIA. I was also acutely aware of the need to train teachers. When I was running courses for engineering students at Auckland University my greatest difficulty was dealing with ignorant tutors. They did not listen, because they were convinced they knew it all, and they did not understand because they were not listening. Then they became a barrier between the students and understanding. The Auckland University process was seriously flawed.
The Swedish “architectural tool kit” for schoolchildren was interesting. It was cheap because it was simple. Students could hold a mirror just below their eyes and transform their world by seeing the ceiling above them or the birds in the trees. With a blindfold students could learn to listen to architecture. I thought of how I used to blindfold my university students and then get them to tell me where they were by feeling the surfaces of buildings. www.playce.org
By 3pm I was at “Sustainable by Design” again in D5. It was scheduled for 2.30pm – 4.30pm, and Louise had asked me to be there. This was all very confusing, as I had assumed close co-ordination with what Kazuo was doing. There seemed to be none.
Janesh spoke on enormous schemes. Manfred Hegger spoke on buildings as power stations. After 31 December all EU buildings must produce more energy than they consume. A whole series of superb buildings. A house retrofitted with a glasshouse. A large factory.
The Chinese presenter showed photos of a museum built entirely from the rubble of houses which had been demolished. It had been designed for 3000 visitors/day. In the first six months they were never able to close, with more than 20,000 visitors every day. It was not clear whether they liked the museum or were pining for their demolished houses. I thought of Kazuo’s scheme where people were expected to walk on paths paved with the roof tiles of their homes, which had been demolished to make way for Kazuo’s development. To me it was a form of torture.
The guy from Mexico was fantastic. He presented all the facts I hoped everyone knew, but then focused on Biomimicry. Learning from nature. Structures like trees. His big project was recovering the rivers of Mexico City. The site was not really a lake but rather a great wetland. If recovered it could purify all the city’s water. Slow it down. Highways which have covered rivers needed to be taken away again. Unfortunately no one from Auckland City was there to listen.
I asked the panel a question. The problem with politics is the concentration of power. We, as architects, exercise power and we do not want to give it away. We should take one idea away from the Congress. Getting everyone involved in the building process. Nods of agreement, but I do not think anyone understood.
Met Akio by chance so I shouted him a coffee. Off to the Singapore stand in the exhibition hall to pick up the book they had produced on “One World” which Mary Ann Lazarus from the AIA had shown me. It was really a plug for having the 2017 Congress in Singapore, but I was interested to see what they were thinking. As I passed I had a very brief look in Hall C to at least get a taste of the symposium on community and architecture.
The 5.30-6.30pm presentation by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA in Hall A was very popular. No wonder. They were so young but had completed projects like the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne, or the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. They explained their design thinking but never revealed how they got the jobs. They were the stars of the new generation.
Akio and I headed home together. I probably should have gone to the Awards Ceremony but it would have made me very late.
Metabolism in Mori
Wednesday 28 September 2011
Tokyo – UIA Congress
Another fantastic, sound sleep with deep dreams about tramping up into the Japanese mountains. Another Japanese breakfast. Another phone call from Natsuke. Away by 8am for the final day of the UIA Congress. With Akio by bus to Ogikubo and then the Chuo express train to Tokyo Station.
We were at the Forum by 9am for Christof Ingenhoven. A very smooth operator. Zero energy, zero emissions and zero waste. He conveniently left out the environmental cost of getting the buildings up, or for that matter getting them down, but he was concerned about marketing rather than dealing with the real issues. He was so enthusiastic about taking the audience with him that he claimed to be going “beyond green”. I was left wondering how many architects believed him and how many realised that it was all showmanship. He casually threw Sana in the Yemen into the mix, without quite getting into mud-brick, political and community processes, or how it was built. For him it seamlessly led to the Lufthanser Headquarters. The main station in Stuttgart was still a proposal but with a green roof to become a park. The breeze tower in Osaka was a skyscraper with natural ventilation. He raced on to the UDC University College in Dublin before anyone could wonder about the logic. Drilling 1.5km down into the earth to extract energy showed just how advanced the technology had become. There was no time to explore the way in which buildings were demanding bigger and bigger footprints. The European Investment Bank in Luxembourg. Swarovski in Zurich used the whole lake for heating and cooling. 1 Bligh Street in Sydney was apparently a brilliant solution because the plan form was oval. There was not time to mention that Architectus had been involved, so Patrick and perhaps the Aussies must have been wondering how many other architects did not get a mention. The university in Dusseldorf with a lake in front. As the clapping subsided no one seemed to notice that he had at best only postponed the collapse of the planet by salving the consciences of those making big money out of the built environment.
In the lobby I met up with Tom Henigan, John Wardle, and other Aussie architects along with Patrick Clifford. They disappeared into the throng.
Down to the exhibition hall “Sustainable by design” stand for a round table discussion with Louise Cox. It was all over the place. No wonder the UIA was not having any political impact. In despair I suggested putting all the sustainability presentations on the web, or making them available as a DVD. At least that would give the real players some idea as to how bizarre everything had become. Everyone thought this would be too expensive until I pointed out that my web site had cost nothing to set up. Silence. We all drifted off.
Some nostalgic time with Annette Blevgard and Gaetan Siew. Annette had been a critical person at WSSD in Copenhagen, and Gaetan had been with me for the judging of the Gallipoli Peace Park. I had last seen Annette at a drunken party in Berlin, and Gaetan in Vancouver at WUF3, not long before I had my stroke.
By now the “dome” in the courtyard was finished, and a lecture series was under way in a cluster of adjacent tents. I listened to a little of the presentation on organic forms. Up to check out the 608 pressroom. It was deserted and there was no new information. I was on my own. A cup of coffee.
A brief visit to CICA in D1. Probably good stuff but a critical analysis of Mexican architecture all seemed a little tedious. The problem with architectural critics is that they spend all their time talking to each other until the dialogue becomes so incestuous and introverted that it is irrelevant. The libraries get filled with their books and then the academics grind through it all again so that they will get promoted by seeming to be terribly intellectual. Meanwhile the world has gone off somewhere else.
The Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Yoezer Thinley, was introduced by Kazuo Iwamura. Jigmi explained that happiness was a very serious topic. He asked us all to smile. He explained at great length what was wrong with the world. It was so déjà vu. I hoped that he had underestimated his audience, but it was hard to tell. Development must serve a purpose. GNP was not a measure of anything. He wanted “Gross National Happiness” or GNH. Material improvement must not bring spiritual losses. 4 pillars divided into 9 domains. Make people resilient instead of protecting us from heat and cold. We need buildings which are less intimidating and less daunting, so that they might bring out the best in us. We have the luxury of choice.
Question time brought the generalities into focus. For example there was a question about young people. Students had asked their parents to let them walk to school, instead of being driven, so they could hold hands, build relationships, and learn about the environment. He was asked about opposition and said there had been no resistance.
Met up with Miki and another Japanese architect who had been at UIA Brighton 1987.
Off with Akio on the new Keiyo railway line to “big site” in Tokyo Bay. The line seemed to wander all over the place, providing fantastic views of Tokyo Bay. This was where the trade show was being held. We went up to 609 for a PLEA gathering. The room was packed. The series of short presentations and the round table discussion which followed were unfortunately all in Japanese and completely incomprehensible to me. I used the time to check out the Congress guide to see if I had missed anything. The one person on the panel who spoke English summed it all up. “Profit is the problem. First you had slums. They were cheap. Then you get Europe exploiting Asia, South America etc. Now you have globalisation, which is making a profit from the environment. If you do not change that nothing will change.” Farewelled Kodama and took the train back to the Forum.
The closing ceremony was as bland and as boring as the opening ceremony. It felt as though Japan had been overwhelmed by disaster and there was no room for joy or celebration. The Congress was however judged to have been a great success. There were 5000 participants, 1700 from overseas and 3300 from Japan.
Akio took me to a sushi bar very close to the Ogikubo Station.
Kazuko's wonderful breakfast
Thursday 29 September 2011
Tokyo – Sustainability bus trip
Awake at 6.15am. Up at 6.30am. With Akio and Kazuko by bus to Ogikubo and then the Chuo line to Tokyo Station, to walk on the Forum. Groups were gathering around placards announcing various tours. Our sustainability bus left very soon after the 9am advertised time. Japanese are punctual and expect everyone else to be so too.
Our first stop was the architectural offices of MHS Planners, Architects and Engineers. This was the second retrofit of a 1960’s office building. We were whisked up to the top floor for an introduction by Masaki Nakasono, the mastermind of the firm. The packet on each of our seats included the March issue of A+U which featured 50 architects’ offices, including theirs, of course. There was also a lavish A1 colour brochure with airports here, skyscrapers there, and stadiums somewhere else. A seriously big firm. A print out of the power-point presentation was helpful. If you are marketing ideas you need to make it easy for listeners. A pity none of the Congress speakers did this. It would have been simple to set up a master-list with links to web-sites with all the material presented at the Congress.
The screen rolled up to reveal a vertical garden behind, still dripping from being freshly watered. The PR was impeccable. Out the window you could see the roof garden down below. No use doing the right thing unless you tell the world about it. We were taken on a tour to see other features such as the new communication void. How the earthquake strengthening created a pendulum escaped me. A pity. I have always been interested in the dynamic techniques used for earthquake proofing pagodas. The New Zealand approach since the sixties has been built on the premise of static resistance. This is flawed because when you reach the limit everything falls apart. None of this fundamental thinking was being addressed by the Royal Commission looking at what went wrong in Christchurch. Too many people with something to hide and money to make.
The building was the first to achieve the highest S rank in the CASBEE for renovation environmental assessment. There is now a global obsession to get the highest ranking in some system or other, and if you cannot meet someone else’s standard then you invent one of your own. It is game of no relevance to the environmental crisis.
The move to computers in Japan has been dramatic. Once they were far behind New Zealand. Now there is not a drawing board to be seen. The meeting rooms with a cluster of tables to seat groups of three or four remained. The technology had changed but not the rituals.
Our bus then took us north to our second site visit. The Itabashi Campus of the Daito Bunka University had a special emphasis on calligraphy. The main building was sheathed in transparent photovoltaic panels, vertical on the walls and horizontal at the roof level. I raised the issue of efficiency at these angles and no one seemed to know the answers. I presumed amorphous silicone but no one seemed to be too sure about that either. They said they would get back to me. The internal spaces created by this screen were delightful.
The roofs were green. There were windmills. Of course digital read-outs too, so that everyone would know how much energy the school was generating, and how much it was using. Ben Nakamura, the architect, was warm and friendly, like his building. The real solution to sustainability lies in changing the people we are. Our buildings really are reflections of ourselves.
Then we drove far to the south, in part on the overhead expressway, to the Minato-Ward Elementary School and Kindergarten. The facilities provided for such young students were just mind-bending. Not only an incredible gymnasium, but also a grand piano sitting in the corner. Not only complete workshops, but the students also allowed free access to bandsaws and other dangerous equipment. It all seemed like an incredible learning environment, but Kazuko had a very astute comment. They had no experience of nature in the raw. Everything was tamed and controlled. Their world denied them experience of the real world.
Back to the Forum, right on time. 5pm. Along the way Akio distributed the Arc-Peace hand-outs and I offered a brief explanation, saying how Akio had changed the world. When anyone else was invited to speak all someone could say was “That would be a hard act to follow”. A crowd of us went off to coffee. Then we headed back to Iogi.
Meanwhile, back at the Forum Patrick Clifford had been flying the New Zealand flag while being bored by endless reports back from UIA working groups etc. The problem when reports focus on PR rather than tricky issues is that they waste everyone’s time. Somehow Tokyo managed to avoid all serious debate, although there was a desperate need for it.
Friday 30 September 2011
Tokyo – UIA Assembly
I made my own way along what was by now a familiar route to the Forum for the second day of the UIA Assembly, or so I thought. The bus I had jumped onto turned right at the next intersection and I realised it was going to Nishi-Ogikubo. Fortunately I knew that Nishi meant “west” so I figured this would be the next station. I settled down to enjoy places I had never been to before.
I spent the whole of the day at the UIA Assembly. Most of the boring reports had been dealt with yesterday. Approving recommendations of the Commissions is important. The UNESCO/UIA Charter for Architectural Education, for example, sets the global standards by which Schools of Architecture will be accredited. With Auckland University going down the corporate path architecture is seen as serving the rich and powerful. Students are trained to become servants, and ethics are left off the agenda. Staff who are concerned about culture, integrity, diversity, vernacular, or for that matter real sustainability as opposed to greenwash, are simply dismissed. Auckland University ignores the Charter. I doubt that any of those in positions of power have even read it.
At the moment there are 1.5 million architects in the world. In ten years time there will be 3 million, and more than half of those will be women. Half would also be under 30.
The NZIA also ignores the Charter. It states, for example, that “issues related to architecture and the environment should be introduced as part of the general education at primary and secondary schools”. The NZIA has always opposed this.
The Assembly voted to add that for architects “an understanding of sustainability, the social context and sense of place is essential”. This was important when not even New Zealand Architecture was now being taught at Auckland University.
Gaetan Siew advocated setting standards, which seemed to me to be exactly the wrong thing to do. I forgave him when he said “It is not a matter of predicting the future, but of being prepared for it.” Pericles (500-429BC). Politician and commander.
The Professional Practice Commission worried me with their negotiations with WTO to establish an accord for trading in architectural services. This “placed architects in the forefront of the professions”. Not in my opinion. It was a fast route to global placelessness. WTO is leading the world into global economic collapse. I did not dare to mention that we had a Prime Minister who made enormous profits from trading in money, with the cost borne by the community.
I had clashed with Jordi Farrando in the past over work programmes, so I let his report just slide by. The Australian CPD system is registered, but New Zealand is not. After all the trouble I had had with ARB I gave up on that one. Jordi also reported on the new UIA web-site. I would have advocated open-source with my belief in open government. Everyone has a right to know what is going on. I thought of the NZIA refusing to make even Council minutes available, and decided I had other battles to fight.
“Innovation Engines” was a proposal to circulate the exhibition on UIA Competitions, which had in part been on display in the exhibition hall, around the world. It included Ian Athfield in Manila and the work I had done on the Gallipoli Peace Park. I remained a little unclear as to how it was supposed to happen. Ideally the University could bring it to New Zealand and provide a venue for display.
The vision and strategy report presented by Gaetan was so complicated that it just slid through. Louise’s report on her “Sustainable by Design” strategy seemed to be a request for the work programmes in each region to adopt her 10-point plan. If she had been ignored up until now by people like Kazuo I could not see how the Assembly could change anything. Louise was back again to present the 2012/2014 General Policy.
Lisa Siola presented a series of bylaw amendments. I felt that asking host member sections to pay the accommodation and local costs for all past presidents, all the UIA commission directors, and five regional organisations was crazy. You need to run a tight ship, not have enormous meetings which eat their heads off. The Council was already too big and most New Zealand architects were struggling to keep their heads above water. However it was the nine years and out rule for Alternates which blew the place apart. A decision was held over until the morrow.
Sandwiches and coffee in the foyer for lunch. A chance to chat with Kazuo.
We tested the voting machines, to confirm a total of 243 votes. There was a roll call so I responded for New Zealand, as Patrick was away somewhere. Voting began. The candidates for President gave short speeches. Saif Allah Mohamed Samy Abou Alnaga (Egypt) did not do a good verbal presentation. Albert Dubler (France) had good verbal skills, and spoke of acceptable architecture, along with social and cultural responsibility. He had at least heard of climate change, although his enthusiasm for WTO was a worry. Chong Chia Goh (Singapore) was efficient and a good speaker. Small as well as big in scale. A politician. Mauricio Borrell (Mexico) was energetic and a good networker. Paul-Andre Tetreault (Montreal) was a bureaucrat, not a front man. He wanted a business plan for 10 years.
No one achieved 50% in the first vote so there a run off. Dubler (France) 56%, Borrell (Mexico) 43%. Michael Barmaki became Secretary General and Patricia Emmet became Treasurer. The other candidates withdrew. Everyone got to vote for the Vice-Presidents of all the other regions, which seemed to be rather unfair. Region II went to Deniz Incendayi (Turkey), Region III to Thomas Vonier (USA), Region IV to Esa Mohamed (Malaysia), and Region V to Ali Hayder (Sudan).
We needed a coffee break, with more sandwiches. This was followed by elections for the Council. That was more than enough for the day. I needed some fresh air.
With the vote for the 2017 venue coming up in the morning we were all invited to the Imperial Hotel for a very lavish Korean party. I was met at the door by a girl in traditional Korean costume carrying a lantern. Checked in my bag of papers, and then a Korean sash was draped over me. Within the Orchid Room a bevy of chefs were preparing an exquisite banquet. The speed with which it was demolished left me astonished. Then a rather tacky musical item and finally the tone descended down to Karaoke. Time to go. As it was I got Akio out of bed, although he claimed I had not.
Opening with the emperor
Saturday 1 October 2011
Tokyo – UIA Assembly
Up at 7am. Breakfast with Akio. The bus to Ogikubo. The right one this time. I knew to let the Nishi-Ogikubo bus go by. Arrived at the Forum around 9.30am and walked into B7 to find myself in the middle of the presentation on Singapore. There was some contention as they had changed their bid in favour of students. They withdrew the change.
The Koreans followed. Seoul now had a population of 11 million, 3 UNESCO world heritage sites, and a rich cultural heritage. More importantly they were providing free board and lodgings for 300 students and 300 architects from poor countries. The registration for other students was to be only 50 euros. There was to be a free transportation card for all delegates. Their convention centre held 10,000.
The Mexico bid looked as though it had been thrown together at the last moment. They had a film, which was mostly dated tourist material, and then Ricardo Legoretto talked on endlessly, but the film quality was poor. NZL81 appeared briefly. All sex and seduction. “Extreme urbanism” was their theme. It might have had some meaning when the last UIA Congress was held in Mexico in 1978, but now it left the feeling they had lost the plot.
Louise had her arm in a sling and I discovered she had fallen off the stage at the Korean party last night and broken it. Coffee. A few photographs.
Louise explained the voting system, and then Gaetan did the same. There were 253 machines so this was the maximum number of votes. Patrick had headed off for a last look at the Olympic stadiums before flying back to New Zealand, so I had the two New Zealand votes. Seoul got 48% in the first round, so the vote needed to go to a second round. 106 to Singapore, and 146 to Seoul. The crowd went wild.
The woolly Congress Declaration was carried by acclamation, which was Louise’s way of not allowing others, or me, to vote against it.
We returned to consider yesterday’s agenda item about the Council’s recommendation that the nine-year maximum on Council rule should apply to Alternates. To accept a vote from the floor a three-quarters majority was needed, and the vote fell just short of this. General confusion followed but the process seemed clear enough to me. A motion was then put to declare the previous vote invalid. That did not achieve a three quarter majority either, and so was lost. It was explained that French law applied. The original motion was then put, but that did not achieve a three quarter majority, only 66%, and so it too was lost. The final vote provided for the new by-laws becoming operative.
Meanwhile the Portuguese language speakers wanted their language made official. They resolved to pursue this and bring it up in Durban. Voted on the education motion. Yes x two. Carried by a big majority.
There was then another report on the Congress. It had been in the middle of the typhoon season, but we had been lucky. 5100 participants. 1900 from 110 countries. 160 young architects had attended the jamboree. 10,000 had already visited the Metabolism exhibition. 1000 had participated in the tea ceremony at Ueno. Hall A had 5000 seats. UNESCO had supported Japan in difficult circumstances. Then Kazuo went over all the events of the Congress from the student football to the presence of the emperor. I realised I should have been at the Awards Ceremony, but somehow I had missed it. Thanks all round.
Louise thanked all the UIA staff in Paris, the Aussie Institute for supporting her over the last 15 years, and then just about the whole world. She was determined to say some final words, as her chance would never come again. First the mind/hand connection which had been lost throughout the community. Sensory thinking, an authentic sense of life, and touching on embodied memory. Traditional values. Heightened perception. Architecture should slow down the experience. She mused about Palasmaa’s thinking in “The Thinking Hand”. Secondly responsibility and sustainability. Thirdly “The Elegant Universe”. Reflect on the meaning of the journey we taken so far. “In every age there is a turning point.” Reach for the stars. Louise had taken the chances which had come her way. 3 October 2011 was World Architecture Day and “Human Rights” was the theme for this year. Small, local communities. Empowering people.
Vassilas Sgoutas of course had to have the last say. He thanked the “Southern Hemisphere” Presidents. At 1.35pm it was all over. Louise handed over to the new president.
I headed off to explore the Ginza, and found a ritual performance which involved balancing a bamboo pole supporting an array of lanterns. Enjoyed that for a while. On to try and find the buildings in my memory, but they eluded me. Kojunsha Dori street was closed off to become a pedestrian mall. The Mac shop was astonishing, with almost as many staff in blue as customers. The first floor was devoted to sales, the second to a theatre with presentations on a different software programme every hour, and then the top floor was devoted to service. It was easier to get on the Yamanote line at Yurakucho Station rather than trying to unravel the tangle of Tokyo Station.
Sunday 2 October 2011
Tokyo – Harvest Festival
A very deep sleep. The light did not seem strong, probably because the sky was overcast. Checked my watch. 8.15am. I could not believe it. I must have had almost 12 hours sleep. Clive was right. I needed a holiday. Breakfast. My LX5 camera battery needed charging, but I did not have a cable suitable for a Japanese socket. Akio drew an excellent map so that I could find a very large electrical store, just across the railway line. They had a plug which looked to me as though it converted every other fitting into Japanese, but they were convinced it was not what I wanted. I ended up buying a one-metre lead to go from the charger to a Japanese plug. To my surprise it was made in China. Explored the adjacent park. A saxophonist practicing.
By bus to Ogikubo Station. Explored the area to try and find the sushi bar Akio had taken me to. I remained uncertain. On by the Chuo line to Kichijoji. Then one stop only on the Keio Inokashira line to Inokashira Koen. The station was very familiar. Off to try and find Reiko. Along the way discovered preparations being made for some event. Before long a colourful procession came along the narrow street, carrying a shrine. It was the harvest festival. Everyone stopped for refreshments. I was plied with sashimi, beer and saki, all provided by the shopkeeper who had sponsored the stop. Renato, an architect from Switzerland who had been living in Japan for more than thirty years, was one of the “bearers” and explained everything to me. I was the only gaijin. On then to the destination. Another team arrived from a different direction, and then a cart with an enormous drum, towed by the children. More feasting. I followed the team as they packed everything away for another year. The next celebration was actually going to be in two years, but I could not work out the logic of celebrating the harvest every second year.
On exploring. Gardens in the middle of dense development. With difficulty I eventually found 2-27-2, but sadly no one was home so I left my card and a note. Walked all the way back to Akio, which took some hours. Along the way I found the Igusa Hashemangu Temple, with rows of “fair” stalls selling food and everything else, lanterns, and great crowds of people. I also found two different Fiat dealerships. One with a cluster of yellow 500 Bambinas and the other with a single Punto Grande 1.4. By the time I arrived my shoulders and feet were done. It was only 8pm, but all I wanted to do was to lie down, so I decided I may as well go to bed.
Building is more fun than talking
Monday 3 October 2011
Tokyo – Hon-Kawagoe
Awake with first light. I watched the light slowly strengthen to reveal my beautiful surroundings. By 7am I had put the LX5 battery onto charge. Some cloud. It seemed to be a little cooler. Put my bedding away. Photographed my breakfast. Reiko had phoned Akio. She was working today and tomorrow and asked me to call after 8pm on a new mobile number. I sorted my way through the press release list of exhibitions to organise my day. Then Akio suggested I should go to Hon-Kawagoe.
It was complicated so Akio walked to Iogi and organised an all-inclusive ticket. This provided a big ticket for the train, which I just needed to insert into the turnstile to open the gate, and a small ticket for the bus. I went up two stations to Kamishakuji on a local train and then caught what I thought was an express. I must have been wrong, as I then needed to change trains twice. Fortunately Akio had written a large notice to say where I was going and helpful people sorted me out, realising I was hopelessly lost.
When I arrived nothing made sense. I was expecting some kind of museum. The maps of the town seemed to show many things, but nothing in particular. Had a big mug of Starbucks coffee to think about my next move. I studied the pamphlet Akio had given me, but it was all in Japanese. The one clue was a photograph of a distinctive bus on the cover. Then I suddenly saw it at a stop in the distance. By the time I got there it had gone, but by now I figured I knew where to wait and what to wait for. After some time another of the quaint old buses appeared and I was welcomed on board. At first it seemed that the idea was to get off the bus at each stop and then catch the next bus. Without a timetable I knew that was going to drive me nuts. Then I realised that the red dotted line on the map was actually a walking route. I did the whole circuit of the town on the loop bus to end up back where I had begun.
Then I set out by foot, going anti-clockwise rather than clockwise as this allowed me to begin in the old storehouse street while the sun was still high in the sky, and conditions for photography were ideal. I walked a little too far north and lost Penny Candy Lane, which was not a great loss. I saw it later from the bus. The Hikawa Shrine was great, with the priests and attendants in full regalia. Parents were bringing their children to be photographed in ceremonial costume and taken through some ritual, which I did not understand. Photographed the thousands of timber “prayers”. I was not enticed by the museums. The Honmaru Gate of Kawagoe Castle, along with Miyoshima Shrine, was rather ho-hum. Fujimi Turret Ruins seemed to be just a hill, so I just enjoyed it as I walked by. Photographed some turtles at the Naritasan Betsuin Temple. Kita-in Temple was predictable apart from the splash of colour of the “banners” along the front. In contrast Naka-in Temple was incredible. Serene, with a beautiful garden and an amazing graveyard. Photographed all that, including flowers at the entry, a door detail etc. Back to the train station.
Only a short wait for the last bus of the day at 5.05pm. I was alone apart from several folk waiting at stops along the way to get home. By now I was organised and the locals were confused. Why was I on the bus? Why had I not handed over my ticket as I was supposed to do? The driver gave me a map in English and we all laughed.
I had thought of walking back up through the old storehouse zone, but most of it had closed for the night. Another Starbucks coffee to set me up for the trip home. As it turned out it was uneventful. I caught an express through to Shamshakuji and then a local train to Iogi. A little under an hour for the whole trip.
Bought myself a meal. Put 1000 yen onto my Suica card. Akio was hard at work. I think Kazuko was pleased that I had eaten. I was able to retreat to my wonderful office to catch up with my diary. Reiko rang Akio so he let me ring back on his phone. She was very busy so we arranged to have a meal at her house on Thursday night. She suggested 6pm, but I said I would come just before dark so that I could find her house. She said she would drive me back to Akio’s so I would not be too late for them. I felt fantastic. My feet and my shoulders had recovered from yesterday.
Tuesday 4 October 2011
Tokyo – Ueno & Asakusa
Awake at 5.30am, but dozed a little, thinking about the reference for Brian Lythe, which I wrote down as soon as I was up. Discovered that the 8-volume set of books on the bookshelf was on traditional Japanese vernacular architecture, published by Gakken in 1981, 30 years ago. This was the Japan I wanted to find, and I wondered if it was still possible. An expanded version of my own book. Akio also had a copy of that and he was surprised that my copy was in Japanese.
Breakfast and off with Akio to Takadanobaba. He carried on to Shinjuku to go to the dentist. I took the Yamanote line to Ueno. Signed an anti-nuclear protest. Discovered that they had a few spots designated for smoking, with clusters of people puffing away. Everywhere else smoking seemed to be banned. This was a radical change for Japan. Once smokers were everywhere.
Le Corbusier’s Museum of Western Art was weathering well, as was the Bunka Kaikan concert hall by Kunio Maekawa. Wasted a lot of time watching all the homeless gathering for a food distribution lunch. First they had to listen to some gospel singing, but they seemed happy to join in and clap along. With a little scratching of my memory, and some help from the information booth, I found Tadeo Ando’s extension to the Children’s Library. Enjoyed a coffee. Took lots of photographs. Wondered about giving them a copy of “Piglet the Great”.
Back to the park to find the singing was over, the homeless had been fed, and everything was being packed away. Across the bridge over the railway, taking a photograph. Walked through a maze of streets to Asakusa. Found a market street with all the shops spreading their wares out onto the footpath. On to the Asakusa Senso-ji temple. The big shrine. Tourists everywhere. Colourful but thin. On to the river. Finally found the Asahi building. Strangely it was just like the photographs. With darkness falling, and the time already after 5pm I needed to turn around and head for home. Yakatori from a street stall to cheer up the wizened old lady.
Ueno and the usual trains to Iogi, with a change from the express to a local train. Some take-aways for supper. I needed to conserve my last yen as I was down to 5000 and I still had not found anywhere to change money. I put 1000 yen aside for a Kesei ticket to Narita. Akio was not home but arrived as I was enjoying a furo. He obviously had not eaten so I too was presented with a lavish meal and we talked a little. I was both relaxed and tired.
Experience the earthquake of your choice
Wednesday 5 October 2011
Tokyo - Shinjuku
I suddenly realised it was almost 8am. There had been rain and the overcast sky had left me thinking it was much earlier. Quickly up to pack my futons away. Akio called me for breakfast, and I discovered that he had already finished, along with Kazuko. They both headed out before 9.15am, leaving me alone to just enjoy the house.
Akio had tried to ring Fujico but found the number I had given him was out of date. I had the feeling that everyone must be moving to the mobile network. However not having the numbers I needed also meant that I did not need a mobile phone. Photographed Akio’s boxed set of rural houses, on the shelf and on the tatami. Only when I had returned to New Zealand did I realise I should have photographed each of the maps showing the location of all the houses. Next trip. I had taken photographs around my house before Kazuko arrived home at 10.20am. By then there was a steady drizzle and the thought of going out only to get wet did not appeal.
However, off to Shinjuku. Wandered among the high-rise buildings with their tops lost in the cloud from time to time. Big, brassy and boring. No architectural merit. Got soaked. Tried to find the street of camera shops and failed. It was too wet to look at a map. Finally I retreated into BIC Camera to explore. Eight floors of everything from home appliances on the top floor down to food in the basement. I loved it. Small refrigerators were still being produced to replace the one in my office if it ever failed and the need should arise. Every kind of gadget. Small Dysons for small Japanese homes. It puzzled me that they should not be available in New Zealand. Satnavs for bicycles. So much more effective than cycle maps in working out routes to avoid hills. Small glass hobs. Endless medical equipment for measuring blood pressure, and just about everything else. A big Apple display of iPhone, iPads etc. A great array of cameras, but I could not find an LX5 or anything I liked better. Many Nikon lenses. You would need to know what you wanted.
The violence of the computer games on display was a worry. Their role in fuelling hatred of others and developing the feeling of personal omnipotence could only lead to a break down of society. Out into the bright lights and the rain again.
Home to Akio’s. Kazuko was busy finishing off some writing so Akio brought two beers into my space and shared books and photographs of his work. A campus in Osaka, which he had won in a competition. It took 20 years to complete. At its maximum Akio’s firm had a staff of 30. Now they only had 12. He gave me magazines with photos of his house and also a house by Miki. After 10pm before he headed off to sleep. We rang Fujico and sorted out the morrow. She had a dinner appointment for 6pm but would be free during the day.
Speakers on sustainability
Thursday 6 October 2011
Tokyo – Fujico & Reiko
Akio needed to head off today to lecture on ecology to university students far to the south. One class of 200, and another of 100. These were the first lectures in a course, He would now need to travel and lecture once a week, until next January. Aged 79.
Up at 7am. Drops of water were still hanging in the trees, but the sky was clearing. Lucky Tony. My clothes had all dried during the night. It had felt colder last night so I had used a blanket over my futon for the first time. Packed my bag. A full Japanese breakfast around 7.45am. Browsed through Volume 4 of Akio’s set of books. Kyushu. It all looked amazing with whole villages of merit.
With Akio by bus to Ogikubo and on the Chuo line to Shinjuku. Akio got off to help me find the right platform and the right train before returning to carry on with his journey to his lecture. The Express to Odowara at 10.17am. Track 5. Off at Odakyu-Sagamiono to change to a local train. From there I only needed to go one stop on the local train to get to Odakyu-Sagimihara. What I did not realise was that the line forked and there were two local trains. I was on the wrong one. I had a strange feeling. I checked, found I wrong, and dived for the door just before it shut. Then I checked with the guard who sent me to the other side of the platform. I dived through those doors, also just before they shut.
There was only one exit and I had arranged to meet Fujico there at 11.30am. I was early enough to have time for a coffee. By the time I returned she was waiting. We walked together to her house, which I certainly could never have found on my own.
We talked for hours, shared a simple lunch, and I explored the house. To my amazement she turned up a photograph of me in Prague, with her and Masamitsu. The Japanese papers announced that Steve Jobs had died.
When I looked at the railway network I realised I only needed to take the Odakyu train back to Shimo-Kitazawa to end up going north on the Keio-Inokashira line to Inokashira-Koen. This worked brilliantly. Fujuco came with me to make certain I got the transfer right and then she went on to Shinjuku for her dinner.
I found Reiko’s house without too much difficulty and she gave me a great welcome. She was 62 but seemed as young as ever. As always she was busy in the kitchen, and soon I was presented with a magnificent meal. Yoko and Ki o arrived to share the meal. She was still working for the Peace-Boat NGO. She had evacuated from Tokyo after Fukushima but had returned after a month. Reiko then drove me back to Iogi so that I would not be late home. Rather exciting going down such narrow streets in a sports car.
Daito Bunka stair
Friday 7 October 2011
Tokyo – Iogi - 777-300
Up at 7am to clear my desk. Packed all my bedding away. Sorted through my gear to pack my “Tokyo bag” for on the plane and arrival in New Zealand. Charged the LX5 battery for a second time.
I was going to set out on a walk when Akio decided to come with me and bring along Pop. With his guidance I discovered shrines, parks, and even the school which Miki, Natsuke and Rion had attended. A rich and complex environment. A brief visit upstairs to farewell Miki, I gave her a copy of “The Human House”, “Piglet the Great”, and also the book on New Zealand in Japanese. I also left a set for Natsuke.
Around 1.30pm Akio came with me to farewell me at Iogi station. Takadanobaba. Nippori. My Suica card took me through to the Kesei line. In a few minutes there was an express train. I got off at Terminal 2 around 4pm. The train went on to Terminal 1. The helpful assistant topped up by Suica card to 1000 yen so that I could exit and gave me the change. I ended up with no credit on the card although I thought that would be impossible to achieve. It was now ready to be charged up again for another trip.
Up to Departures. It was deserted, so I was overwhelmed with helpful staff. I asked if I could change my seat to 10K. Nothing was available forward of the wing. They gave me 33A, which was behind the wing. That turned out to be perfect as I ended up with an empty seat beside me so that I was able to lie down and sleep. A tall coffee at Starbucks. Found they offered an internet connection, but it needed a 100 yen coin and I did not have one. Up to the mezzanine to explore the shops. Found a book on the tsunami. Bought it. A few books in English on architecture. The interesting one on modern teahouses featured my favourite from the cover of the Japan yearbook. Now with 100 yen from my change I returned to try my luck with the internet. Had none. It only seemed to allow access to g-mail, yahoo and a few other systems of no help to me. After 10 minutes it timed out and I gave up.
Through to the gates. I seemed to set off all the alarms, and ended up with a full search. The problem seemed to be more than my hip. Eventually I was allowed to proceed, but I had the feeling that the problem was not really resolved. The shuttle also took time but when I got to gate 86 everyone was still waiting.
The doors of the plane closed right on our departure time of 6.15pm. By then it was dark. We needed to spend 20 minutes taxiing to the other side of the airport for an available runway and took off to the north. As we circled around the lights picked out the form of the river. There did not seem to be any power shortage. An excellent meal. I had hoped to watch the film on Japanese search and rescue but could not find it on the index. With my double seat it made more sense to get some sleep.
The entourage heads on
Saturday 8 October 2011
777-300 – Karaka Bay
I was woken from a sound sleep by all the cabin lights being turned on. It seemed much too early, around 2.30am Tokyo time, which was already 6.30am New Zealand time because with daylight saving there was now a 4 hour time difference. Very soon the edge of the cloud horizon was a deep glow, first of orange and then red. The sun rose almost before I had thought to photograph it. Hot towels. An excellent Western breakfast. Only time to clean up the plane before we began our descent, some distance north of Whangarei. Pakiri, Leigh, Waiheke. The amazing diversity of the East Coast. We were a little ahead of our scheduled 9am arrival in Auckland. A ten and a half hour flight. Used my smart passport for a speedy entry. Two bottles of whisky and a bottle of port at duty free. Arrived at the baggage pick-up before my luggage did. Clive was waiting to greet me.
Angela Brady, RIBA President
Demonstrating traditional tools
Children's work programme
Glassgallery by SANAA
Flowers on the dome
Bhutan PM Thinley
Ten thousand architects
Gathering in Forum
Architects at work
Architects at work
The life of an architect
Site visit sign
Solar and wind
Classrooms open off common space
Creativity is fun
Tatami in the school
Learning about danger
Music when very young
Minato with Tony
Not close to nature
Mary Ann Lazarus
Traditional Korean costumes
Louise's broken arm
About to be hoisted
Balancing the lanterns
Pedestrian only Ginza
Ginza Mac Store
Typical pedestrian link
Food to celebrate arrival
Typical narrow street
One of many homeless people