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Previous:The vision of SHIBAURA HOUSE in the future

As the urge for expanding functionality increases, what is the role of architecture now compared with in the past?

S: The possibilities in doing something outside of Tokyo - this approach exists regardless of whether decentralization is good or not.

I: I recently visited the housing complex you designed in Kyoto. It seemed to me much like a downscaled, small town. Today residential houses have many roles to play, whereas before their only purpose was to be lived in. This change focuses the attention on people-to-people relationships. What do you think architecture can do within this tendency?

S: As an example, many people work at home now, and there are situations where caretakers enter into our private residences. I started to think that it would be better if people could enter spaces more naturally. This reflects my experience of taking care of my parents. The emphasis has been daily life, but now houses have multiple roles. Shifting from the era of the big family to the nuclear family, we no longer live with only our immediate family, but with the mutual support of the people who surround us. Perhaps this can be applied to companies too.

I: I saw your interview in the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. I noticed your thoughts seem to have a lot in common with the Japanese thinker Tatsuru Uchida and his book Kakudai kazoku ron - a theory on the extended family. He talks about how to approach times when we are all getting poorer and must help each other. His Gaifukan* is in fact a combination of a studio to practice Aikido and a community space. I think more people are in tune with the idea of a ‘small-sized public’, on an individual scale. In times when economic growth is difficult, we must consider what richness in life really means.

*Archive produced by Yusuke Koshima, the architect who designed Gaifukan.
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S: I agree. We mostly hear about the percentage of economic growth. But we should bear in mind that there are many things we cannot measure from that.

I: Does increased public awareness amongst individuals mean that the public institutions and government needs will also change in the coming years? Also I wanted to ask you what role an architect takes after a building is completed.

S: Well, I think it is changing slowly. Many residents started to think seriously about what kind of place works best for them. I was surprised when I was requested to run a series of lectures when I designed the Nakamachi Terrace (Nakamachi Community Hall and Library). These lasted two hours each with a total of 10 lectures. We had about 20 to 30 participants attending each time. It was very touching to see ordinary senior citizens attending eagerly, even though the lectures were mainly on architecture - talking about structures and landscapes. It is a great example of regular lectures catered for the area that allow residents to have a voice.

I: The public spirit I found in The High Line in New York has been the most impressive I’ve seen in many years. How long will it take to see something like that in Japan? The issue rests in how the government can take a managing role and act proactively with an interest, and how architects can enter that sphere.

S: We can say the same thing about the recovery after the earthquake. We need a crossover between architects and the government while each party retains their own vision. In a way, I sense some reluctance towards the building of shopping malls and urban development in relation to the upcoming Olympic games. In fact, the government and architects should go beyond the boundaries and join forces in an effort to think about the future Japan.

I: Certainly, in Europe and some other places we see examples of change as politicians with great understanding of culture enter government. It would be nice if we could see that in Japan.

S: There are some positive examples, such as Naoshima in Setouchi.

I: The other day, I went to a symposium on cultural policy for the Olympic games. What surprised me was how people with little understanding of culture and art are taking the central stage. I saw possibilities in doing something from the bottom-up, but it seemed difficult.

S: For instance, there are many roles that architecture graduates can take, not only in the field of architecture but also in other areas, and there happen to be many architecture graduates. I believe there are many ways to utilize what you learn from architecture in various positions in society. I think we can make interesting things, overlapping boundaries, like a businessman with an architectural background etc.