The architecturally impressive Hotel Okura is slated for a massive remodel, so I wanted to see it before they tore it down. A friend happened to be visiting from out of town, so we decided to make a visit. Some views of the lobby.
We were planning on getting a drink in the Orchid Room, but as you can see it was fully occupied.
So we ended up at the Baron Okura, a wine lounge and cigar room, instead.
Last week I saw in The Japan Times that there was an exhibition on the buildings designed by Kenzo Tange, one of my favorite Japanese architects, near Nogizaka station. Overall it was interesting, however, I would liked to have seen more pictures blown up like these in an outdoor exhibition. The exhibition at Gallery Ma is on until March 28th.
They roast their own coffee beans and have original cocktails and bottle craft beers. It has free wi-fi, but it is a very small space, which is the only drawback besides the location in opinion-I'm not a huge fan of the Nakano Broadway mall, which mostly has game and magna related merchandise and a sort of 60s worn out feel to the premises, perhaps more space like this would change that vibe.
There's an interesting article on contemporary architecture in the latest edition of Metropolis. The picture above from the article is the new Nezu Museum which I will try to visit this winter break.
Just as Tange’s attention-grabbing style set the tone for the late Showa period and influenced countless lesser architects to design their offbeat office buildings, puerile pachinko parlors, and ludicrous love hotels, the present generation has found its guiding light in Kengo Kuma, a kinder, gentler architect whose ideas and growing international renown are exerting an influence far beyond the handful of buildings that he has designed in Tokyo. While Tange and his cohorts expressed the madness of a frenetically growing Japan, so the 55-year-old Kuma and his followers reflect the saner, more somber mood of a post-Bubble—and now post-credit crunch—Japan.
The key points of this new, unselfconsciously Japanese style can be seen at Kuma’s latest building, the redesigned Nezu Museum, located at the front of a large traditional Japanese garden at the far end of Omotesando. The first impression is rather dull—all you can see from the outside is a large tiled roof, surmounting a thick hedge of bamboo. But this effect is entirely intentional, as the architect explained in a recent sit-down with Metropolis.
I came across an interesting article by Bruce Wallace in The LA Times about a Japanese architect, Tadanobu Fujimori, who uses natural materials like mud and grass to make his designs:
Fujimori says his inspiration springs from his knowledge and love of history. He argues that the 20th century was actually the second era in which architectural style was internationalized. The first occurred several thousand years ago when people in traditional societies in different parts of the world set about building shelter for themselves and all came up with about the same style of architecture: roughly speaking, the hut.
"I finally realized that if you go back far enough everywhere in the world, whether Japan, Europe, native America or sub-Saharan Africa, people were making pretty much the same thing," he says. The search for the primitive in Japan sent him back before the age of tatami and bamboo to the Jomon period that began more than 10,500 years ago, a time when some of the world's first sedentary peoples lived in pits or small above-ground buildings.
Fujimori says his interest is piqued by what followed that primitive stage: the local variations in building styles that emerged when different peoples "came out of this native phase to the start of something more sophisticated." The result is a body of work that could spring from Tolkien's Middle-earth, influenced by such diverse abodes as the Paleolithic caves of Lascaux, France, a treehouse in Shropshire, England, a Portuguese stone house and the sun-dried mud bricks of the Great Mosque in Djenne, Mali.
He is especially influenced by mud. Fujimori loves mud. "Mud blends into nature," he says.
When Fujimori received his first commission, the Jinchokan Moriya Historical Museum on the grounds of a Shinto shrine in his hometown of Chino City in Nagano Prefecture, he sought out traditional artisans, including a retired craftsman living in a rest home whom he describes as the last man then alive who knew how to split wood by hand. He still describes the finished museum as his best work from a purely architectural perspective.
That was followed by teahouses, where his only adherence to tradition is that the rooms are small, have low entrances and a fireplace to boil water. One sits in the corner of a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, with an arch in the garden in tribute to Le Corbusier. Another, designed for a former Japanese prime minister, is covered in cedar bark and sits independently in the woods.