Design as a Solution
goal of providing a solution for a given set of conditions applies equally
to exhibition design and architectural design.
is more than one way of doing this. One aspect of evaluating a design is
to determine the method selected and how the given conditions have been
example, if there was a need to “do something with the small space,”
then anybody could come up with the solution “make the space larger.”
possible solution is that, as the space is small, to make the actual space
even smaller and instead design the space in a way that enables the
movements of the people in that space to appear beautiful. This space
refers, specifically, to the chashitsu or tea ceremony room or
It is this reverse solution that is, in fact, the more elegant
solution. There is more than just the one solution - “small space ->
” The reverse solution of “small space -> an even
smaller space” is a paradoxical solution - there is less space and yet
it is comfortable (although this is not a technique that can necessarily
always be applied)
represents a leap in the thought process and it is learning from this that
generates the power to inspire designers to come up with solutions to
other issues or challenges as well.
This is only one example, but
arguably, outstanding design is the result of coming up with solutions in
the most unexpected of ways.
(Whether that solution makes your heart
flutter is another standard of evaluation)
what were the conditions that were posed in the design of this exhibition ?
I was a student, Peter Cook —
one of the designers of the Kunsthaus — and the members of Archigram
were the coolestarchitects. Back in those days when I believed that an
architect’s role was to design an actual building, these individuals
were the veryfirst “media architects” in the world who proved that it
was not necessary to create something real and who emphasized that it was
more important to be able to “move” the world than simply to build.
This was over thirty years ago, and I would like to congratulate Peter
from the bottom of my heart on the completion of his very first work.
I am an architect, I usually find myself being given various directions by
my clients when it comes to design.
of how well known the architect is, it is only normal for the client to
discover dissatisfactions when the work eventually goes into use.
of the reasons for this is that the person with whom the initialdesign-related discussions were held is often not the same as the person/s
or organization that will be actually using the building after its
completion. If the organization is simply told to use the facility when it
has no idea what kind of demands and requests were made during the design
process or of the nature of the process that resulted in the building they
are using, then it is only natural that the people in the organization
would question many aspects of the final result.
Even if the architect
endeavors to satisfy the demands of the client during the design stage,
the persons using the end-product are dissatisfied. This is, in one sense,
the fate of the architect.
there are happy instances when this is not always the case.
This is when
the client understands the aim of the design and the facts are conveyed to
the successive maintainers and custodians so that the work continues to be
“Love” always conquers any problems. For me personally,
Aoyama Technical College is one such example. Completed in 1990, it always
looks fresh and newly completed thanks to the “love” shown for the
architecture by its owners)
this essay, I shall place myself in the unusual position of “the user”
or the client.
It is not a bad thing to switch one’s role from time to
what is the Kunsthaus like when examined from the point of view of the
would first like to express my respects to the city of Graz for making the
courageous decision of choosing - through a competition - this design. The
resultant work has been described as a friendly alien from outer space
that has landed in a beautiful ancient city. Although the architecture is
completely foreign to the surrounding streetscape, its form and texture is
like that of a soft-bodied creature that flows between and spreads out
from the rugged peaked buildings and yet it is not in conflict with its
surroundings and if anything, is quite integrated (although some would no
The clear lack of compromise is like a breath of fresh
air. Obviously, the preservation of the streetscapes of ancient cities is
important, but the significance of this work lies in the fact that it
proves that there is never only one way of preserving the old.
main exhibition rooms are on two levels. The upper level has a high,
protruding ceiling that conforms with the external roofline, while the
lower level is flat. The ceiling of the upper level is dotted with
skylights and large multi-ringed light fittings that draw the attention of
visitors even when the lights are out.
There is a moving ramp (another
bold choice) that runs through the middle of the exhibition room and the
positioning of the works would require some consideration in order to
achieve a sense of cohesiveness of the exhibition space as a whole. Rather
than the smooth acrylic material used on the exterior, grey paint has been
used in the internal space, which further enhances the skylights and the
large light fittings on the ceiling.
way of addressing these issues would be to wrap the interior with screens,
but this would not be making the most of the building’s internal space
and form. To make the most of the features of a building and at the same
time to find a way to address any issues or challenges is not an easy
was asked by the supervisiting curator of this exhibition, as well as by
Kunsthaus Graz director, to come up with a new exhibition design that
would enhance the features of this architecture.
that appears closed and is yet open:
a ribbon flowing in the
wind / sprung-open DNA
condition is posed by the exhibits themselves.
of the aims of this exhibition is for photography, art and media to be
handled in the same way.
of digitized photographs is in fact quite similar to painting while
photography is commonly used in art, and today, the boundaries between
media art and “just art”, without a prefix, are no longer clear.
when asking what they do, a photographer will answer “photographer”
while an artist answers “artist”. They seem the same and yet they are
not. Therefore, what type of ordering and layout would be appropriate for
this exhibition in which the various media are all treated as one ?
therefore categorized the work based on the “format” of each work. The
result was to place the “objects” or three-dimensional works on the
upper level with its larger space and the two-dimensional works on the
lower level with its flat ceiling.
were defined as “three dimensional, externally shaped works”, while
“flat” works were defined as “two-dimensional, flat screened”
works. As a result, moving images, photographs and paintings are all
exhibited on the lower level as they all have the same format, that is,
they are all flat.
there is no particular significance in categorizing art by its form,
neither is there any definitive standard for categorizing art.
case, the “format” - the hardware of the work - was chosen in order to
fit into the hardware “format” of the exhibition space.
of dividing the upper and the lower levels developed as a result of group
consensus between the six members of the planning team including me.
are often used to divide an exhibition space, partly to avoid interference
amongst artists. This applies obviously not to solo exhibitions but to
exhibitions like this one in which the work of many artists is on exhibit.
However, if rooms are created from an exhibition area of this size, the
manner in which the building expands -– a feature of this art museum
– would be lost. (Here, too, I wanted to respect the intention of
yet, if the works were simply exhibited indiscriminately within a single
space, there would be the danger that it would end up looking like display
shelves in a supermarket (although this could also be interesting).
this exhibition, therefore, I tried to come up with an exhibition space
that was not closed nor totally open nor a choice between the two.
is how the “conditions of the space” and “the conditions of the
works” came together.
solution for the upper level, which represents an integration of all of
these, was the creation of a space that featured a single, continuous
some places this screen rises up from the floor to indicate the artist’s
“territory” while in other places it lifts up into the air to form a
canopy that floats to indicate circulation routes.
flowing movement reinforces the characteristics of the internal space. It
has a strength that reduces the presence of the skylights and the light
fittings on the ceiling and at the same time has a softness that does not
obstruct the works. I presented, as a design solution, an overall space
that featured this changing ribbon-like screen.
design also represents the incorporation of another structure into the
is a link between this “fluid space comprising a series of curved
forms” and Web Frame at the Iidabashi Station on the Oedo Subway
Line (2000, Tokyo).
Web Frame, a secondary structure created from rod meshing travels
underground, embracing the space. A computer program to produce a design
that would satisfy the requirements of the project and the intentions of
the designer was developed for this work.
Web Frame represents the
realization of (probably) the first example of architecture in the world
that was created by utilizing a computer program that “satisfied the
necessary conditions and requirements.” Although a similar program was
not developed for the Graz exhibition, there are similarities between the
two designs in the way issues were resolved.
way the ribbon flowed through the space and the shape that was selected
was not something that was done spontaneously.
The ribbon took shape (and
beautifully so) by addressing certain requirements and conditions
represented by the restrictions posed by the width and twists of the
ribbon, by the need to situate the ribbon close to the ground around each
work to indicate boundaries, and by the need to have it rise high up in
the air to create passageways for circulation routes.
necessitated a computer program in its design as these requirements and
conditions became entangled to such an extent that solving these was
beyond the ability of the human brain. Mesh can be joined to form any
shape and has a high degree of flexibility but because of these very
features, it is equally difficult to come up with solutions to the
conditions posed in the design.
the Graz version is a single continuous surface and there has little
flexibility, the requirements and conditions can be solved by the human
result is a ribbon that dances in the air, propelled by the wind.
space created by the ribbon that rises up like a wall and traverses the
space above like a roof contracts in some sections, expands in others, is
segmented or can be continuous.
The appearance of this supple and fluid
form resembles that of a living organism.
of living organisms, the shape of the Kunsthaus is reminiscent of a
single-cell creature such as a paramecium. When the nucleus of the
paramecium is sliced open with a scalpel, the DNA’s double-helixed
ribbon that is folded up inside springs open, filling the cell (to be
it is the opened-up state of this DNA that is the basis of the design for
small town / architecture that moves:
The wall as maternal presence
lower level is in sharp contrast to the upper level.
The lower level features photographic work,
flat or two-dimensional art and moving images. It was decided that a
“flat” method of exhibiting the works should be used for flat or
two-dimensional work. The initial plan was not to have any walls, and
instead I came up with a way of exhibiting the works so that they appear
to be floating in the air.
talking to the artists, however, I realized that they in fact wanted
walls. Hidaka Rieko said she wanted a sturdy wall, while Sugimoto Hiroshi
wanted a tunnel-like narrow and long space. This was totally unexpected.
going back through history, flat or two-dimensional art which was born
from murals that were part of buildings, can be seen to be later liberated
from the constraints of the building by becoming a single tableaux, and
should, by rights, have been further liberated from the constraints of the
frame. Two-dimensional work appears, however, to continue to recall its
origins, still seeking a wall that will embrace it, a place where it can
feel safe and secure – an almost maternal presence.
biggest condition imposed on architecture is the land.
cannot choose the site, nor can the building avoid the issue of land or
the way, amongst Archigram’s famous projects is a work titled Walking
City. The walking city or the moving structure is the embodiment of
our desire to get away from land, the strongest constraint in the history
- bound by the overwhelming ties of “the land”, seeks to leap up and
then float in the air and without getting its legs caught below, while art
opens up its imagination in a free world only to ground itself by seeking
the foundation that is “the wall”. The similarity and the disparity
between the two are certainly interesting.
the architect, the “wishes” of the artist are no different from the
“design conditions” imposed upon a building.
again I am changing roles – this time I am not the User but the one
who responds to the User’s demands).
accordance with the wishes of the artists, therefore, I decided to build
wall sought by each artist was different. Some wanted a thick wall, some
wanted a small wall, some wanted a soft wall, others a dark wall.
I were to listen to each artist’s requests, the result would be a small
room for each artist. As each artist’s request concerned “the interior
of the room,” the exterior is therefore “a result” of the interior.
this town, the exterior was simply a “result” of the interior and the
“architecture” was never “designed” as such. Unlike conventional
towns, this is a town that was created from the inside.
feature of the works on exhibit on the upper level is that they all - some
more than others - stimulate our senses. These are sensory objects that
are yet to be bleached or decolorized.
acts here like a bandage or a wrap for a baby, nurturing and healing the
vulnerable objects as it holds and binds them, fluttering and wavering in
constant and never-ending invitation.