2013年7月14日 星期日

Inside Toyo Ito's Mind (The New York Times 2009)/ always innovating

Toyo Ito, award-winning architect, always innovating

July 10, 2013
By WAKATO ONISHI/ Senior Staff Writer
Toyo Ito, renowned for creating conceptual architecture, keeps pushing the boundaries in his quest to break from Modernism.
In June, the 72-year-old won the Pritzker Prize, which is often described as an architectural equivalent of the Nobel Prize, further cementing his international reputation. He is the sixth Japanese architect to be accorded this top honor.
Ito “has successfully undertaken libraries, houses, parks, theaters, shops, office buildings and pavilions,” the jury said in its citation, “each time seeking to extend the possibilities of architecture.”
Calling him “a creator of timeless buildings,” the jury also said, “His architecture projects an air of optimism, lightness and joy and is infused with both a sense of uniqueness and universality.”
Until the 1990s, Ito was known for a body of work that projected a sense of floating through his use of glass and metal sheets.
The Sendai Mediatheque, a cultural facility in the prefectural capital of northern Miyagi Prefecture, proved to be a turning point in his career.
The building opened in 2001. It was conceived as a transparent cube through which thin floor plates float suspended on organic-looking seaweed-like tubes. It was a daring, yet flexible idea.
The structure, which was intended to exemplify the age of digital media, fulfills its function as both a library and a gallery flawlessly. It survived the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
Through his interaction with administrators and citizens while pursuing the project, Ito thought deeply about the role that architecture can play in society. The process led him to architectural innovations.
Ever since, Ito has presented new methods one after another.
Tod’s Omotesando building in Tokyo is a stunning example of Ito’s work: The building is wrapped in a skin of criss-crossed concrete braces and glass, creating a soothing look in the high-fashion area of the capital.
Tama Art University Library in Hachioji, western Tokyo, on the other hand, is a succession of concrete arches.
In Taiwan, Ito is building an opera house that connects the interior and exterior of the structure with cave-like spaces.
Another ambitious project is planned for Gifu in central Japan. Ito will build a cultural facility boasting many dome-shaped spaces. With a design that allows expansive use of ventilation and light, his intention is to reduce electricity use to half of that of the 1990 level for a structure of a similar size.
Ito’s architectural style is undoubtedly unique and original. But his intention is not to create a structure that commands attention just because of its singular form as a one-off endeavor. His unconventional approach is the product of well thought out innovation that is applicable to many other of his designs.
One of his latest projects is to rebuild communities and facilities devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in northeastern Japan. He has built communal space where survivors living in temporary housing can congregate. The experience to work in the stricken neighborhood provided Ito with deep insight.
“I have always devoted myself to ‘opening’ modern rectangular buildings to cities and society,” he said. “But I could not part with my aesthetic consciousness and my quest to explore refined beauty. I think I will be able to make more specific contributions to society based on my experiences (of communicating with those affected by the disaster).”
The Japan pavilion that Ito curated won the award for best national pavilion at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale.
In 2006, he was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal. Four years later, Ito won the Asahi Prize and the 22nd Praemium Imperiale, which honors the late Prince Takamatsu, a younger brother of Emperor Showa.

The interior of the Sendai Mediatheque (Wakato Onishi)
The interior of the Sendai Mediatheque (Wakato Onishi)
  • The interior of the Sendai Mediatheque (Wakato Onishi)
  • The Sendai Mediatheque (Wakato Onishi)
  • Tod's Omotesando building (Provided by Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects)
  • Rendering of the Gifu media cosmos, a cultural complex that is set to be built in Gifu (Provided by Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects)
  • Architect Toyo Ito (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

建築家伊東豊雄 Toyo Ito
臺大社科院新大樓: 2010年3月2日,新大樓正式動工,2012年底竣工,預計於2014年2月完成遷院。

這 是臺大近年少見的國際標工程,現代感獨具,如大閱覽廳,長168米、寬23米,玻璃通透,突顯出人文社會學者所應有的開闊胸襟。每位老師的研究室有7.6 至7.8坪大,明亮寬敞,一改舊校區的侷促狹小。看著這棟由國際知名建築師伊東豐雄所設計的現代綠建築,將成為臺大新地標,她雀躍地滿心期待,但也知道要 做的事還很多,可說是誠惶誠恐地接下重任。她表示,「社會科學院過去培養很多菁英,在政府部門和社會各階層居於領導要角,對於國家社會的責任重大。為了培 養更優秀的領導人才,也為了社會科學院的永續發展,遷院是必要的。」只是目前經費尚有1.4億缺口,以及後續的空間規劃與內裝工程、進駐動作等等,還有賴 遷院團隊繼續協助募款與監督。http://www.alum.ntu.edu.tw/wordpress/?p=15540
臺大社科院新大樓,一棟富現代感又環保的綠建築。 感謝校友熱心回饋母校,捐建社科院新大樓,圖為與侯貞雄(中)校友合影。

Inside His Exteriors

Jim O’Connell for The New York Times
Toyo Ito with his model for the Taichung opera house, which will include restaurants, foyers, a roof garden and three concert halls that will seat 200 to 2,000 people.

Published: July 8, 2009

AFTER nearly four decades of work Toyo Ito has earned a cult following among architects around the world, although he is little known outside his home country, Japan. Through his strange and ethereal buildings, which range from modest houses for the urban recluse to a library whose arched forms have the delicacy of paper cutouts, he has created a body of work almost unmatched in its diverse originality.

Over the past decade, as the popularity of architecture has boomed and many of his contemporaries have jetted around the globe piling up one commission after another, Mr. Ito has largely remained on the sidelines. He is rarely mentioned in conversations about semicelebrities like Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid or Jacques Herzog. He has repeatedly been passed over for the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor, in favor of designers with much thinner résumés. Even in his native country he is overshadowed by Tadao Ando, whose brooding concrete structures have become a cliché of contemporary Japanese architecture.
Mr. Ito’s status may finally be about to change. On Thursday a stadium he designed for the World Games will be unveiled to a global audience in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Its pythonlike form should produce as much a stir, at least within architectural circles, as did the Bird’s Nest stadium by Mr. Herzog and Pierre de Meuron when it was unveiled a year ago at the Beijing Olympics.

Even more ambitious are his plans for the Taichung opera house, which is scheduled to go into construction sometime next year. A work of striking inventiveness, it has already been touted as a masterpiece. Its porous exterior, which resembles a gigantic sponge, is as wildly imaginative in its way as Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain. Its design was a large reason Mr. Ito was recently awarded his first American commission, the Berkeley Art Museum in California.

But even if Mr. Ito begins to land the big, lucrative commissions that he so obviously deserves, he may never be completely accepted by a broad popular audience. He does not have the intimidating, larger-than-life persona of a Koolhaas. Nor is he a flamboyant presence like Ms. Hadid, who is often compared to an opera diva because of her striking looks and imperial air.

Mr. Ito, by comparison, can be unassuming. A small, compact man with a round face framed by rectangular glasses and dark bangs, he is easygoing and rarely flustered. And he has the rare ability to consider his projects with a critical eye, even going so far as to point out flaws that a visitor might have overlooked.

What’s more, his work can be maddeningly difficult to categorize. No two Ito buildings look exactly alike. There is no unifying aesthetic style, no manifesto to advance. You can never be sure what Mr. Ito will do next, which can be thrilling for architects but nerve-racking for clients (another reason, perhaps, that his work isn’t better known).

What his buildings do share is a distrust of simplistic formulas. His career can be read as a lifelong quest to find the precise balance between seemingly opposing values — individual and community, machine and nature, male and female, utopian fantasies and hard realities.
His ability to find such balances consistently has made him one of our great urban poets, someone who has been able to crystallize, through architecture, the tensions that lie buried in the heart of contemporary society. It makes his work especially resonant today, when much of the world is drawn to one form of extremism or another.

Mr. Ito, who was born in 1941, began his career at a pivotal time in Japanese architecture. As a student in the 1960s he followed Modernists like Kenzo Tange as they rebuilt the country’s cultural confidence after the devastation of World War II. His first job was in the office of Kiyonori Kikutake, a founder of the Metabolist movement, which envisioned gigantic flexible structures that could adapt to a society in constant flux. It established Mr. Kikutake and his cohorts as prominent figures of the international avant-garde.

But that decade of cultural optimism was short lived. By the 1970 Osaka Expo, which served as a showcase for the country’s top architectural talents, Metabolism had been practically reduced to a fad, its social agenda stripped of its original meaning.

“All the big concepts were drained of idealism,” Mr. Ito told me as we rode a bullet train through the Japanese countryside on the way to visit one of his buildings. “It was very disappointing for the young generation. It became very hard to have any outward hope about the future.”

This crisis of faith — the sudden awareness of the powerlessness of architects, if not of architecture — was soon followed by a prolonged economic recession, which meant that the kinds of large-scale public commissions available to many postwar architects were gone.
Looking for a way forward Mr. Ito was drawn to the work of Kazuo Shinohara, a vocal critic of the Metabolists who believed that if architecture could change the world at all, it would do so not by promoting radical social visions but by creating small, modest spaces to nurture and protect the individual spirit. His houses, mostly build it in the 1960s and 1970s, were conceived as private utopias, with delicate interiors supported by muscular concrete pillars that seemed designed to resist the outside pressures of a corrupting society.

Mr. Ito took this idea to its extreme in 1976 with the White U house, which was organized around a central court and completely shut off from the outside world. Designed for his older sister, whose husband had died of cancer, its seamless white interiors were meant to create an intensely private, therapeutic environment, a place where she could recover from her grief. Only the tops of a few surrounding buildings and utility poles were visible from inside, a gentle reminder that life continued beyond its walls.

But eventually this vision seemed as limiting as the Metabolist’s vision seemed naïve, and Mr. Ito would locate his architecture in the space between two extremes: the social idealism of late Modernism and the inwardness of Shinohara’s work.

His breakthrough came with the Sendai Mediatheque, a library and exhibition space completed in 2001. Seen from a distance the structure looks like a conventional Modernist glass box rising from one of Sendai’s busy, tree-lined boulevards. The first hint of something out of the ordinary is a series of enormous white latticework tubes that pierce the top of the structure, capped by a delicate steel frame. The tubes seem to be arranged in a loose, almost random pattern, and as you get closer, you realize they extend down through the entire structure, connecting the floors. They not only hold up the building, they house elevators, staircases and mechanical systems. Sunlight, reflected from gigantic, computer-controlled mirrors, spills through them during the day, giving the building an ethereal glow.

“The tubes are often compared to trees in a forest,” Mr. Ito told me through a translator as we toured the building. “But they are also like objects in a Japanese garden, where space is created by movement around carefully arranged points, like ponds or stones.”

The idea was to free us, both physically and psychologically, from the rigidity of the grid and what it implies — the Cartesian logic, the erasure of individual identity. But the building is not just an isolated experiment. By echoing the forms of the conventional slab buildings around it and aggressively distorting them, the design suggests how the city too could be made more free and more human.

This vision takes on even greater complexity in the Tama Art University Library, completed just over two years ago, west of Tokyo. Set at the edge of a dreary hillside campus, the structure was conceived as an irregular grid of delicate concrete arches.

When I first saw it, it brought to mind the work of Louis Kahn, who — in an effort to root modern architecture in an ancient past — used classical references to imbue glass, concrete and steel with an aura of historical monumentality. But Mr. Ito’s design turns this idea on its head. The arches that line the library’s exterior vary in width from 6 feet to nearly 50 feet, giving them an offhand, whimsical quality. Windows are set flush to the arches’ concrete surfaces so that the facades have a taut appearance, as if the building had been sealed in shrink wrap.

Inside, the arches are arranged at odd angles to one another. Other structures seem casually placed inside the space — a large concrete drum that houses mechanical systems at one end, a sculptural staircase at another. The floor of an informal exhibition space follows the slope of the surrounding landscape so that from inside, the relationship of the two seems fluid.

The result is a kind of antimonument. The image we hold of a heavy, traditional arch becomes something fragile and ethereal. The classical sense of order dissolves. The design’s aim is to liberate us from the oppressive weight of history and, in the process, open up imaginative possibilities.

Since the library’s completion his ambitions have led to a startling range of new designs. The concave roof segments of his recently opened Za-Koenji Public Theater in Tokyo, for instance, are vaguely reminiscent of Shinohara’s House Under High-Voltage Lines (1981). But Mr. Ito’s structure is more animated, reflecting the energy of its bustling working-class site.

Seen from an elevated rail line that passes directly in front of it, the theater’s uneven tentlike form seems to be a result of the forces colliding around it, like speeding trains and arcane zoning requirements. Inside, a wide elliptical staircase at the back corner of the lobby draws people up through the building. Big porthole windows are carved into its roof and walls. It is a simple, inexpensive building, yet its enigmatic form lingers in the imagination and transforms your perception of the neighborhood around it.

The design for the 44,000-seat Kaohsiung stadium, by contrast, seems to be as much about the anxieties of a mass event as about a shared emotional experience. While traditional stadiums are designed to shut out the outside world, Mr. Ito’s stadium seeks to maximize our awareness of it while still creating a sense of enclosure.

From the main entry the stadium looks like a gigantic snake that is just beginning to coil around its prey. Its tail extends to one side, framing a large entry plaza. At times when the stadium is less full, people will be able to stroll through the gates from the plaza and sit on a patch of grass at the edge of the field, eroding the boundary between inside and out.

Inside, the intertwining pipes of the canopy curl down and around the stands, enveloping the audience. And while the immediate surroundings are shut out, most seats have a distant view of downtown. The result is remarkable: a space that manages to maintain the intensity and focus of a grand stadium without that intensity becoming oppressive.

Yet it is in his design for the Taichung opera house, scheduled to go into construction sometime next year, that Mr. Ito comes closest to an ideal he has been chasing for decades: a building that seems to have been frozen in a state of metamorphosis. Set in a landscaped park, the opera house is conceived as a flexible network of interconnected vessels that has been sliced off on four sides to form a rectangular box.

The amorphous forms are not random; their seemingly elastic surfaces grow and shrink according to the functions they house, which include restaurants, foyers, a roof garden and three concert halls that will seat from 200 and 2,000 people. Visitors will find themselves slipping between some of these forms and entering others. The sense of inside and out, of stillness and motion, becomes a complex, carefully composed dance.

It is a striking vision, as beautiful as anything built in the past decade. And it sums up Mr. Ito’s philosophy about both architecture and life, about the need to accommodate the many contradictions that make us human.

It also suggests a way architecture can move forward.

At the beginning of this century the field seemed to have entered a new age of freedom and experimentation. But like everything else, that spirit was quickly subsumed by the competitive greed of the global economy: the money, the real estate speculation, the frantic rush for consumer attention. Designs that were born of joy and exuberance, like Mr. Gehry’s Guggenheim, were treated as marketable commodities, which became a kind of trap.
Seen in that light, the inaccessibility of Mr. Ito’s architecture is a virtue. Hard to pin down, it is also difficult to brand. By embracing ambiguity, his work forces us to look at the world through a wider lens. It asks us to choose the slowly unfolding narrative over the instant fix.

“I sometimes feel that we are losing an intuitive sense of our own bodies,” Mr. Ito lamented at one point during my visit. “Children don’t run around outside as much as they did. They sit in front of computer games. Some architects have been trying to find a language for this new generation, with very minimalist spaces. I am looking for something more primitive, a kind of abstraction that still has a sense of the body.”

“The in between,” he added, “is more interesting to me."
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: August 2, 2009
An article on July 12 about the architect Toyo Ito referred incorrectly to the sibling for whom he designed the White U house in 1976. He designed it for the younger of his two older sisters, not for his younger sister.