Sou Fujimoto gave a conference on December 11, 2014 as part of the T meetings organized by Trakya Cam Sanayi A.Ş. Before the conference, Marketing Group Director Ebru Şapoğlu gave an opening address.
Structuring his speech over the main theme “Between Nature and Architecture”, Fujimoto explained his perspective on architecture accompanied by his 7 projects (Serpentine Pavilion,Souk Mirage / Particle of Light, Hose NA, Toilet in Nature, House N, Musashino Art University Library and L’Arbre Blanc).
Just before starting his narration, he mentioned that he had been in İstanbul previously a few more times; as he talked about his visits to Turkey and Greece in a time span of one month when he was an architecture student; he noted that he was very impressed with Santa Sophia, Topkapı Palace and Kapalıçarşı, and that in fact, this impression was one of his starting points in forming his architecture. Fujimoto added that he didn’t know what kind of a concept he would have at the time when he set up his office, that when he settled in Tokyo for his studies, he realized that he could make use of two backdrops in similar situations but with contrasting appearances, like in his own life. While Tokyo embraced the individual in his all states; in the city he grew up in, nature made one feel protected; and that he formed his architecture intertwining these two states.
The architect explained that elements relating to the transparent, translucent and opaque were used in different ways in architecture, which he worked on the concepts of open/closed privacy. According to the architect, who noted that transparency is a profound and basic topic for architecture; half of the job is the environment, the other is architecture.
Rendering this architectural perception with his projects, he continued his address with Serpentine Pavilion he designed in 2013, which is his work I personally like most. Interior / exterior, simplicity/confusion and nature/architecture are nice contrasts defining Fujimoto’s architecture. Basically, the structure comprising a giant grid system seems like a cloud with its impressiveness and softness. A cloud so that sometimes someone, sitting on the grid transforming into furniture at certain locations, appears like flowing with the cloud. To tell where the interior and the exterior is quite difficult at the first glance in this pavilion with no doors or windows; because the structure in some sense acts like an artificial landscape.
Fujimoto, whose excitement during the design process could still be read from his eyes during the conference, said that the one-month time period given to them for the idea project was not enough. Perhaps in that period, the client was guiding Fujimoto when he didn’t like certain sketches, as they reflected the architect too much; and some because they weren’t reminiscent of the architect. It was this attitude that turned this pavilion into an enigma in which the architect echoed his career but captured something different than his previous projects.
This project is the product of the collaboration of the environment and requirements program; when considering how the building will communicate with nature, on the other hand, functional diversity allows the space to be used by the architect as he desires. The solution came up as the surfaces transformed into a grid system when studies were done on mockups. Transparency/translucency and fullness / emptiness make feelings change according to the business of the space, turning it into a cloud-like and moving structure. The building with no net boundaries has an upper cover, which contains the minimum of the required content.
People form the shape of the pavilion. Night time, the pavilion does not stop to seem more surreal. This structure, which is an object where all contrasts appear together, actually opens to the environment when it is protected from it.
The project transforms more than one function at different scales; sometimes into landscape, sometimes into architecture and sometimes into a sitting element.
Fujimoto has attempted to execute this idea in the Serpentine Pavilion in another project he designed in the Middle East but which was cancelled; Souk Mirage / Particle of Light, but that time, the continuation of success in the pavilion could not be achieved. The architect, who can’t do without saying that when a mall is to be designed, this scale is difficult; said that when thinking of how he will react against location and climate away from the geography he is used to, he was inspired by the fact that shopping is an act requiring walking.
For designing a space for a good experience to spend time, the architect seeks to take climate under control, creating a gigantic void, accommodating the element of water in it. Instead of building shades, Fujimoto makes use of reiteration of forms at different scales but in the same geometry so that the whole project helps controlling light. The density of light determines the shape of the silhouette.
Sou Fujimoto’s House NA, one of the projects best describing him, is a residence in Tokyo which is built on a tiny lot of 45 square meters. The architect, while underscoring that this project is defined by being different/diverse, has created 20 different spaces/areas/corners. Some of these spaces, each at a different level, are the size of just a piece of furniture. These 20 different spaces, reminding of a puzzle, actually are trapped into a single space like cosmetic products decorating shelves with different components. This residence, allowing the client to pick his day-to-day life, is protected by a soft boundary. In contrast to the general conduct of his peers, Fujimoto is enchanted by what the users add. Drapes coming to the home later create relaxed densities while portioning some of the spaces. The architect, working in good collaboration with the client, says that spaces change depending on their relationship to the home.
Toilet in Nature, which is Fujimoto’s slap-like answer to architecture, has a highly exciting requirements program. This toilet, which is a public but private venue, becomes the basic subject of architecture when burgeoning in the hands of contrasts. The toilet, sitting in a garden in nature / architecture / nature concept, aims to create the sentiment of loneliness in a crowd. The garden wall created by wooden pipes driven on the ground, is the source of this sentiment.
House N, at the first glance, reminds one of this nursery rhyme: “Boxes and boxes of pliers…”. This home, with its three-layered walls, is a space used from inside to outside. While the first layer forms the outer wall, the second layer, at times, accommodates transparency; the third layer, on the other hand, is a small box where the venue goes thoroughly deep. These spaces all in between enrich the choices in life. In this space, which is half inside, half outside; the feeling is predominant in other projects, reveals itself by opening to outside although it is sheltered. The reinforced concrete structure enchants with its light appearance and this magic surrounds you until layers pile up on each other, piercing the sky. The meeting of the room like garden or vice-versa with the home instills awe.
The architect describes Musashino Art University Library project as a simple one. Just like in the previous one, it’s composed of layers; the whole is not visible from apertures. Certain expectations come up in the user when entering this playful structure but these are met only when one travels inside the building. The structure is almost a forest of books for book lovers and the architect, with this design, queries the possibility of emergence of new ideas when walking in the forest. The curved geometry of the building allows it to own the characteristic of being the replica of the feeling of endlessness. Yet, another feature of the building is that it can be enlarged if needed, by removing the structure forming the outer wall. There are some windows in which plastic is used on the 9-meter-high ceiling and the material is specifically used for softening the light. The soft light accompanied by reflections on the shelves gives the building the cloud-like feeling in the pavilion. Spaces are dispersed with layers in the structure which accommodates very different space experiences.
L’Arbre Blanc is a housing project in Montpellier, causing Fujimoto to slow down his pace at the finale of the conference. Once again, in a foreign geography, he promises the presentation of a contemporary life fit for the Mediterranean climate. This project, concentrated on life on the terrace and shades, is situated on a river bank and looks like a pineapple. It is rumored that it is designed in an organic form not to cut off the view of the buildings around it. The same type of respect is also demonstrated on the subject of letting live with balcony, of Mediterranean traditions. The structure is shaped in a one-off manner. The architect, who says that he designs relationships, activities and lifestyles, remarked that he put his signature on a building which is both ordinary and also extraordinary.
At the end of his speech, Fujimoto said that he sought to find new values from amongst simplicity and confusion. This delicious presentation left in it’s behind generally smiling faces around the hall, with a lot of questions…
Selin Biçer / Architect