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Negotiating Comfort in the Metropolis: Peter Cook, Toyō Itō, and the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition, 1977 and 1988

En quête de confort dans la métropole : Peter Cook, Toyo Ito et le concours d’architecture résidentielle de Shinkenchiku (1977 et 1988)
Cathelijne Nuijsink

Résumés

Cette étude envisage le concours d’architecture résidentielle de Shinkenchiku (1965-2020) comme une plateforme d’échanges interculturels favorisant le renouvellement du savoir architectural. Inscrivant le concours dans une longue histoire de rencontres transnationales, l’étude met en évidence le basculement idéologique qui s’est opéré entre l’affirmation des idéaux modernistes et leur critique. Nous reviendrons sur l’apparition de la critique sur le manque de « confort » dans l’architecture moderniste en prenant pour exemple les concours de 1977 et 1988, durant lesquels les juges Peter Cook puis Toyo Ito mirent les architectes au défi de concevoir de nouvelles solutions architecturales pour atteindre « le confort dans la métropole ». En adoptant d’abord une approche synchronique, l’article examine les origines du thème proposé par Cook, les projets récompensés, les appréciations des juges et le retentissement des concours pour comprendre l’incidence de la géographie sur l’appréhension du confort. Les résultats des deux concours sont ensuite analysés de manière diachronique pour mieux saisir les variations temporelles dans la conception de l’habitat et de la ville par les architectes. Au-delà des mécanismes d’un concours durablement marqué par le débat d’idées, cette enquête révèle, confronte et permet de comprendre l’antagonisme entre les différents points de vue culturels et architecturaux des deux juges.

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Introduction

  • 1 Japanese architects started to gain momentum in the international architectural debate in the earl (...)
  • 2 Shinkenchiku magazine became especially conservative and neutral in observation after a dispute co (...)
  • 3 The notion of “contact zone” was first coined by literature scholar Mary Louise Pratt in the conte (...)

1In 1965, the Japanese publishing house Shinkenchiku launched an international housing ideas competition in order to rejuvenate its long-running architectural magazine, Shinkenchiku [New Architecture, 1925-]. Introduced at a critical moment in the internationalization of Japanese architecture culture, the competition was inspired by a series of housing ideas competitions featured in the same magazine just after the Second World War. 1 The Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition, as the contest was entitled, was envisioned as an avant-garde supplement inserted in what had otherwise become a conservative architectural magazine.2 The Shinkenchiku Competition differs from other ideas competitions in that it operates with a single-judge system. The judge is free to set the competition theme and to award any number of prizes. Additionally, in all 49 competitions to date, the judge has generously reflected on the competition entries, allowing for critical reflections on the concepts and practices of domesticity. The list of architects who have served as judges, ranging from Richard Meier, Peter Cook, Charles Moore, Philip Johnson, Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel, and Rafael Moneo to Japan’s most respected designers, Kazuo Shinohara, Kenzo Tange, Arata Isozaki, Toyō Itō, and Kazuyo Sejima, is impressive. It attests to the power of this design competition to attract worldwide attention. Above all, the history of the Shinkenchiku shows that it was deliberately set up as a cross-cultural “contact zone” in which local and foreign ideas regarding the notion of house and home met, informed, and inspired each other.3

East–West Encounters

  • 4 In effect since 1633-1639, Japan’s isolation policy (sakoku) banned foreigners from entering Japan (...)
  • 5 The most ambitious learning experience of this kind was the Iwakura Mission (1871-1873), in which (...)
  • 6 Inspired by the modernist admiration of Katsura Villa from architects such as Bruno Taut and Walte (...)
  • 7 Ken Tadashi Ōshima, International Architecture in Interwar Japan: Constructing Kokusai Kenchiku, S (...)

2East–West exchanges accelerated sharply in the Meiji era (1868-1912), after Japan’s borders were forcefully opened in 1853. Until then, the country had adhered to a policy of national isolation that had lasted for over 200 years.4 In the late nineteenth century, under the motto of “catching up with the West,” the Meiji government initiated a large-scale modernization project. It carefully selected and imported what were considered the best foreign social systems.5 One illustration of Meiji interest in Western ideas, institutions, and technologies is the introduction of the professional, Western-trained architect. The very first generation of Japanese architects were trained in Western building techniques and styles and, upon graduation, were largely responsible for introducing Western forms in Japan. However, this unidirectional “import” of Western building typologies and styles was only short-lived. With modernist ideals travelling back and forth between Europe and Japan during the interwar years (1919-1937) came a growing doubt about simply copying Western models. Architects such as Junzo Sakakura, Kunio Maekawa, Takamasa Yoshizaka, Arata Endo, Kameki Tsuchiura, Kiyoshi Seike, and Iwao Yamazaki worked in the offices of the modernist masters Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Walter Gropius, while architects like Bruno Taut, Antonin Raymond, and Walter Gropius visited Japan to uncover modernist ideals in traditional Japanese architecture.6 As architectural historian Ken Oshima has pointed out, these cross-cultural currents nurtured a “creative will” (sakui) among independent architects to move beyond merely importing Western models. 7 My research situates the Shinkenchiku competition in a larger discussion of cross-cultural encounters between Japanese and Western architects, and considers the confrontation between the positions of the judges Toyō Itō and Peter Cook as an extension of the Japanese tradition of questioning Western models.

The “Contact Zone” of the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition

  • 8 Arata Isozaki, “General Remarks. Thoughts on the Wretched State of Japanese Architectural Educatio (...)
  • 9 Kisho Kurokawa, Competition announcement “1980 Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition,” The J (...)
  • 10 Tadao Andō, Competition announcement “The Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1985.” The J (...)
  • 11 Helmut Jahn, Competition announcement “Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1986,” The Japa (...)

3Despite the complex nature of the reciprocal knowledge exchange between the pioneers of modernism, East-West encounters up to then had repeatedly reinforced modernist architecture and endorsed its ideals. In contrast, the Shinkenchiku competition served as a cross-cultural encounter, primarily used to critique modernist architecture. In the competition briefs and judges’ final remarks, beginning with those of Arata Isozaki in 1975 and going up to the early 1990s, the judges, one by one, showed dissatisfaction with the inhumanity of modernist spaces. Tired of the pragmatism of the previous nine competitions, in which an all-Japanese cast of judges had asked their contestants to draw plans for “real” dwellings, Isozaki, in 1975, provocatively set the conceptual theme as “house for a superstar” to highlight the inability of the present generation of architects to deal with the environment of success, exuberance, and hyperbole. 8 His general remarks describing his choice of winners unapologetically introduced a post-modern thought process into Japanese architectural education, otherwise technically orientated. Presenting the 1980 competition, “a house at the juncture of history and now,” Kisho Kurokawa admitted that his earlier attempts to merge traditional Japanese and contemporary technological cultures had been unsuccessful, and he used the competition to announce a new direction in his career. Criticizing the universalizing attempts of modernists, he advocated the arrival of a new cultural sphere that would be the “outcome of the collision, peaceful coexistence, fusion, and interchange of pluralistic and diverse cultural value systems.”9 In the 1985 competition, Tadao Ando complained about the “homogenization and objectification of the world” caused by modern rationalism, and called for the design of a “bulwark of resistance” in order to restore humanity.10 Foreign judges also used the competition as a space to critique modernist ideals. For example, Helmut Jahn, in his 1986 competition brief, spoke of “the failure of modernist dreams” to contribute to social betterment by means of architecture, while, in 1989, Bernard Tschumi raged against “the purity of functional types and formalist devices,” calling for a reinterpretation of the program concept.11

  • 12 Differences in comfort between Western and Japanese dwellings are fundamental to writings such as (...)

4This paper concentrates on one particular kind of critique of modernist architecture playing out in the Shinkenchiku competition, namely that of the notion of comfort. Justified by the existence of two competitions reflecting upon the topic of comfort, yet distanced in time, it allows for a synchronic as well as diachronic approach.12 The paper starts with an analysis of the 1977 competition, in which Peter Cook challenged architects to come up with new housing proposals to attain “comfort in the metropolis.” Studying the origins of Cook’s competition brief, the cross-cultural responses to it, and Cook’s vision, after being exposed to the different solutions, reveal how the common design problem of “comfort in the metropolis” initiated a confrontation and exchange of ideas. Also, this analysis makes it clear that multiple approaches to and interpretations of “comfort” exist, and explains how they relate to different theoretical cultures. In an attempt to extend the line of the modernist critique of “comfort” initiated by Peter Cook, Japanese architect Toyō Itō repeated exactly the same theme 11 years later to reflect on the meaning—the equivalent, the opposite, the complementary—within local Japanese architectural culture. By juxtaposing the outcomes of these two competitions, this paper acknowledges the different manners of translations and interpretations of the original theme, and argues that this effect of translated ideas and concepts is vital in understanding the competition as a generator of architectural knowledge.

Peter Cook’s “Comfort”

  • 13 Beatriz ColominaX-ray Architecture, Zürich: Lars Müller Publishers, 2019.
  • 14 For critiques of modernist comfort see, for example, Tomas Maldonado, “The Idea of Comfort,” Desig (...)
  • 15 Peter Cook and David Greene, Archigram, no. 1, May 1961. For an extensive discussion of Archigram’s (...)

5Peter Cook’s 1977 competition brief “Comfort in the Metropolis” was entangled in a discourse on modernism’s peculiar relationship with comfort. On the one hand, modernist architects were preoccupied with health, hygiene, and openness, in the belief that a new social architecture would contribute to a better society. Inspired by health facilities, architecture historian Beatriz Colomina has argued that modernist architecture became increasingly obsessed with healthy “bodies,” and architects fanatic about presenting their buildings as if they were medical instruments that could protect and enhance the body and psyche.13 Yet this modernist focus on bodily comfort stood in stark contrast to the “universal spaces” proposed by the modernists, which lacked any reference to a cozy, homelike atmosphere.14 In his role as a member of the Archigram and professor at the AA School of Architecture in London, Cook re-ignited this debate with a critique of the “gutless state of British modernism” and its rather uncomfortable functionalist buildings. As a member of Archigram, Cook set out “to stir architecture from its slumbers, inject it with new vitality, and dramatically expand its horizons.” 15

  • 16 Hannah Le Roux, “The Networks of Tropical Architecture,” Journal of Architecture, vol. 8, no. 3, 2 (...)
  • 17 For an extensive discussion on the topic of thermal comfort, see Jiat-Hwee Chang, “Thermal Comfort (...)

6Cook’s concern for the lack of comfort in modernist buildings was a particularly relevant topic within the AA School of Architecture in London. Cook entered the AA School as a student in 1958, and must have been well aware of the newly established Department of Tropical Architecture (1954–1971) that the AA School had launched only a couple of years earlier. The AA School’s new department, initially headed by Max Fry, was the outcome of the 1953 Conference on Tropical Architecture held at University College London and aimed to widen the scope of the existing AA curriculum to include knowledge on building in hot climates. The department prepared British architects to work in post-colonial “tropical peripheries” by teaching them technical know-how for climatic design. In developing its curriculum, the department made sure it would attain international recognition as a node of expertise on tropical architecture that accumulated scientific knowledge as well as on-site experiences.16 With an understanding of thermal comfort and the proper use of building materials in hot climates, the architects aimed to develop a unified approach to design for the tropics and to seek ground for new modernist experiments, which helped to globalize modern architecture to the Tropics in the 1960s. Contrary to these ongoing discussions within and beyond the AA School on a techno-scientific construction of comfort, Cook used the space of an ideas competition to introduce an entirely different notion of “comfort.” The concept Cook described in the Shinkenchiku competition brief was not a quasi-objective physiological notion based on thermal sensation, but instead a subjective psychological interpretation that was much more closely related to an atmospheric notion of “well-being.”17

  • 18 Peter Cook, Editorial,” Archigram #8, 1968.
  • 19 Archigram #8, 1968. Republished in Peter Cook and ArchigramArchigram, London: Studio Vista, 1972 (...)

7Already in Archigram Eight (1968), Cook and the other members of Archigram demonstrated a particular interest in “comfort,” with an entire issue of their own magazine devoted to “the problem of direct personal provision of comfort, facility, satisfaction, inquiry, and above all, the effect of all kinds of phenomena upon each other.”18 “Comfort” here was understood in relation to things that contribute to physical ease and well-being, and compared with a dictionary entry that stressed the restoration of a sense of physical well-being. Where the Oxford Dictionary entry defined “comfort” as “relief in affliction...cause of satisfaction, conscious well-being…possession of things that make life easy,” Archigram refined its meaning by referring to the “broad instinct for well-being,” boldly stating that “perhaps the greatest test justification for the environment—or any manmade effort—is well-being—or is this moralizing?”19

  • 20 Michelle MurphySick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty: Environmental Politics, Te (...)

8Archigram’s concept of well-being was unmistakably entangled with the built environment, and considered essential to exploring alternatives to “inhuman” modernist buildings. As an indirect result of the 1970 energy crisis, buildings started to be sealed in order to prevent energy loss, resulting in money-saving decisions that significantly diminished the inside air quality and livability. Against these early discussions on thermal comfort that would come to develop into articulations such as Sick Building Syndrome, for example, Archigram instead returned to an interpretation of comfort-giving structures and facilities absent from the modernist “machines for living in,” as they made clear in Archigram magazine:20

  • 21 Archigram #8, 1968, op. cit. (note 19), p. 76

9‘Comfort’ in its current English usage is an old, rather ‘hairy’ (and therefore suspect) word, but it is interesting that the most impressive modern architecture is most often accused (by lay people) of being ‘uncomfortable’. This is at the level of the most literal interpretation of the word, but it serves as a warning that if we are not careful, we shall end up by providing a commodity that by its inhumanity is just aesthetic fetish. Returning to the fundamental comfort-instinct, it is reasonable to check designed situations against their probable ‘plus’ or ‘minus’ in terms of whether they make people feel safe or unsafe, propped-up or isolated, happy, or unhappy.21

10The same issue of Archigram provided clear-cut illustrations of “comfort-giving” architecture using Mike Webb’s designs of Cushicle/Suitaloon (1966) as an example. While Cushicle was an air-cushioned vehicle the size of a small room, Suitaloon was simply an inflatable suit that challenged the most basic form of housing. A thin, transparent plastic outfit, Suitaloon contained room for more than a human body. When it was inflated, the inhabitant/wearer was comfortably enclosed by the second skin of a big balloon. Responsive technology incorporated inside this skin enabled the enclosure to adapt biologically to daily life and thus be a safe haven within the metropolis.

  • 22 Peter Cook’s first visit to Japan was in 1977 as a Japan Foundation Fellow and judge of the Shinke (...)
  • 23 Peter Cook, “Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1977,” The Japan Architect, January 1977, (...)
  • 24 Ibid, p. 2

11The notion of comfort continued to haunt Peter Cook even after the Archigram group broke apart in 1974. In 1977, he used it as the competition theme of the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition to expand his enduring interest in the shortcomings of modernist architecture (fig. 1). 22 In his competition brief, acknowledging that modern architecture had long ignored the fundamental human need for comfort, Cook called on participants to regard the competition as an exercise in understanding “one’s own psychology in respect of comfortableness” and invited contestants to come up with “a house that enables one to be comfortable while living in a metropolis.”23 Taking “rest” as the start of the other expressive part of our lives, Cook clarified his idea of “comfort” as an architecture that can provide physical ease and relaxation:
… so I am using the word ‘comfort’ as a reference to everyday need: as in ‘repose’, ‘softness’ or ‘facility’ - as possibly ‘calmness’. But there is also the need (often repressed in so-called civilized society) for a place where one can be ‘oneself’. The architecture of good taste is often repressive.24

Figure 1: Peter Cook, in his role as judge, used the 1977 edition of the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition to ponder on psychologies towards “comfortableness.”

Figure 1: Peter Cook, in his role as judge, used the 1977 edition of the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition to ponder on psychologies towards “comfortableness.”

Source: The Japan Architect, January 1977, p. 2-3.

  • 25 Laura Stoll, “A Short History of Wellbeing Research,” in Cary L. Cooper and David McDaid (ed.), We (...)
  • 26 Laura Stoll, “A Short History of Wellbeing Research,” in Cary L. Cooper and David McDaid (ed.), We (...)
  • 27 The Greek word eudaimonia is the end goal in Aristotle’s ethics of virtue and commonly mistranslat (...)
  • 28 Laura Stoll, “A Short History of Wellbeing Research,” op. cit. (note 26), p. 17.
  • 29 Ed Diener, Shigehiro Oishi and Richard E. Lucas, “Subjective Wellbeing: The Science of Happiness a (...)
  • 30 John Gordon Melton, “New Age movement,” in Encyclopedia Britannica. URL: https://www.britannica.co (...)

12Although a popular and widely used concept today, theories on well-being have their roots among philosophers in Ancient Greece.25 Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and Epicurus already speculated about “the good life,” and laid the foundations of philosophies that still guide scientists and policy makers today.26 For Socrates, “lifelong learning” was the key to happiness; Aristotle defined the good life in terms of a satisfactory performance, eudaimona; while Epicurus gave the notion yet another twist by focusing not on positive experience, but rather the absence of the negative; pain and illness. 27 The Age of Enlightenment saw a radical shift in the conception of well-being, from one originally based in faith and tradition, into a science taken up by economists, sociologists, and psychologists who analyzed, quantified, and measured well-being in terms of personal pleasure. 28 Scientists started to define subjective well-being as a person’s cognitive and affective evaluations of life, focusing on the emotional, mental, and physical pleasures and pain that individuals experience, using happiness, affect, and life satisfaction as their assessment criteria.29 Cook’s definition of comfort resonates significantly with these subjective well-being studies that claim happiness as a state of mind and quantified it as a series of good experiences. Yet it is also a possibility that Cook was simply taken in by a New Age belief in “well-being,” when the New Age movement was emerging in the United Kingdom in the 1970s. Developed as a range of spiritual or religious beliefs and practices often associated with the hippie subculture, the New Age advocated an individualistic approach, a personal spiritual path leading to well‐being.30

  • 31 Peter Cook, “Judge’s Notes,” The Japan Architect, February 1978, p. 8.
  • 32 Ibid.
  • 33 Where Cook’s comfort differed from that of contemporaries such as Cedric Price (1934-2003) and Rey (...)

13Cook’s brief, after setting up his definition of “comfort” as a remedy for the inhuman buildings produced by Modernist architects, went on to describe how he envisioned comfort to relate to the dynamics of the contemporary city, the latter portrayed as a “fierce cosmopolitan machine that grinds and hones us towards a sharper experience of our civilization.”31 Cook imagined that such urban dynamics called for particular characteristics of the urban resident: “febrile, sensitive to and demanding of a very special degree of comfort.”32 To fulfill these needs, Cook prescribed a house stout enough to stand up to the forces of the metropolis yet simultaneously delicate enough to sanction a private sphere within. He advised contestants to think in particular about designing the relation between house and city as a dynamic interface.33

  • 34 Peter Cook, “Judge’s Notes,” op. cit. (note 31), p. 9.

14After judging the 446 design proposals submitted, of which 256 were from Japan and 190 from 35 other countries, Cook divided the total prize money between five winners. He included another five special awards, four honorable mentions, four special mentions, and thirty rejected proposals in his final assessment. To select multiple winners rather than a single winner is emblematic of the Shinkenchiku competition in general, demonstrating that the competition was never set up to expect one single “correct answer” to the brief. In the case of Cook, the competition served as an important means to develop a new architectural language. Asking for neither a pure architectural idea nor an entirely pragmatic solution, he liked the international cohort of architects encountering each other within the space of the competition to “draw fire.”34

Peter Cook’s Observations

  • 35 Idem, “Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1977,” The Japan Architect, January 1977, p. 2.
  • 36 Idem, “Judge’s Notes,” op. cit. (note 31), p. 9.
  • 37 Ibid., p. 10.

15As acknowledged in the judge’s notes, Cook was really captivated by a couple of entries. What these winning entries shared was the authors’ capacity to put a house in confrontation with the “fierce cosmopolitan machine.”35 In addition, rather than a mere contemplative scheme or an idea without an actual design, the entries managed to provoke a discussion by means of an atmospheric drawing that simultaneously allowed the audience to imagine a real and “delightful” space.36 The first-prize winners, Masaharu Takasaki and Eiji Takasu, surprised Cook with a scheme that translated comfort into “confusion,” a state of mind of being bewildered or unclear in one's mind about comfort (fig. 2). The house proposed resembled a black box with religious undertones, due to minimal light sources and a floor raised to altar-like heights. Within this one-room space, the architects provocatively put common elements such as toilet and bed center-stage, creating, according to Cook, “a magic evocation of place and atmosphere.”37 Takasaki and Takasu contributed to the discussion on comfort with the idea that a house could be even denser than the metropolis itself and, as such, make the “fierce cosmopolitan machine” suddenly look mundane.

Figure 2: Peter Cook honored Masaharu Takasaki and Eiji Takasu first prize for the way they translated comfort into the state of mind of “confusion.”

Figure 2: Peter Cook honored Masaharu Takasaki and Eiji Takasu first prize for the way they translated comfort into the state of mind of “confusion.”

Source: The Japan Architect, February 1978, p. 14-15.

  • 38 Ibid., p. 11.

16Another evocation was proposed by an Architectural Association (AA) School of Architecture student, Rodney Place. Using mirrored corners and recording urban sounds, his converted one-room apartment on the London Circle Line alluded to illusionary movements. Through a strange juxtaposition of stairways and corridors, Place evoked a “haunting quality” that made seeking comfort in the city a “spooky, ambiguous, and perhaps impossible task” according to Cook.38 Waseda University student Hiroshi Yoshiuchi’s comfort in the metropolis took the form of a rudimentary shelter and water well, squashed into a narrow alley between high-rise buildings. His drawing-only entry juxtaposed the atmosphere of bland street walls with the nostalgia of a homely interior to suggest “a resting place for the weary cynic.”

17Due to his characteristic drawing style, Peter Wilson, an AA professor who had won the contest twice in the 1976-edition and will win the contest multiple times after the 1977-edition, could not maintain anonymity. Considering vacant lots and urban voids as the places with the most intense metropolitan experience, Wilson designed his four-story “Comfortable House (For Architectural Speculation) in the Metropolis” on the corner of a void in London that, like the metropolis, could only be experienced in the imagination (fig. 3). Comfort was reached when the house physically reflected the conceptual nature of the relationship between the urbanite and the metropolis. Although Wilson’s proposal was “a production of the mind,” the arrangement of the architectural elements of walls, posts and doors, made it realistic enough for Cook to image a real architectural space. In Volker Giencke’s winning entry, the metropolis itself is his house. To find comfort in this “house,” residents needed first to manipulate their awareness of the metropolitan environment through the architectural acts of carving, slicing, and opening its mass, a radical metamorphosis of the structural environment of the metropolis. Giencke’s scheme is a megastructure, made of thinly lined cubes, to facilitate its distortion. When the user pushes one of the lines, the house changes in shape, and with that, the experience of the metropolis is altered. Only then is identification with the metropolis possible.

Figure 3: Although Peter Wilson proposed an architecture of the mind, Peter Cook gave him fourth prize for its power to imagine real architectural space.

Figure 3: Although Peter Wilson proposed an architecture of the mind, Peter Cook gave him fourth prize for its power to imagine real architectural space.

Source: The Japan Architect, February 1978, p. 20-21.

  • 39 Ibid., p. 9.
  • 40 Ibid., p. 13.
  • 41 Ibid., p. 8.

18Going through these and the 460 other proposals, Cook concluded his remarks by noting that it is possible to make oneself comfortable in the city as long as one designs really delightful spaces in which artifacts are arranged in such a way as to suggest comfort.39 Delightful places, in the words of Cook, contained four ingredients: invention, placement, wit, and recognition.40 Pointing out that “space” is in fact a condition, and “condition” a state of mind, Cook made clear that the “evocation of certain thoughts” stemming from the design is more important than the actual design.41 Hence, Cook’s competition was primarily concerned with qualities of experience of space, and it was expected that contestants could translate a certain experience into an atmospheric space that could actually be enjoyed by its residents.

Toyō Itō’s Comfort

  • 42 In the 1978 competition, Charles Moore explicitly referred to Junzo Yoshimura’s 1968 theme of “A R (...)
  • 43 Although Archigram served as an inspiring reference for Itō’s work, his real “master” is Metabolis (...)
  • 44 Toyō Itō, “The Logic of Usefulness,” in Toyō Itō, Tarzans in the Media Forest, London: Architectur (...)
  • 45 Idem Itō, “Aluminum House. Steele, Brett, and Architectural Association London,” First Works: Emer (...)
  • 46 Toyō Itō, 「設計行為とは歪められてゆく自己の思考過程を追跡する作業にほ
  • 47 Toyō Itō, “The Logic of Usefulness, ” op. cit. (note 44), p. 24, 25.

19Eleven years after Peter Cook, Toyō Itō repeated the theme of “Comfort in the Metropolis,” thereby initiating an inter-textual reference between Peter Cook and himself as judges (fig. 4). Referring to previous judges’ statements in this way is not uncommon to this competition, but the implicit confrontation between the positions of Peter Cook and Toyō Itō, in particular, had much wider implications beyond the actual competition, as we will see.42 Born in 1941, Itō is only four years younger than Cook. He graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1965, when Cook had taken up the position of instructor at the AA School of Architecture in London. Itō’s fascination with the work of Archigram remained no secret.43 In a 1971 essay titled The Logic of Usefulness, Itō admitted that his recently opened architectural office urbot was born out of a mixture of the Californian vernacularism of American architects, Charles Moore and Joseph Esherick and technological utopianism of Archigram and Superstudio (1966-1978).44 Both streams of thought, in their own right, critically assessed the domination of technology in the urban environment. These two strands came together in Itō’s debut work urbot-001, also known as the Aluminum House (1971) in Fujisawa. Using the highly industrial material of aluminum to clad a wooden structure, Itō created a vernacular-like space “at the junction of this obsession with technology and the search for poetic dimensions created by light and space.”45 A deliberate attempt to design an “incoherent space” that the residents themselves had to transform into an efficacious and functional space, the “dysfunctional hermetic shell” satirized American functionalism that had so heavily influenced Japanese postwar architecture.46 At the same time, URBOT-001 was not the child of just any metropolis but that of Tokyo in particular. The aluminum cladding, Itō argued, integrated nicely with the “concrete rubble” of Tokyo’s chaotic urban condition of the 1970s, while the paradoxical mix of returning to nature and worshipping technology was “only possible in a city as anarchic as Tokyo.”47

Figure 4: Toyō Itō, in 1988, repeated the theme of ‘Comfort in the Metropolis’ Peter Cook had set 11 years ago and with that initiated a dialogue between two judges.

Figure 4: Toyō Itō, in 1988, repeated the theme of ‘Comfort in the Metropolis’ Peter Cook had set 11 years ago and with that initiated a dialogue between two judges.

Source: The Japan Architect, March 1988, p. 6-7.

  • 48 Thomas Daniell, “The Fugitive,” in Toyō ItōTarzans in the Media Forest, op. cit. (note 44), p. 5
  • 49 Toyō Itō, “What is the reality of architecture in a futuristic city?” in Toyō ItōTarzans in the (...)

20By the time Itō was appointed to judge the 1988 Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition, however, he had radically shifted course. Influenced by the rapid development of electronic technologies and media in the Japan of the 1980s economic bubble, his focus changed from “a parody of the obstinate pursuit of functionalism” to a fascination with the dynamic yet incoherent urban environment of Tokyo.48 Observing that Tokyo was “a city without exterior”—that is, a city whose beginning you don’t notice clearly, but which suddenly draws you into its labyrinthine interior—the key question for Itō became “how to live comfortably in this kind of fictional, futuristic city, and what kind of architecture should we build there?”49 Rather than replicating the tumultuous spaces of the city, Itō’s interest turned to making buildings in their most natural state:

  • 50 Ibid.Itō, p. 57.

…from 1980 on, in constantly thinking about the theme of reconceiving architecture in terms of the actions of daily life, I concluded that my aim should be architecture that resembles the existing conditions and reflects human actions in space, so that the question of comfort, as a minimization of pressure on the human body, will be manifest as a disorderly stack of absorbing spaces.50

  • 51 Toyō Itō, 「消費の海に浸らずして新しい建築はない」 [“Shōhi no umi ni

21Capturing the circumstances of an architect involved in the absurd capitalist conditions of late 1980s Japan, Itō wrote in 1989 the essay No New Architecture without Immersing Oneself in the Sea of Consumption, which was very much tied to the position he took in the Shinkenchiku competition brief.51 Published at the height of the economic bubble, the essay was Itō’s plea to young architects to end their uncritical endeavors as mere interior decorators in favor of creating architecture that opened up to the consumer society. The way Itō discussed architecture in the context of social and urban lifestyles was radically different from the beautifully carved out spaces Japanese architects created in the 1970s and developed into a discourse of new realities in the mid-1990s. With construction budgets only a fraction of land prices, it resulted in a superficial and incoherent urban fabric in which buildings appeared as temporary advertisement billboards. Architecture no longer had the stable and lasting character it had always had, Itō concluded, but had started to become “empty symbols of consumption,” fleeting in the information society.

  • 52 The original Japanese names of the two most recent pao installations are 東京 遊牧少女 Tōkyō yūboku shōj (...)
  • 53 Thomas Daniell, “The Fugitive,” in Toyō ItōTarzans in the Media Forest, op. cit. (note 44), p. 1 (...)
  • 54 Toyō Itō,「消費の海に浸らずして新しい建築はない」, op. cit. (note 51), p. 201.

22Reflecting on his two recent installations, Pao for the Tokyo Nomad Girl II and Paradise Twelve Meters above Earth, Itō continued his essay by expressing a desire to create ephemeral spaces that allowed people to enjoy a vibrant urban lifestyle fully.52 What society needed was not large and definitive buildings but lightweight structures perforated with holes that let in air and light, but above all, urban reality.53 In Pao for the Tokyo Nomad Girl II, Itō changed the nomad’s dwelling from a yurt with a translucent membrane into a polyhedron floating in the air like a spaceship (fig. 5).54 In the installation Paradise Twelve Meters above Earth, the yurt was placed on the roof of an actual building and allowed the nomad girl to forge a path through the city. Both designs departed from the image of urban experience captured inside a tent, as was the case in the first Pao. Instead, they allowed that urban experience to penetrate the dwelling through its holes. It was in this “city” phase of his career—addressing the consumer society and the superficial urban lifestyles associated with it—that Itō was asked to serve as the judge of the Shinkenchiku competition in 1988, which he took as an opportunity to clarify his thoughts on “comfort in the metropolis.”

Figure 5: The ideas on comfort Toyō Itō laid out in the 1988 competition were tied to his light and ephemeral architectural projects at that time, such as Pao for a Tokyo Urban Nomad II

Figure 5: The ideas on comfort Toyō Itō laid out in the 1988 competition were tied to his light and ephemeral architectural projects at that time, such as Pao for a Tokyo Urban Nomad II

Source: Toyō Itō, “Pao II: a dwelling for the Tokyo Nomad Women, 1989-2017,” as displayed in kanal – Centre Pompidou, Brussels, as part of the Station to Station Exhibition. Photograph Jiat-Hwee Chang, 2018.

Toyō Itō’s Observations

  • 55 Benedict Hobson, “Archigram’s Instant City concept enables ‘a village to become a kind of city for (...)
  • 56 Toyō Itō, Competition Announcement. “The Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1988,” p. 6.
  • 57 Ibid., p. 6.

23In the belief that the metropolitan residential environment had been altered greatly by technology and information into a technopolis, Itō foresaw the need to rethink the topic set by Peter Cook in 1977. In his 1988 competition brief, Itō argued that 20 years earlier, Cook, in his role as an Archigram member, had foreseen “the way our lives would be changed by an environment overspread with technology, as our current one is.” Back in 1968, Archigram introduced Instant City, a visionary project that—using trucks and airships— delivered cultural attractions to small towns, in order to bring them the temporary feel of a big city.55 Already back then, Itō argued, Cook was not seeking a world that was technologically perfectly controlled, but instead “a very bright and optimistic space in which the inhabitant of the metropolis is free to play with technology.”56 Next, Itō illustrated his argument by summing up the many technologies that had already infiltrated the daily lives of city dwellers. His examples were clearly inspired by his own experiences of living in Tokyo. He then explicitly stated that Tokyo is the metropolis par excellence that already incorporates the kinds of technology Archigram predicted. As a consequence, moving through this urban-space-as-temporary-exposition is like the making of “simulated trips.”57 Itō set out to comment on the way consumer lifestyles have made the private house in urban Japan a superficial phenomenon. Restaurants, convenience stores, love hotels, and cafés are used by the urban nomad as alternatives to kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms, with the result that people no longer feel their real house as ‘home.’ In the competition brief, Itō went on to describe how the new urban environment required also a new type of housing:

  • 58 Ibid., p. 6

Our daily lives in the metropolis are repeated roundtrips between barrack-like houses and glittering, dreamlike illusionary space, which although unprecedented and wonderful, seem to be working a fundamental change in our perception of pleasure and relaxation. We have not, however, developed a kind of house that is pleasant and relaxing in ways suited to this extremely technological environment.58

24To get the urban house out of this impasse, Itō called on contestants “to plot a new environment for the body” with a design liberated from existing social frameworks.

25In reference to his own trials for Pao for a Tokyo Urban Nomad, he literary suggested in the competition brief that such a new concept of a house could be a space merely enclosed by thin and formless membranes. The key to success in this competition was the use of technology in such a way that it would directly contribute to one’s own pleasure and comfort and simultaneously create a house that, from within, would make the technological environment outside look brighter and more welcoming, according to Itō. Itō’s comfort was therefore a bodily one, endowed with a sensual perception of pleasure and relaxation.

  • 59 Toyō Itō, “Comfort in the Metropolis: In the Narrow Defile Between Reality and Fiction,” The Japan (...)

26After encountering the 373 competition entries (247 from Japan and 126 from other countries), Itō reiterated that “his” metropolis was Tokyo, a futuristic city in which consumer society had developed to such an extent that it had blurred the boundary between reality and fiction. In this metropolis, he argued, bodies were drifting in a single void “almost as if we were astronauts controlled by life-support systems and floating in cosmic space.”59 The task of this year’s Shinkenchiku competition, he stressed once again in the judge’s notes, was a matter of designing the most comfortable house possible for an astronaut afloat in the metropolis called Tokyo. Contrary to Cook, who asked his contestants to design “an interface between house and city” to protect its inhabitants from the metropolis, Itō expected his participants to make a visual proposal for a “free, soft house, centered around the human body” that celebrated metropolitan life. While Cook’s comfort was about building a safe haven to protect humans from the “fierce cosmopolitan machine,” Itō’s comfort, first and foremost, captured the energy of the city in dialogue with a physical being. Therefore, Itō no longer wanted an image of urban living captured inside a house, but a dwelling that allowed that metropolitan experience to penetrate it freely.

  • 60 Peter Wilson was the only participant who was a winner in both the 1977 and 1988 competitions. To (...)

27Perhaps the one person who could best understand the dialogue between Cook and Itō, between the Western metropolis and Eastern metropolis, was Peter Wilson. A student of Peter Cook at the time of his studies at the AA School of Architecture, Wilson was also a winner in the 1977 competition.60 Although Wilson cited London as his image of a metropolis in the competition judged by Cook, he cleverly sought comfort in the city of Tokyo in the one Itō judged. His 1988 entry is an illusionary space in the form of a jellyfish-like electronic shadow that was a parasite on Toyō Itō’s 1986 Tower of Winds project in Yokohama (fig. 6). Here, comfort was defined as a respite, a zone of minimal electronic interference (mu) in the shadows of Itō’s own constantly transforming Tower of Winds. Giving the impression of riding the waves on a sea of electronics, Wilson’s proposal suggested to Itō a new kind of architecture that responded well to consumer society. Drawing on a more transient form of comfort, Wilson belonged to a category of architects who had become aware of the differences in urban space between West and East, and managed to find a logic within Tokyo’s “chaos.”

Figure 6: The one person who could best understand the dialogue Toyō Itō set up about the “Western” and “Eastern” metropolis, was Peter Wilson, a former student of Peter Cook at the AA School.

Figure 6: The one person who could best understand the dialogue Toyō Itō set up about the “Western” and “Eastern” metropolis, was Peter Wilson, a former student of Peter Cook at the AA School.

Source: The Japan Architect, March 1989, p. 8-9.

28Toshikazu Ishida and Diana Juranovic provided the urbanite with a black box (caja obscura) in which to collect urban sounds that, once reproduced, could bring to mind visual scenes. The process from sound to something visual, Itō summarized, is an architectural act in itself that casts a critical eye on contemporary architecture and the myth of originality. Azby Brown’s entry was a tent-like installation made of whatever materials were on hand. Featuring a dose of optimism and brightness, the proposal suggested an architecture able to “break through” consumer society. Ben Smart’s house was a temporary, moveable stage, suspended from a high-wire frame. It represented a city dropout, yet one with deliberate connections to the city. Adrian Bold’s comfort consisted of a denial of discomfort. The fluid layout of his house stimulated the urbanite’s perception of reality while allowing for more acute cultural experiences. While the entries Cook’s competition took a radical stance towards the metropolis, the responses to Itō’s call were much gentler in character, as if riding on the waves of consumer society.

East–West Dialogue

  • 61 Thomas Daniell, “The Fugitive,” in Toyō ItōTarzans in the Media Forest, op. cit. (note 44) Itō, (...)

29What the two competitions make clear is that in order to define a culturally dependent “comfort of urban living,” it is essential first to define “metropolis.” The metropolis that Peter Cook had in mind obviously stemmed from his residency in London and Archigram’s proposals, such as the Plug-in City and Instant City. When Toyō Itō repeated the same theme 11 years later, was it because he wanted to take the opportunity to advance the idea that Tokyo is a metropolis far different from the urban tissue of Western cities? Did Itō deliberately use Tokyo as an example of another type of metropolis, one that is not defined by a legible urban structure or clear outline, but which is instead a heterogeneous city where technology and information have already taken over? Clearly, Itō’s judging process was completely overlaid with his own architectural evolution at that time. While his career debut work was very much inspired by that of Peter Cook and Archigram, the competition served Itō well to position himself in the international architecture scene. Through reiterating Cook’s theme, Itō broke away from his first “style” in 1988 and took his theories and practice in an entirely new direction; one no longer focused on the “technology” but on the “city.”61 On a meta-level, we can understand these two competitions as an East–West dialogue on the metropolis, in which Tokyo served as the example of which the West could still only dream.

  • 62 Besides the essays contemporaneous with the 1988 Shinkenchiku competition such as “What is the Rea (...)
  • 63 Toyō Itō, “What is the Reality of Architecture in a Futuristic City?,” op. cit. (note 49), p. 66.

30This dialogue did not stop abruptly with the publication of the competition results. Itō continued to advance his urban theories up to the 1990s, in theoretical essays that described Tokyo as being “futuristic,” “disordered,” and “simulated.”62 Tokyo, he argued, had a mysterious character from its “labyrinthian interior,” a “distinctive sense of space that could not be felt in Western cities.”63 The East–West dialogue on the city, which clearly played out in the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition, culminated in the 1991 exhibition “Visions of Japan” at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Using 130 projection screens and 16 channeled speakers playing the sounds of the city, Itō, much inspired by some of the competition entries, simulated the city of Tokyo in London, in which visitors were intoxicated with the illusion of light and sound. Using the space of the exhibition, he provoked a discussion on Tokyo being distinctive. Instead of being defined by a clear urban structure or physical monuments like most western cities, “his” metropolis was heterogeneous, light, and ephemeral. The Shinkenchiku competition, and his contribution to the Victoria and Albert Museum, enabled Itō to introduce an exceptional Asian metropolis to what was otherwise a predominantly North American and Eurocentric discussion on cities. In this “other” techno-consumerist metropolis, comfort is also reached in a different way. While pertaining to Cook’s subjective psychological notion of comfort, Itō believed in a much more transient form of comfort than Cook, as presented in his lightweight, seemingly formless, and parasitic Pao projects of the 1980s.

Toyō Itō and Peter Cook: The Competition as a Driver of New Ideas

31Viewed from an international perspective, the two competitions together highlighted not only a cultural difference in the understanding of the competition theme but also a temporal one. A diachronic study of the competitions shows that they drove new ideas based on the same theme. In the belief that the metropolitan residential environment had been altered greatly by technology and information into a technopolis, Itō foresaw the need to rethink the theme set by Peter Cook eleven years earlier. By deliberately choosing the same theme, Itō not only acknowledged that a changing environment necessitates a new dwelling concept, but he also problematized the definition of “comfort” as being in conjunction with a certain image of “metropolis.” In this vein, Itō introduced the discourse about Tokyo’s radical difference from the London metropolis that Cook had in mind, along with its difference from all the interpretations of “metropolis” by participants who had never experienced a metropolis of that kind. The cross-cultural interpretations stemming from these two calls make clear that the Shinkenchiku competition served as an open platform for a discussion in which no universal solution to “comfort in the metropolis” existed. Rather, responses ranged from parasitic relations with the urban environment (in the case of the Cook competition)—occupying voids, vacant sites, and in-between spaces—to residential spaces (in the case of the Itō competition) that contain the illusionary qualities of the city, yet are at the same time real. However, beyond this East–West encounter that confronted two architectural positions to understand their cultural and architectural differences, the competition had an even greater implication for the field of architecture. In a period when “comfort” was commonly considered a pragmatic and engineered subject, Cook and Itō allowed architects to think freely again about comfort as an art form within the imaginary space of an open architecture ideas competition.

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Notes

1 Japanese architects started to gain momentum in the international architectural debate in the early 1950s and were confidently participating by the time the Shinkenchiku competition was launched. In 1951, Kunio Maekawa and the young Kenzo Tange were the first Japanese architects to participate in the CIAM meetings (Hoddesdon). Tange gained world fame after completing the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Building in 1955. In 1956, Fumihiko Maki was the first to take the position of assistant professor abroad, at the Washington University in St. Louis, after graduating from Cranbrook Academy of Art (1953) and Harvard Graduate School of Design (1954). Kiyonori Kikutake’s work was presented at the 1959 CIAM meeting in Otterlo, Netherlands. A lively “contact zone” between Japanese and international architects took place at the 1960 Tokyo World Design Conference. The 1964 Tokyo Olympics acted as an international showpiece of modern Japanese architecture.

Starting with the 12 tsubo house competition in 1947, Shinkenchiku-sha launched five house competitions between 1947 and 1949. Each called for the elimination of the “feudalistic” aspects of the traditional Japanese dwelling. Addressing themes such as “reduction of housework,” “child raising,” and “rationalization of tidying up,” the competitions were unique in that they required architects to analyze lifestyles prior to design. Seizō Uchida, “Sengo chokugo ni miru jūtaku kompe in Hashimoto,” in Jun HASHIMOTO (ed), Gendai kenchiku no kiseki: 1925-1995 shinkenchiku ni miru kenchiku to nihon no kindai, Tokyo: Shinkenchikusha, 1995, p. 159.

2 Shinkenchiku magazine became especially conservative and neutral in observation after a dispute concerning an article on the Togo Murano design for Sogo Department Store in Osaka (1935) that resulted in the whole editōrial staff being fired. Subsequently, the magazine was afraid to express criticism. Interview with Shinkenchiku editor Takeshi Ishido. Tokyo, 28 November 2018.

3 The notion of “contact zone” was first coined by literature scholar Mary Louise Pratt in the context of colonial studies as “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power.” Mary Louise Pratt, “Arts of the Contact Zone,” Profession, no. 91, 1991, p. 34 (Keynote address to the Modern Language Association).

I see the contact zone concept as a lively metaphor for the various points of encounter and exchange in architectural culture, which carries the potential to be developed into a historiographic method that could be applied generally in the field of architecture. See also, Tom Avermaete and Cathelijne Nuijsink, “An Architecture Culture of ‘Contact Zones’: Prospects for an Alternative Historiography of Modernism,” in Vikramaditya Prakash, Maristella Casciato and Daniel E. Coslett (eds.), Global Modernism and the Postcolonial: New Perspectives on Architecture, New York, NY: Routledge, 2021.

4 In effect since 1633-1639, Japan’s isolation policy (sakoku) banned foreigners from entering Japan, and Japanese from leaving the country. This policy ended in 1853, when Commodore Matthew Perry of the US Navy arrived with his Black Ships to force the opening of Japan to Western trade. Andrew GordonA Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present, [2nd edition], New York, NY; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 50.

5 The most ambitious learning experience of this kind was the Iwakura Mission (1871-1873), in which 49 officials of the new Meiji government travelled for 18 months through America and Europe to study their modern political, economic, and educational systems.

6 Inspired by the modernist admiration of Katsura Villa from architects such as Bruno Taut and Walter Gropius, Japanese architects started to reassess their cultural heritage and found “modernity” in their own wooden structures. Having attended the 59th reconstruction of Ise Shrine, Kenzo Tange and architecture critic Noboru Kawazoe published the book Ise: Prototype of Japanese Architecture (1965), in which they praised the Ise Shrine for its modernist structure: an honest expression of materials, a functional design, and prefabricated elements.

7 Ken Tadashi Ōshima, International Architecture in Interwar Japan: Constructing Kokusai Kenchiku, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2010.

8 Arata Isozaki, “General Remarks. Thoughts on the Wretched State of Japanese Architectural Education,” The Japan Architect, February 1976, p. 47-52.

As Peter Cook mentioned in his comments as judge, the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition, starting from the 1975 competition onwards, resembled a “club” of older, established members and younger architects aspiring to join this club. Among the winners of the 1975 competition were Hans Hollein, Archigram’s Ron Herron, Superstudio’s Pierro Frassinelli, and the young AA student, Tom Heneghan, who –thanks to winning the 1975 competition and his subsequent connection to Isozaki–had the opportunity to start working in Japan and later become professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts. In the 1976 competition, Judge Richard Meier had a record number of upcoming and established architects among the list of winners, namely Peter Cook and Christine Hawley, Peter Eisenman, seven-time Shinkenchiku competition winner Peter Wilson, Piero Frassinelli, Steven Holl, Adolfo Natalini, and three-time Shinkenchiku competition winner Tom Heneghan. Winning entries by Peter Wilson, Volcker Giencke, Peter Smithson, Hajima Yatsuka, Jenny Lowe, and Piero Brombin provided the broader context for the scope and perspectives presented in the 1977 competition judged by Peter Cook.

9 Kisho Kurokawa, Competition announcement “1980 Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition,” The Japan Architect, February 1980, p. 2, 3.

10 Tadao Andō, Competition announcement “The Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1985.” The Japan Architect, March 1985, p. 8.

11 Helmut Jahn, Competition announcement “Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1986,” The Japan Architect, March 1986, p. 59. Bernard Tschumi, “Judge Comments,” The Japan Architect, March 1990, p. 37

12 Differences in comfort between Western and Japanese dwellings are fundamental to writings such as Edward S. Morse, Japanese Homes and their Surroundings, Rutland, VT: C. Tuttle, 1972, and Bernard Rudolfsky, “A House for the Summer,” The Kimono Mind: An Informal Guide to Japan and the Japanese, Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1965.

13 Beatriz ColominaX-ray Architecture, Zürich: Lars Müller Publishers, 2019.

14 For critiques of modernist comfort see, for example, Tomas Maldonado, “The Idea of Comfort,” Design Issues, vol. 8, no.1, 1991, p. 35-43. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1511452; and David Ellison and Andrew Leach (eds.), On Discomfort: Moments in a   History of Architectural Culture, Abingdon, New York, NY: Routledge, 2017 (Ashgate Studies in Architecture Series). Daniel A. Barber, “After Comfort,” Log, no. 47, special issue Overcoming Carbon Form, p. 45-50.

15 Peter Cook and David Greene, Archigram, no. 1, May 1961. For an extensive discussion of Archigram’s formation as a new generation seeking to spark something radically new, see Simon SadlerArchigram:Architecture without Architecture, Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2005.

16 Hannah Le Roux, “The Networks of Tropical Architecture,” Journal of Architecture, vol. 8, no. 3, 2003, p. 342, 351. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1360236032000134835; see also Ola Uduku, “Modernist Architecture and ‘the Tropical’ in West Africa: The Tropical Architecture Movement in West Africa, 1948–1970,” Habitat International, vol.30, no. 3, 2006, p. 396-411.Vandana Baweja, “The Beginning of a Green Architecture: Otto Koenigsberger at the Department of Tropical Architecture at the Architectural Association (AA) School of Architecture, London, UK,” in Judith Bing and Cathrine Veikos (eds.), Fresh Air: Proceedings of the 95th Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture ACSA, (ACSA Annual Meeting, 8-11 March 2007), Washington, DC: Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2007, p. 527-536.

17 For an extensive discussion on the topic of thermal comfort, see Jiat-Hwee Chang, “Thermal Comfort and Climatic Design in the Tropics: An Historical Critique,” The Journal of Architecture, vol. 21, no. 8, 2016, p. 1171-1202.DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13602365.2016.1255907.

18 Peter Cook, Editorial,” Archigram #8, 1968.

19 Archigram #8, 1968. Republished in Peter Cook and ArchigramArchigram, London: Studio Vista, 1972, p. 76

20 Michelle MurphySick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty: Environmental Politics, Technoscience, and Women Workers, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

21 Archigram #8, 1968, op. cit. (note 19), p. 76

22 Peter Cook’s first visit to Japan was in 1977 as a Japan Foundation Fellow and judge of the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition. While in Japan, he visited many works of Arata Isozaki, in Isozaki’s company. Given Isozaki’s interest in the AA, as revealed in his comments as judge of the 1975 Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition, it is likely that Isozaki played an important role in inviting Cook to judge the 1977 competition. “Peter Cook, 1961-1989.” Extra Edition, A + U, December 1989, p. 17.

23 Peter Cook, “Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1977,” The Japan Architect, January 1977, p. 2.

24 Ibid, p. 2

25 Laura Stoll, “A Short History of Wellbeing Research,” in Cary L. Cooper and David McDaid (ed.), Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide. 5. The Economics of Wellbeing, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.  2014, p. 13. See also: Darrin M. McMahon, The Pursuit of Happiness: A History from the Greeks to the Present, London: Allen Lane, 2006.

26 Laura Stoll, “A Short History of Wellbeing Research,” in Cary L. Cooper and David McDaid (ed.), Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide, op. cit. (note 25), p. 13.

27 The Greek word eudaimonia is the end goal in Aristotle’s ethics of virtue and commonly mistranslated in English as “happiness.” Aristotle defined eudaimonia as “the condition of living well, without referring to a state of mind or a feeling of pleasure as is implied with ‘happiness.’” Brian Duignan, “Eudaimonia,” in Encyclopedia Britannica. URL: https://www.britannica.com/topic/eudaimonia. Accessed 15 February 2020.

28 Laura Stoll, “A Short History of Wellbeing Research,” op. cit. (note 26), p. 17.

29 Ed Diener, Shigehiro Oishi and Richard E. Lucas, “Subjective Wellbeing: The Science of Happiness and Life Satisfaction,” in Susan A. David, The Oxford Handbook of Happiness, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013 (Oxford Library of Psychology), p. 187.

30 John Gordon Melton, “New Age movement,” in Encyclopedia Britannica. URL: https://www.britannica.com/topic/New-Age-movement.

31 Peter Cook, “Judge’s Notes,” The Japan Architect, February 1978, p. 8.

32 Ibid.

33 Where Cook’s comfort differed from that of contemporaries such as Cedric Price (1934-2003) and Reyner Banham (1922-1988) was that the latter two explicitly focused on an engineering view of ideal comfort that referred to thermal neutrality in buildings. Cedric Price was interested in a technology-driven “environment architecture” which championed the flexible and the ephemeral and was responsive to users’ needs. His “moving architecture” built in high-tech kits of parts anticipated the High-Tech movement of the 1980s. In his book, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment (1969), Banham observed that architectural history had largely ignored technical developments in mechanical services, and had failed to appreciate the effect of heating, cooling, ventilation, and acoustics on the design of buildings. Yet despite his focus on technology-driven comfort, Banham was, not unlike Cook, also interested in formal and spatial possibilities of comfort provided by mechanical services. In his essay “A Home Is Not a House” (1965), Banham went so far as to propose an “environment-bubble” of a domesticated utopia equipped with modern amenities. Media were actively deployed to promote Banham’s environmental bubble. In a 1967 BBC television show, Banham conducted a performance of himself living naked for a full day in a mockup of his bubble. Reyner Banham, “A Home Is Not a House,” Art in America, April 1965.

Colin Davies, “The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment Revisited, 1973-2007,” in Idem,  A New History of Modern Architecture: Art Nouveau, the Beaux-Arts, Expressionism, Modernism, Constructivism, Art Deco, Classicism, Brutalism, Postmodernism, Neo-Rationalism, High Tech, Deconstructivism, Digital Futures, London: Laurence King Publishing, 2017, p. 406.

34 Peter Cook, “Judge’s Notes,” op. cit. (note 31), p. 9.

35 Idem, “Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1977,” The Japan Architect, January 1977, p. 2.

36 Idem, “Judge’s Notes,” op. cit. (note 31), p. 9.

37 Ibid., p. 10.

38 Ibid., p. 11.

39 Ibid., p. 9.

40 Ibid., p. 13.

41 Ibid., p. 8.

42 In the 1978 competition, Charles Moore explicitly referred to Junzo Yoshimura’s 1968 theme of “A Residential Group for Six Households” to further explore the Japanese spatial concept muko sangen ryodonari (the houses on both sides, and the three across the street). Moore asked contestants to think of a community containing 6 houses that are all situated on a typical Japanese townhouse (machiya) lot. Charles Moore, Competition announcement “Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1978.” The Japan Architect, January 1978, p. 6-7. An example of implicit interreferencing was initiated by Jun Aoki’s 2009 theme The Residence: From Our Having Lived the Movie Century. Inspired by Kazuyo Sejima’s 1992 theme of “The Possibilities of Non-Movement…,” Aoki re-introduced the dialectic of movement/non-movement as a means of exploring cinematic qualities as a driving force for the field of architecture. Interview between author and Jun Aoki, Tokyo, 1 December 2018.

43 Although Archigram served as an inspiring reference for Itō’s work, his real “master” is Metabolist Kiyonori Kikutake, with whom he worked for four years upon graduating from Tokyo University. Itō is also tied to Kazuo Shinohara as an—albeit failed—student of the “Shinohara School.”

44 Toyō Itō, “The Logic of Usefulness,” in Toyō Itō, Tarzans in the Media Forest, London: Architectural Association, 2011 (Architecture Words, 8), p. 24-25.

45 Idem Itō, “Aluminum House. Steele, Brett, and Architectural Association London,” First Works: Emerging Architectural Experimentation of the 1960s & 1970s, London: Architectural Association, 2009, p. 175.

46 Toyō Itō, 「設計行為とは歪められてゆく自己の思考過程を追跡する作業にほ

かならない (住宅特集) -- (アルミの家 )) [Sekkei kōi to wa yugamerarete yuku jikō no

shikō katei o tsuisekisuru sagyō ni hokanaranai (jūtaku tokushū: arumi no ie),” Shinkenchiku, vol. 46, no. 10, October 1971, p. 228-229].

47 Toyō Itō, “The Logic of Usefulness, ” op. cit. (note 44), p. 24, 25.

48 Thomas Daniell, “The Fugitive,” in Toyō ItōTarzans in the Media Forest, op. cit. (note 44), p. 5.

Itō’s theoretical development also drove his portfolio of commissions in another direction. Instead of thinking of houses as hermetic shells disconnected from the city, such as Aluminum House (1971) and White U (1976), Itō, in the 1980s, started to open up his architecture to embrace the dynamics of this city. The house that marks this turning point is Silver Hut, the architect’s own home, completed in 1984.

49 Toyō Itō, “What is the reality of architecture in a futuristic city?” in Toyō ItōTarzans in the Media Forest, op. cit. (note 44), p. 67.

50 Ibid.Itō, p. 57.

51 Toyō Itō, 「消費の海に浸らずして新しい建築はない」 [“Shōhi no umi ni

hitarazushite atarashii kenchiku wa nai,” Shinkenchiku, vol. 64, no. 11, November 1989, p. 201-204].

52 The original Japanese names of the two most recent pao installations are 東京 遊牧少女 Tōkyō yūboku shōjo no pao 2, 1988 (Pao for the Tokyo Nomad Girl II) and 地上12m の楽園 Chijō 12m no rakuen, 1988 (Paradise Twelve Meters above Earth).

53 Thomas Daniell, “The Fugitive,” in Toyō ItōTarzans in the Media Forest, op. cit. (note 44), p. 11.

54 Toyō Itō,「消費の海に浸らずして新しい建築はない」, op. cit. (note 51), p. 201.

55 Benedict Hobson, “Archigram’s Instant City concept enables ‘a village to become a kind of city for a week,’ says Peter Cook,” Dezeen, 13 May 2020.URL: https://www.dezeen.com/2020/05/13/archigram-instant-city-peter-cook-video-interview-vdf/. Accessed 09 February 2020.

56 Toyō Itō, Competition Announcement. “The Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 1988,” p. 6.

57 Ibid., p. 6.

58 Ibid., p. 6

59 Toyō Itō, “Comfort in the Metropolis: In the Narrow Defile Between Reality and Fiction,” The Japan Architect, March 1989, p. 30.

60 Peter Wilson was the only participant who was a winner in both the 1977 and 1988 competitions. To the knowledge of the author, no one else participated in both competitions.

61 Thomas Daniell, “The Fugitive,” in Toyō ItōTarzans in the Media Forest, op. cit. (note 44) Itō, p. 15

62 Besides the essays contemporaneous with the 1988 Shinkenchiku competition such as “What is the Reality of Architecture in a Futuristic City? (1988)” and “Dismantling and Reconstituting the ‘House’ in a Disordered City (1988),” Itō continued to argue for Tokyo’s “uniqueness” in essays such as “Architecture for the Simulated City (1991),” “Architectural Scenery in the Saran Wrap City (1992),” and “A Garden of Microchips (1993).” All essays published in English translation in Toyō ItōTarzans in the Media Forest, op. cit. (note 44).

63 Toyō Itō, “What is the Reality of Architecture in a Futuristic City?,” op. cit. (note 49), p. 66.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Peter Cook, in his role as judge, used the 1977 edition of the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition to ponder on psychologies towards “comfortableness.”
Crédits Source: The Japan Architect, January 1977, p. 2-3.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/10444/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 21M
Titre Figure 2: Peter Cook honored Masaharu Takasaki and Eiji Takasu first prize for the way they translated comfort into the state of mind of “confusion.”
Crédits Source: The Japan Architect, February 1978, p. 14-15.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/10444/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 12M
Titre Figure 3: Although Peter Wilson proposed an architecture of the mind, Peter Cook gave him fourth prize for its power to imagine real architectural space.
Crédits Source: The Japan Architect, February 1978, p. 20-21.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/10444/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 9,5M
Titre Figure 4: Toyō Itō, in 1988, repeated the theme of ‘Comfort in the Metropolis’ Peter Cook had set 11 years ago and with that initiated a dialogue between two judges.
Crédits Source: The Japan Architect, March 1988, p. 6-7.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/10444/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 14M
Titre Figure 5: The ideas on comfort Toyō Itō laid out in the 1988 competition were tied to his light and ephemeral architectural projects at that time, such as Pao for a Tokyo Urban Nomad II
Crédits Source: Toyō Itō, “Pao II: a dwelling for the Tokyo Nomad Women, 1989-2017,” as displayed in kanal – Centre Pompidou, Brussels, as part of the Station to Station Exhibition. Photograph Jiat-Hwee Chang, 2018.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/10444/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 1,7M
Titre Figure 6: The one person who could best understand the dialogue Toyō Itō set up about the “Western” and “Eastern” metropolis, was Peter Wilson, a former student of Peter Cook at the AA School.
Crédits Source: The Japan Architect, March 1989, p. 8-9.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/10444/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 12M
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Référence électronique

Cathelijne Nuijsink, « Negotiating Comfort in the Metropolis: Peter Cook, Toyō Itō, and the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition, 1977 and 1988 »ABE Journal [En ligne], 18 | 2021, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2021, consulté le 27 janvier 2023. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/abe/10444 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/abe.10444

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Auteur

Cathelijne Nuijsink

Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland

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