Seizon ‘in context’
Front Office Tokyo, Structured Environment (engineer) & Atelier Anonymous (Landscape)
In the 1970’s architects in Tokyo viewed the city as a place to shut out, and created tranquil and beautiful interior places for urban residents to retreat.
One of the benefits of density in 21st century Tokyo is that the entire city can be claimed as part of daily inhabitation – very little is off limits. The only question is how much or how little to engage with the surrounding landscape. Because the city itself is the amenity that attracts people to the area the logical choice is to invert the city/building relationship; shrinking its footprint, opening to the urban landscape, and inviting activity to the interior.
The Seizon building is a mixed-use building, composed of four small buildings stacked on top of each other, bound together by a simple design language. Each has its own structure and relation to the city.
Double height studio apartments are located below ground to take advantage of the privacy their location affords. Designed for young professionals who use their rooms mostly as a place to sleep, this is a perfect location. Offices and shops occupy the first and second floors, extensions of the street landscape around them. A cantilevered staircase leads directly to a community space on the third floor that floats over the city, while a private residence completes the stack of blocks, with direct access to an elevated garden and views to Shibuya and the city beyond
Who influences you graphically?
It is an eclectic mix. We are enormous fans of the collage technique of Mies van der Rohe and the subsequent work of his followers, especially within OMA. Add in a good dose from comic books, the work of MOS Architects and Jimenez Lai.
What defines the method of representation through which you articulate a project?
Collage has always been an important tool for us. Recently we make use of rhino to create detailed axonometrics and perspectives as well. In the case of the latter approach we start simply with black and white images and later add materiality. Physical models are also very important. We tend to build quite a few, and are not overly precious with them. The context is essential here in Tokyo as the city overwhelms any kind of formal design. With that in mind, whether it is a physical model or a rendering we try to include the surrounding as much as possible in the design process. This is not about being contextual, because context has no meaning in Japan, but rather a reminder for both us and for clients that the building sits in a particular landscape.
How important is the drawing as a site where architectural ideas can be explored rather than a finished product?
It is enormously important. Much the same as when we detail a building for construction the act of drawing and presenting an idea gives access to unexplored ideas, and often leads to surprises and opportunities we can take advantage of to make a better design.
What is your take on the hyper realistic render?
When they are done well they are beautiful and convincing. The challenge is to avoid the uncanny valley.
What were the main objectives that the images for the Helsinki competition wanted to convey?
There were two objectives. We wanted to show how the building would create a space for people and art to mix in an informal way. And we wanted to show the city in every shot. The building is intended to be iconic, but the architecture is about a specific place so it was important for us to allow the design to step back and focus on the way the spaces would be used and how they would connect to the city.
How did the format of such a competition influence the type of images produced?
For us it was important to convey the idea of the place we proposed and to do it relatively quickly. A series of collages worked well as a way to achieve that.