The architects of EASTERN possess a remarkable sense of scale.
architect should be aware of the important structural principle that if the scale of a building is increased, the importance of the structure increases in a geometrical progression, as Galileo Galilei found for the first time in the world in the 17th century. The same principle suggests that if the above course is traced backward, and it is made smaller, a building at the scale of private house, for instance, may have the great possibility of design free from the bonds of structure. Only a few designs except those by EASTERN, however, are actually found that develop a high level of freedom in them on the basis of thorough understanding of this principle.
While maintaining a level of modesty, the architects of EASTERN artfully enjoy the plastic freedom that comes with the scale of residential buildings. It is not that they simply discard unnecessary structure, but rather, on the many disadvantageous sites often seen in Japanese cities, they assert the existence of architecture by first establishing the external reinforced concrete wall. They then draw what may be observed as random free curves on the wall surface. If you design the space between a pair of adjacent curves as negative, you obtain an aperture, but if you consider it as positive, it becomes a solid component member. They thus design the outer wall by manipulating the existence of shadow and sunlight. This design of shadow and sunlight is not limited to the surface of the wall, but it extends to the surface of the roof as well. In this manner the apertures made in the outer wall denote a completely different facial expression than the ordinary window, but are the most important design components of the external wall. They perform the essential functions of an opening by simultaneously gathering sufficient external light to interior of a room while ensuring privacy.
As of this time, this design technique has been limited to plane surfaces. Whether or not the EASTERN of the future will also expand this design technique to curved surfaces has yet to be realized; but, in any event I do not doubt that the two architects of EASTERN will utilize their extraordinary plastic sensibility grounded in Japanese tradition to construct an original and distinguished world of architecture while maintaining their certain sense of scale.
The origin of the name Eastern
The moon shines brightly and the night is ultramarine. Some may be able to live up to one’s belief, but some perishes in vain within dissatisfaction? The morning star can be seen in the shining east that light up widely one’s determined place. It is the origin of the name Eastern.
Into the Forest
I would like to tell how we, architects feel when we go into the forest. Light that filters through leaves, leaves that reflect light, light that penetrates through thin leaves, light that slips over the grass, light that shines on a trunk. The purple color of small violets.
Quietness passes through the light of the shining leaves, wind flows and leaves whisper. Movement of the sound of birds. Grass moves slightly. We can hear our own breathing when stepping on the damp soil. River runs in the distance.
Light penetrates me. There is light that makes people feel comfortable. There is light that makes one’s sense liberated. There is light which I watch desperately because I do not want to forget the moment in which I wish to know more about something. We cannot make even any one of these lights.
The sun came to front of a small gap. And one line of clear light appeared. It was an impressive moment. It was our motive of designing architecture with the slit.
To design architecture by carving a lot of slits. To design architecture "only" with slits. It is the first attempt that no one has done.
Architecture is essentially sensibility one because the person lives and dies there. In the slit, there is a power to grip person's mind.
Sculpturesque light causes a variety of lighting effects, such as clear light, shading light and partial dark. The method to feel nature clearly in daily life. The solution to live in city. It is the slit.
There are a running of the sun, a changing of scenery and a silence.
The Slit House has its own special time.
At the dawn, watery light comes into the house through the slits. That makes the entire room bright faintly.
At 9:30AM, sequence of the feeble light that reflects to header of slits appears.
At 10:30AM, the sunlight pierces through angled slits at first.
At 11:00AM, the sunlight pierces through all slits.
The sunlight through the slit and the reflected light on the header of the slit project the stripe of V type to the long corridor. If you saw the repetition of this edgy light, you might feel as if time of 11:00AM has stopped.
・・・In as much as ten minutes, the reflected light on the header disappears. The shape of the light that the slit makes changes from V type into one stripe. And it shortens little by little.
And watery light fills the house again with soft brightness.
・・・Then the night comes before long.
The moments that the sun pierces through the angled slits and through the straight slits are different.
The angled slits get a little earlier.
The momentary time lag let us feel a running of the sun and makes us forefeel the upcoming time of the dusk.
There is varying scenery in the Horizontal Slit House.
You can see quite different scenery through the horizontal slit by moving the position of your line of vision, even if it were an equal height. The river and the village in the other side are seen when standing, the mountain is seen when sitting, and the sky is seen when lying down. You will find another slit through the slit. The various shots of the scenery are discovered by continuous view. We become aware that scenery is the one that arises by the action of viewing.
The slit emphasizes the viewed scenery by an opening's having been firmly condensed. A play that name is "View".
The Horizontal Slit House is not like the house when seeing from the outside. It looks like a retaining wall continuing from the stone wall. But from inside you will be surprised at the spaciousness and the sequence of the scenery seen through the slit.
If we find the bird outside of the slit, we move our neck to chase the way, and we chase scenery. The house is enshrouded to scenery. The slits surround the house. The bird flies away through the wide expanse of view of the slits.
We design architecture in simple form that draws out a potential of the place and the human life to its maximum. It has an amazing solution, a bold composition and a steady form.
The slits are carved for that form. The space is created by arranging the slits to the place that seems to be certainly necessary one by one. The rip by a single graver emphasizes form more.
A glimpse of the light, the shadow and the sign of life can be caught through the slit. A clear light from the slits moves and quiets down. A stopped moment and a flowing time appear. It is moving sight in daily life.
The method of carving the slits came out after we had thought again about architecture from the starting point. This method preserves a way to create space in architecture as it is.
The slit is a method that resonates in harmony with the sensibility of human since ancient times. At the same time it has adaptability to response to today's problems.
Form What really matters is not the form but a fertility of nature which can be observed through the form. It may be a camellia tree, floating clouds and light that can be found where green is scarce. Evaluating what matters and defining a posture of seeing this with one’s own view point and shaping them into a form. This way of declaration, embodying what matters, is what we think, should be architecture. Seeing camellia and clouds, seeing the light that can be found only there and make a place where we can feel them with all our body is the role of architecture. The architecture of Eastern is very definite and clear because what matters to the people who live there is also definite and clear.
Excellent architecture brings man and nature closer with the power of symbol.
There is a tea-room called Hasso-ken （8 windows arbor） with literally “eight windows ” in Manshuin Temple in Kyoto. Unlike the original grass hut style, tea-room called Taian of Myoukian temple with two mats built by the tea master Rikyu, Hasso-ken has eight windows in a space with three mats. In modern terms, eight windows are arranged irregularly, each one has its own shape and one of them is a skylight.
Neither photographs nor sentences can well describe the aesthetic of this tea-room. It is not a dim space as many tea-rooms are, but it is rather bright. Most of the eight paper windows are concentrated on the wall facing to the garden. On the other hand, the windowless wall is painted black with black squid ink to contrast with the light coming in from the eight windows and makes the wall appear brighter. The ceiling design is split into two: east side facing the garden and west side with the black wall. The eight paper windows reflect the light from the garden. Therefore when green grows thick in the garden, they reflect a green color and when the garden is dyed crimson with autumn leaves, the windows also change to a red color.
The guest sits with his back against the eight windows. His figure is set into the streams of light coming from the eight windows. He sits under a slanting roof. The slanting form emphasizes the feeling that you are under the top light that streams down from it. Also, light probably entered from the windows made for moon-viewing.
A host sits under the ceiling of modern woven straw which suited the taste of the Daimyo Oribe. It reminds us of the image of a tea master sitting against the background of a black wall. Eight streams of light casting on his face which makes him look like a Greek sculpture. Clear but murky move the hands of the host serving a cup of tea. In this scene we cannot help catching the sense of strange attachment to our feelings a man inevitably has.
The tea-room is built in the middle of a garden where rocks and sand, trees and grasses, and moss are arranged. When you lift your eyes from your hands, you see the eight windows that reflect nature and time, tinting the tea-room with faintly glimmering light. The change of the blue, red, white and rainbow colored windows give us a mysterious feeling.
In the quietness, sitting in the tea-room, is it me or me seeing united with part of the nature who is trying to catch the outside movements? It seems as if a sense of existence to be inside or to be outside is separated from the body. Are these eight windows really windows? Eight 〈rhythms〉 weave inside and outside into one, and nature and time are passing through me. It is very architectural that the technique of trying to see the invisible is felt so clearly. Philosophy of perspective is very clear here.
Hasso-ken does not have any physical transparency like modern architecture has. Yet we can feel the outside environment< within the realm where vitally is apparent> with all our sense. Man and earth become one here in this tea-room.
Hasso-ken of Manshuin Temple (1656) was built for Prince Ryoshouho, the second son of the Prince Hachijyo Toshihito who is the first generation of a branch of the imperial family, and who was known for his Katｓura Rikyu (Imperial Villa). Although built for a court noble, it is not an imperial palace, but a superior temple for the retirement of members of the imperial families. Since Hasso-ken is a tea-room built in a temple, which is in the lineage of a Buddhist Sects which started in the middle ages, we can detect a strong tension of a man who is about to pray sitting in straight order to see what he wants to see, Why is it that Hasso-ken is touching us strongly in the contemporary age?
Religion and ideas are born where actual agony of reality cannot be liberated. Architecture has the strength to create a place of liberation in the real world however deep an agony is. The common origin of religions and ideas just before they are systemized, and architecture takes them as a symbol. We name it a temple, a garden, a castle, a fort, a cathedral, a tea-room or my house.
The true nature of trying to see what is invisible is the strong nature of man who is fighting not to deteriorate by agony and darkness, not to be swept away by the tide of time and society. The common source is a revelation of strong will that is not drifted away by the tide of time and it is showing revolt against society. That is where form is sought. Accordingly we can reach the common origin. from the clear from. If the intention of an architecture is clear, we can understand this.
A symbol represented by architecture should lie in the common source, inherent in humanity. The strong nature of man is a gift from nature, and it is reasonable to be aware of it.
Man seeks bondage between place and human body. A symbol can unite place and a man who are divided, therefore, humans seek symbols.
Manifesto– Protecting Topography
Building construction means to identify with what moves one’s sensitivity deep in the heart and to embody and create what is acknowledged into architecture as the very right existence of the place. There is no other way but to achieve it through the “form.”
Modern architecture has lost the role of protecting topography. The current tendency of lightness of architecture represented by glass constructions made us lose the intimate relation between the earth and human being. Now is a period of time in which no definition of what people should see in the geographic features is made.
The very nature of architecture should be found in the declaration: “Seeing this with such a view point.”
The way of seeing is comparable with the attitude to face the geographical features of the site.
Seeing ・ Inviting ・ Protecting
Defining what to see in the existing place should follow one’s own specific sensitivity that can invite nature inside the architecture. In order to protect one’s sensitivity, one should use the course of nature peculiar to the place. This is in order to get what is linked to the site of architecture and is also the very innovative source of getting the originality of architecture.
Thus architecture creates links between man and place in which one sort of property right, a right to be in a place, is claimed. The form is the strongest protection concerning the linkage between human being and ground. The strong character regained in it is the gift of nature, and architectures in which such character is found will suit the art of architecture. This is what we treasure in the art.
Geographical features remain within the realm in which vital energy power can be experienced and proved. Topography has an experiential connection with seasonal changes all through the year. We can coexist it with the words linked with daily life. It is because people come face-to-face with geographical features in accordance with their sensitivity of touching and viewing. Since man’s understanding of topography is formed by man’s world view, it is also a very personal experience, too.
The most fortunate place among geographical features is a garden. It should be the garden where something symbolically loved is present. It is the garden which matters first. Something original is there protected from others and the public by one person. It may be a camellia, for example. It is a source to cultivate sensitivity. It is the role of architecture to build a place where people can go out in the garden and enjoy camellias, feel it with all their body and soul.
When the strong nature of a garden makes the nature a source of architecture, the form created on the site will be a topographic sense defined with camellia, and make the path that can run through as the site allows. This path will be a place coexisting with it.
Therefore, in our architecture the “path” is invited inside the house and creates openings there. That is where the originality of our architecture is found. We can experience with all our body the vitality of place, and its existence is demonstrated within the realm of architecture. Man and earth are linked here in our architecture.
Garden ・ opening ・ road
Garden, old passage, communal path carved on the topology, these forms are shaped into the road where men, coffins, festivals and the God pass.
Lead the form inside the house, and make it a path. This should mean to open.
It is a cycle of nature that symbolizes one’s character. Invite the seasonal changes inside through the form of opening.
Revive the method which pursues the existing nature found in the geographical features. This is the role of architecture.
Contemplating sunbeams filtered through trees
Our architecture contemplates sunbeams filtered through trees. To envision means to make a strong interest focused. Contemplating intensely. Staring into the distance. Peering into something. All these movements require one’s intense energy. It also can be a time for self reflection. It can be described as the sorrow and hope of man.
The act of wishing reflects a human being who is concealing strong inner feelings. But who will really open his heart in a place where his own existence is not secured?
The act of building an opening is to redefine the wish that is getting out of sight, because it enables us to reconfirm what comes in and what is desired beyond it. Then we notice that the architecture can be confronted with moving objects because peace and quietness are present.
Our construction is strong and solid, yet it also features a sense of movement. It bears a clear form, too. We can sense the movement of what is envisioned from inside. It is a camellia tree, floating clouds, birds flying in large flocks and sunbeams filtered through trees.
Designing architecture implies to search a form that does not deny the vital energy. With the least effort, produce the profoundest work.
EASTERN Design Office of Anna Nakamura and Taiyo Jinno is a collaborative architectural and design firm in Kyoto, Japan. Our firm was founded in 2003, and ever since they have received various prizes in International competitions.Our projects range but are not limited to urban planning, commercial and residential architectural design.