The Way Architect Anna Nakamura Works
When and Why did you take interest in architecture?
We have held an interest in architecture since our twenties during our travels when we saw the architecture of the world and Japan. At that time we were especially attracted to Islamic architecture, the Great Wall of China, the architecture of Luis Barragan, Japanese tea houses, Japanese Zen temple gardens, and cave dwellings.
In 2003 Anna Nakamura and Taiyo Jinno cooperated to launch a new office in Kyoto. We work in a small office of four people(including staff members). At the time of its founding the office started with two projects: a private house in a small mountain village and a 10,000-person capacity design for the 2008 Beijing Olympic wrestling stadium(Light Thread). From the onset, EASTERN simultaneously designed buildings at the small scale and the extremely large scale. The private residence in the mountains (Horizontal House) was be completed in 2007, however even though the owner has moved into the house, construction still continues today.
What do you believe distinguishes an architect that becomes successful from one that doesn't get recognition?
・Whether or not those architect’s works are singular and unique
・Whether or not their buildings match the site, client, and the people living there.
・Whether or not there is a consistent ideology found in the works of those architects.
How do you use your creativity when solving architectural problems?
We reference two things when creating architecture:
1. Things that are vitally necessary to form
2. For the inhabitant to feel as if they have the whole world
1: Why? From what reason was that form born? That origin must be clearly understood. Along with that (because it is clearly understood), we choose a form and imbue it with an unknown poetic feeling.
2: “To have the whole world” depends on how you take architecture, your world, the space you are living in, without knowing the house at all, privacy, comfort without asking, ambition, independence, will, anger, alienation, perhaps familiarity with place and self. To become accustomed to the feeling that those kinds of things rule your own personal world.
As these two things can be commonly understood throughout the world and are our motive for creating architecture. That is to say, when the area around the site is not very good and a large opening is made in such stylishly produced buildings that use too much glass, I do not think the people can attain their own personal world. Who can open their hearts in a place where one’s sensibilities cannot be protected?
An example of things that we have made is the light that is made from 60 slits, each 14 centimeters wide. The moment that a wriggling wave of light passes through architecture via a small perforation-like round window, it creates a cross. The cross of light moves from hour to hour. Stripes of light and shadow dance like children chasing after a deceased spirit. An aperture as if you were living inside a tree. Slits long and thin enough to survey the mountains and the flight of the gods who live there. To be honest, these words (the feelings that come to mind when experimenting with architecture) describe a scene that anyone can understand. Some places to places are similar to all human kind. Like underground water that gushes from when you delve into something deeply rooted in the soil, it is possible to sense this in Japan, in Portugal, in the nooks of Tianjin(China), and even in the slums of Mexico. We seek out that kind of easily understood effect with the expression of architectural apertures.
Without making a large window, we create architecture (at this time) with only a slit, a round window, or a thin curve and imagine the interior of a hidden inner garden. That “other place” becomes detached from the rest of the world on the outside and, although paradoxical, becomes surrounded by the architecture on the interior. And thus, the empty space within oneself comes into reach and the movement of clouds and the direction of the sun are brought to the forefront.
Do you have any advice on how you can become very productive?
Make a rhythm for your daily life as well as your weekly life. During that rhythm, it is necessary to take time to reflect, to think about things on your own in silence, and take time to reexamine your work with calm eyes. Without making conclusions only by yourself, it is necessary to debate and discuss. If an idea you have thought up until now is not good, readily leave it behind and continue forward with courage.
Every day, we go jogging in the evening. Jogging helps our heads cool down. Then at night with a cleared head, we reexamine our work. When good ideas float to the surface, it is usually at this time.
How do search for problems to solve, or do they come naturally to you?
For the important ideas, there is the question of how many ideas emerge; at the same time there is the question of to what extent can we discard these ideas. The more ideas we think up, the more ideas we discard and thus, the quality of the architecture then becomes a clear cut and strong thing.
What has been the most challenging part of your profession?
To make architecture that no one has ever seen before, and yet, architecture that cannot be separated from the site. To make architecture that gives the client and the people living there such satisfaction as to say “I understand”. To make architecture “For the inhabitant to feel as if they have the whole world”.
How have you overcome that challenge?
By seriously grappling with our work every day. By never giving up. It is similar to when a sports players are asked “In order to produce good results, what is the number one factor?” and they respond with “It is daily training”.
What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
It is important to look at a lot of architecture. Not only just today’s contemporary architecture. Look at as much architecture as you can from the West, the East,all over the world.Look at everything from antiquity to the present. More than learning history, rather understand the power lurking inside that architecture and feel its importance.
Also, it is important to take each part of your immediate lifestyle carefully. Talking to people, dining, drinking, reading books, listening to music, relaxing without thinking of anything idly, moving from room to room, and looking at the scenery outside… Always consider how these individual things in your life happen in architecture or outside of architecture. An architect’s privileged work is to bring about abundant happiness for the building’s client, inhabitants, and site.