Metropolis magazine in Japan published my article on Tokyo Green Space. It’s my first general interest article on some of the amazing green space innovators I have met during my research in Tokyo: including Ginza rice farmers and bee keepers, a modern bonsai Continue reading
This week I had the great pleasure of meeting Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, the most celebrated foreign architects in Tokyo and founders of Pecha Kucha, a monthly public get-together where young designers from every field are invited to present 20 slides for 20 seconds each (a total of 6 minutes, 40 seconds). Pecha Kucha is now in 198 cities around the world, and KDa architecture has just celebrated its 20th anniversary with a retrospective at Gallery Ma in Roppongi.
Klein and Dytham’s office is on the second floor of a low-slung 1960s office with a terrazzo stairwell and unremarkable exterior. From the outside, it could hardly be further from the playful and modern buildings and interiors that they create for their clients.
Their work as designers and community-builders is very inspiring for me. Klein and Dytham through boom and malaise have made a success in Tokyo by both adapting to local culture and being outsiders who use displacement to their advantage. Their work includes ordinary objects in unexpected contexts: the circular mirror on a stick at small intersections is repurposed as a delightful viewing mechanism for a top of Roppongi Hills museum cafe, and they used the garish, dancing light sign posts favored by soba and massage shops to frame photos of their work at the retrospective. I also like how they fit bold designs in cramped urban spaces overloaded with conbinis (convenience stores) and other clutter.
Their philosophy centers on fun, delight and feeling alive. They have done some interesting green projects in the past, including a temporary green wall in the early 00s outside of Ando Tadao’s Omotesando Hills. I think their work would be a great fit with the green design of Tase Michio, who also conveys a sense of being alive by surrounding human life with an exuberance of plant, animal and soil life.
One thing Astrid told me sticks with me. She admires the nonchalance of Tokyo people doing cool things and making things without remark or requesting recognition. So do I.
In an earlier post, I talked a little about 5bai Midori‘s street beautification products and the creative force behind this small green business Tase Michio. This post uses photos from their website to explore their idea of restoring the countryside, or satoyama(里山), and bringing it into the city.
The photos above illustrate the concept of carving a piece of rural nature into a modular square. 5bai Midori plants these bio-diversity trays on modular metal cubes with up to five sides for plants and special light-weight soil. Applications include residential entrances, sidewalks and balconies, apartment and office buildings, green walls, rooftops, neighborhood planters, boulevard and highway guard rails, interiors, benches, and special events. They have targeted individuals, governments (including amazing, yet unrealized plans for greening Kabukicho and Marunouchi), developers and construction companies.
These are some images of how plant trays are cultivated to include a multitude of species in a small area.
This week I had the amazing opportunity to meet one of my landscape design heroes, Tase Michio (田瀬理夫) of Plamtago. He has created urban architecture and a green business that bring native plants and habitats to urban areas. His most famous work is the 1995 Acros Fukuoka building, a 15 story lush hillside on top of a downtown office building. More recently, he provided the creative direction for 5bai Midori, a Tokyo company that brings “satoyama” (里山) or a slice of rural Japan into urban areas through a modular 5-sided system.
With a shock of grey hair, Tase sensei is patient with visitors, provocative and without pretense. Born 60 years ago in Ichigaya, Tokyo, not far from his current Plamtago home office, Tase says he has been monitoring the natural environment of Tokyo since his childhood. His view is that urban land use is worse today than in the 1970s. And despite the success of Acros Fukuoka, which looks fuller and more wild after 14 years of growth, Tase is disappointed that there have been no other high rises incorporating bio-diversity into their architecture.
Tase describes his work as “Passive Architecture & Active Landscape with Nature.” For cities, he aims to increase the number of plant species, slow rainfall and filter it before it reaches rivers and bays, create healthy wildlife habitats, and improve the soil. I was struck that he sees as urban eco-system indicators tiny ticks, which reflect good soil and perhaps small animals, and also hawks. Ticks and at least one hawk reside in the forest of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.