Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This way

You can see why architects get their buildings photographed before the owners move in. Once they're in, all bets are off. It's the old form v function conundrum. Anything that’s not completely fit for purpose is subjected to taped notices (this way), cordoned off areas (stay out) and weird additions (where are we going to put Harry?).  Two exceptionally beautiful buildings we have just seen illustrate the problem perfectly, and a third one solves it. 

It would be hard to beat the art museum that Shigeru Ban designed for the town of Oita in the south of Japan … until you see the art. This is a building in a city that doesn’t really know what to do with it. Despite the high flown rhetoric on the website ('a playground for the heart'), the current exhibition of a local calligraphy competition fills two of three floors. This leaves the large international works commissioned for the opening looking a wee bit out of place. At the moment one is already off for repairs so there is a lot of empty space. 

Tadao Ando’s Awaji Yumebutai Conference Centre gets an even harder time from its users. Ando created a complex series of interconnected spaces and gardens but they're subverted by pasted notices, instructions, advertisements, stanchions, chains, shop paraphernalia and Harry’s office. The monumentality of Ando’s forms just hold their own but it's a relief to look out to the horizon. 

But then, not far away, is another Ando building, the Buddhist water temple (Honpukuji, Hompuki). The deeply metaphoric forms, reflective ponds and subterranean shrine all inhabit the values of the people who use it. Beneath a bisected lily pond a place for meditation and prayer is encased in red lacquered timber. Not a handwritten notice to be seen. Everything that needs to be done in this place is taken care of by the architecture and its community. If architects had to revisit their buildings and see how they were actually being used, their profession would change forever.

You can see pictures of Ando's Water Temple here, his conference centre here and Shigeru Ban's art museum here on OTNARCHITECTURE

Images: the residents leave their mark on Ando's conference centre and bottom, 'Harry's' office