El Croquis 191 Go Hasegawa
A Conversation with Go Hasegawa：GENEALOGY
Architecture always condenses different times. This seems particularly true in your work and research: the time of the place, the time of the designer, the time of the user, the time of the building, the time of the ancestors. You might place yourself in a succession of teachers and architects at the Tokyo Institute of Technology [Tokyo Tech], going from Yoshiharu Tsukamoto to Kazunari Sakamoto, Kazuo Shinohara, Kiyoshi Seike, and even Yoshiro Taniguchi. What differences do you find between Europe and Japan as far as current teaching of architecture is concerned?
I became conscious of the particularity of Japanese education only very recently through my teaching at the Accademia di Architettura in Mendrisio, Switzerland, from 2012 to 2014. It seems that in comparison with the design studio tradition in European education, which is centered on the individual student and his individual project, our education in a laboratory system is much more strongly shaped by the school, its peculiar structure and rhythm.
In Japan the student chooses and then belongs to a particular laboratory. There the student has a desk and works for two or three years on the building or research and building projects of his professor. The laboratory can be compared to a private office. That is why the relationship between a professor and his students is stronger than it is in Europe, where a student can change his studio every semester.
I studied at Tokyo Tech, and indeed looking back one can find a certain continuity between the generations. From Taniguchi, Seike, Shinohara, and Sakamoto to Tsukamoto, one finds recurrent themes. At Tokyo Tech there has always been a special interest in the private house as shaped by the peculiar life of its inhabitants. Typology therefore has always played a strong role in the design and research. Another but closely related topic is the understanding of architecture as an autonomous discipline. Pure Architecture.
Do you think there are different genealogies in architecture teaching at Tokyo Tech?
In that case, which are the different concerns between them? Taniguchi can be considered one of the first modernist in Japan, concerned with the problem of space and its proportions. In Seike’s architecture, one can see the ambition to fuse the modern language with the anonymous Japanese house. This is particularly true for his horizontal houses.
Shinohara investigates questions of form, the way in which form, as in a chemical reaction, interacts with life. Many Europeans often reduce his architecture to its pure formal dimension. But his houses are formal diagrams of life and not just well-proportioned spatial or structural exercises. Similarly influential was his approach to the city, especially Tokyo. His theory about chaos as a beauty in the city highly influenced the younger generation of Japanese architects.
Sakamoto’s approach is more difficult to describe because he mostly deals with the architecture of the ordinary, challenging the geometrical order of architecture with the reality of ordinary life and its relative relationships. Sakamoto positioned himself somehow in opposition to Shinohara, and I think his approach to the new reality in ordinary life inspired young architects, including Sejima.
Tsukamoto finally, through his so-called ‘behaviorology’, investigates how the behavior of people, things or even nature has shaped our built environment. Tsukamoto proposes a new form of totality in architecture. Life and architecture are one. And by life I mean the life of the inhabitants, and also the landscape, the sun, the neighborhood… in sum the whole environment.