Let’s begin with the big ones. From the left, this photo shows Frei Otto’s Olympic Hall – one of the 1972 Olympic Park structures – Olympic Tower to the right, farther back on the right is Wolfgang Prix and Coop Himmelb(l)au’s BMW Visitor Centre, immediately to the right are the BMW Museum and BMW Headquarters. That huge white shed is the first BMW factory, and that white shape far away on the horizon is Allianz Stadium.
Olympic Stadium, Gunter Behnisch and Partners (B+P) + Frei Otto, 1972
Munich Olympic Park, Munich
Nothing I’d read or seen about this told me how well this huge thing sits in the landscape that’s the work of Behnisch and Partners (B+P). What I didn’t know was that the landscape is completely artificial – a significant amount of earth has been shifted to make the stadium appear to nestle into the landscape and so avoid an opressive monumentality. The ground is piled up to the west so those higher tier entrances are at ground level.
The stadium seating is therefore asymmetrical east-west, with the larger and western half shaded from afternoon sun. To cover as much of that seating with a large tent is, as ever, the simplest way to shelter people from sun and light rain and this is probably what B+P were thinking when they asked Frei Otto to design something to do that.
The concept is simple and we can be certain all those forces are resolved and with generous safety factors. Herr Otto was displeased at having to use plexiglass sheets that added to the weight and subsequent cost but he did so with aplomb. For such an elegant structure it has a raw materiality that’s difficult to imagine happening today as an understated stadium with an absence of “architectural” expression. In the future, I think I’ll put quotation marks around the word architectural to draw attention to the fact not everybody agrees if it’s even necessary. These days we expect all forces to resolve into curved surfaces with picturesque voids so it’s something of a shock to see the heads of those cigar-shaped cable stays doing the important job of converting multiple tensile forces into a single compressive one. They’re not trying to be beautiful and they’re not trying to be ugly either. It’s us, not them.
Olympic Hall Frei Otto, 1972
Munich Olympic Park, Munich
The roof of this is wonderful but there’s more to a building than a canopy. Olympic Hall is a fully enclosed space with glass walls and an extra layer of roof. It’s now a concert venue.
Everything inside, including the air conditioning ductwork, is part of an independent structure and it’s not surprising it recalls Pompidou Centre because these were the ideas in the air at the time. Frei Otto’s involvement with Olympic Park goes back to 1967. Construction of Piano & Roger’s Pompidou Centre began 1971 and was completed 1977.
Olympic Park, Munich
It’s called Olympic Tower but was constructed over 1965–68 well in advance. It’s the usual combination of communications tower, restaurant and observation deck that can’t help but be a landmark. At 291 metres, it used to be one of the world’s bigger ones.
BMW Headquarters, BMW Museum Karl Schwanzer 1972
Petuelring 124-130, 80809 Munich
The exposed rooftop structure of the headquarters allows the floors to be held up by the four suspended “columns” – if that’s the right word. Once the core and suspension structure was in place, the building was built from the top down.
Whether it’s a good or necessary solution I don’t know. With distance, the window detail is lost and the muscular rooftop structure and cylindrical shapes appear monumental on the horizon. Some say cylinders and some say pistons, perhaps because of that gap on the way up that either part could occupy.
BMW Welt Wolf D. Prix & Coop Himmelb(l)au 2007
Am Olympiapark 1, 80809 Munich
A sign misled me into thinking this was the BMW Museum and I went in so I could tell my father about it as at 88 he’d recently decided to get himself a BMW.
There’s no reason for this building to exist apart from provide a place for purchasers to pick up their cars. The “waiting area” with its display turntables and exit ramp are thus the point of the design which takes every opportunity to lean in and swirl around it. There are few verticals and even the few columns are given a horizontal thrust by tapers on one side. Not unrelated to the primary function of the building is the bridge from where onlookers can watch new owners take possession and drive off. New BMW automobiles are on display downstairs (as well as those of Mini and Rolls Royce) where there’s also three large shops and a café. Motorcycles are on the level of the bridge overlooking the handover area and that eventually leads to the 1972 Karl Schwanzer museum. On the upper levels are assorted business centres and reception rooms.
Spira Royal Phoenix Damen 4769 Laufschuhe mit Federn Royal B071LNFHPJ/ Schwarz/ Weiß 88af55b - postnatalanxiety.site
Putting cars and clouds inside buildings creates its own problems but also the opportunity to flaunt the elegance and expense with which they were solved. Making a huge roof appear to hover without visible means of support is one problem. Another is how to maintain air quality when vehicle exhaust is introduced into a space containing people? This I’m sure has been dealt with as nobody seemed to care. It would’ve been simpler to have an external handover area viewed from some glassy gallery but converting envious onlookers into proud purchasers is what it’s all about and the fewer barriers the better.
Realizing a cloud-like building has been a preoccupation of the designers. In 1995 they stated “Clouds are symbols for rapidly changing states. They form and transform themselves through the complex interaction of changing conditions. Viewed in slow motion, the architecture of urban development could be compared with patches of clouds.”
Whether or not the building is a successful symbolic cloud depends upon your expectations of symbolic clouds. Outside, the day I visited, a very real cloud covered all of Bavaria.
Waste Treatment Plant
Münchner Straße 22 85774 Unterföhring
The North Munich Waste Treatment Plant has a maximum treatment capacity of 2,640 tonnes/day and the very real purpose of treating all municipal solid waste for Munich (pop. approx. 1.5 mil.) and surrounding areas. Munich has no operational landfills. All recovered energy is returned to the city as heat and/or electricity. Impressive.
Karl47 Kuehn Malvezzi, 2014
Karlstrasse 17, 80333 Munich
This little building is an island building and, walking by it as I did most days, was struck by how well it works on all sides and corners. The curves aside, the only other low-key design feature is the curious geometry of the fourth floor. It’s one simple idea that makes each side of this building slightly and differently strange.
The outer layer of glazing is a rainscreen and acoustic baffle for a deep cavity the inner windows open into. [The KPMG building (next up) has a similar treatment at ground level where this outer layer also functions as a security screen.] It only occurred to me later how few buildings in Munich have curved corners, and how welcome these are. It’s worth it because curved glazing isn’t cheap. The cavity space also has operable louvred blinds, and those on the curved windows have
curved conical slats. Respect.
KPMG Building, Ganghoferstr 29, Munich
Olafur Eliaason’s name is cropping up a lot lately. Last week I mentioned his 2003 Tate Gallery installation The Weather Project in the ART IN SPACE! post. I mentioned his building for the LEGO brothers in The Right Stuff post last month, and I’m about to mention his installation for a particularly gloomy corner of Gehry’s Louis Vuitton Foundation in an upcoming post. He seems to be moving towards the same design pastures as Thomas Heatherwick, Philip Starck and Zaha Hadid (did) but from the direction of art rather than product design/architecture.
In addition to clocks at obvious locations such as stations, Munich also has many towers and steeples and most have at least two clocks.
Wagnisart Cooperative Housing Bogevischs Buero Architekten Stadtplaner + Schindler Hable Arkitekten 2018
Domagkpark is a new residential area less than 7 kilometres from the city centre, 1.2 km from a metro station with two lines and 100m from tram stops. The size of the buildings is small enough to give apartments windows on at least two sides but large enough to reduce the surface area and provide efficiencies of construction and heating. I don’t know why humane and generous low-cost housing is so difficult to achieve elsewhere. The three- and four-bedroom apartments are generous.
Both teams of architects know their way around low-cost housing but the Waginsart Housing aims at something higher than an already high standard. At first glance it appears little different apart from some wonky geometry but, in the co-housing blocks, this sensibly converges on the irregularly-shaped shared cooking and living areas.
Elevated bridges are not something you’d expect to find in a housing development like this and it’s not clear what problem they solve. I’m guessing the upper storeys were first set back to give the central areas more daylight. Linking those setbacks with elevated bridges defines the central space as something more than just the space between buildings and at the same time makes the upper storey residents an integral part of it. If so, then its very clever and deserves repeating elsewhere.
Olympic Village, Munich
Some of the athletes’ housing for the 1972 Olympics had been used as student housing and this project is a reconstruction since renovation proved unviable. The website says the density was increased but each student still has their own house, their own front door, own bathroom and kitchen. Everyone has the right to decorate their exterior as they wish.
158 Ungererstraße, Munich
I didn’t know what to make of this building when I came across it. It had a strange monumentality from the size and spacing of the quoins being out of sync with the residential floor levels. Things like this were on my mind since, in a draft for another post, I’d been thinking about how architecture could be art independent of function. Overthinking it, I thought the stone might have been reclaimed. It turned out the building was a heritage-protected overground bunker repurposed as an art space and apartments. Not many apartments have two metre thick walls.
The size and spacing of the quoins were always at odds with the floor levels as originally and pointlessly indicated by the ventilation ducts (that must have zig-zagged to dampen blast waves). It’s not often you become aware of a new building typology and, although it’s not like you’ll start seeing them everywhere once you do, the next day I did see this one not too far from the BMW headquarters. Built in 1941, it could shelter 448.
Blumenstrasse 28b, Munich
I was hoping this building would be of the same vintage as Chicago’s 1892 Monadnock Building but no. A 1919 competition for the design of the building was won by Hermann Leitenstorfer, an architect, engineer and instructor at the Technical University of Munich, and the building was completed in 1929. This competition must have represented a huge and exciting opportunity for architects at the time. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Friedrichstrasse designs were 1921, Gropius, Loos and Hilberseimer’s Skyscraper Chicago Tribune Competition designs were 1922, and Gropius tenure as Director of The Bauhaus was 1919–1928. I’d like to see the other entries.
Nevertheless, The Old Technical Town Hall can be enjoyed for what it is – a serious attempt to define what a high-rise building should look like in Munich when it could be no taller than the 99-metre towers of Munich’s beloved Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Lady). This historic height limit is still respected in the city centre.
- https://www.raumstation-architekten.de/projekte; more bunker photos here: https://www.baunetz.de/meldungen/Meldungen-Umbau_in_Muenchen_3942681
Art comes with its own conceptual space observers are expected to enter. If this weren’t the case, then a person wouldn’t even know they were in the vincity of an artwork. 
Boundaries exist to be broken but an artwork’s conceptual space is usually congruent with the physical space it’s displayed in. You can be reasonably sure something is art if it’s in an art gallery.
Or at least a painting because paintings need even though there was a moment when paintings tried to deny this. 
Sculpture was never that attached. It had an existence independent of space-enclosing elements but, regardless of how the sculpture relates to its intrinsic conceptual space [called the “sculptural field”, I learn], its external conceptual space is still likely to be the physical space of a museum or gallery where you may be shocked by the encounter but not by the fact you encountered it.
Strange things begin to happen when the congruency of physical space and conceptual space is upset by artworks not appearing where they’re expected to appear or by objects not considered artworks occupying physical spaces in which we expect artworks. 
Tazro Niscino gives artworks alternative contexts that contradict their given conceptual spaces. His 2002 Villa Victoria in Liverpool was a temporary hotel room constructed around Liverpool’s Victoria Monument. The strength of his artwork spaces depends on how credible they are as living spaces.
Rather than exhibit art as an everyday occurrence, the Dadaists exhibited everyday occurrence as art. It was probably always necessary to propose and exhibit something as art in order to create the conceptual space for it to be considered Art but what the Dadaists did was prove it was sufficient. Moreover, once that conceptual space is created, it can’t be uncreated. The found object can’t be unfound. 
The threshold for shock is higher these days as we become numbed to “but-is-it-art?” artworks appearing in public spaces to enliven them or at least indicate the commercial intent to. Guerilla art may once have prompted reflection on the nature of art and existence but commercial interventions seem to err on the site of bright colours and whimsy.
Public space is a lost cause when driven by coffee shops and footfall. It’s time to retreat inside and think about the manner in which art is placed in physical spaces, what it gives and what it takes away. If Art is never accidental then neither is its position in space.
The most unselfconscious positioning an artwork can ever have is in the artist’s studio. Here’s two photographs of Piet Mondrian in his, one with canvasses leaning against the wall and the other having a more self-conscious arrangement for display.
In the second photograph, there contrived surface similarities of colour and pattern between the artworks and the room, and there are also contrivances of placement. Some paintings draw attention to architectural features such as the door. Monochrome shapes blend the sofa into and out of the room and, via a cushion, red shapes morph into cupboards. The chimney breast is treated as an extension of the stove (that, come to think of it, it is) with black and grey squares for whimsical soot and whimsical smoke showing us not Mondrian the abstractionist but Mondrian the representationist.
We don’t know if Mondrian was consciously trying to make his studio into a total work of art but we it anyway and Mondrian exhibitions typically reconstruct it. This next photo also contains a black square in another space that’s often reconstructed for exhibitions. This time it’s Kazimir Malevich’s 1915 Black Square in its special corner.
In any room, a corner is a special position not normally occupied by paintings but the allusion to an icon corner would not be lost on persons of the Eastern Orthodox or Russian Orthodox faith.
But what did this association-heavy positioning mean? Was Malevich asking us to worship Art? His painting? Himself? In 1930 Malevich was accused of “degenerate art” and subsequent works until his (natural) death in 1935 posed no more unsettling questions. We’re always told what the positioning of Black Square alludes to but we still have no idea what it was supposed to have meant. All we’re left with is a sense it’s important.
Implied importance is always the case when an artwork occupies a singular position such as the corner of a room or the midpoint of a wall – it’s as if the space exists for the sake of the artwork. The sensation is heightened if the artwork is large, apparently heavy, and weighty in content. Less substantial artworks can employ Position to Unite for synthetic gravitas.
The centre of a room is the intersection of all axes passing through corners and wall midpoints. It’s the primary spatial hotspot.
Donald Judd’s art is often based on the sculptural field between the artwork and the observer – or so I remember reading once. It’s basically the relationship we have with furniture before we use it. Furniture as art pays lip service to the notion of art for the people. These are artworks waiting for patron-collectors with spaces to fill. They might appear less like artworks and more like furniture if the spaces containing them looked less like galleries.
It’s not unknown for people to purchase an painting or a print in order to “fill a space” that appears to be “needing something”. Sometimes the opposite happens and specific spaces are created for the display of specific artworks.
The Bilbao Guggenheim website says “The entire room is part of the sculptural field. As he has done in other sculptures composed of many pieces, the artist has arranged the works deliberately in order to move the viewer through them and through the space surrounding them. The layout of the works along the gallery creates corridors with different, always unexpected proportions (wide, narrow, long, compressed, high, low).” 
Even if the room is part of the sculptural field, the distinction between art and space is clear, muddied only by a shared curviness. It’s sometimes the case that shared surface characteristics of colour and pattern tell us the elements enclosing the space around the artwork aren’t just the sculptural field but very obviously part of the artwork itself.
In her infinity room series, Yayoi Kusama uses mirrors to negate the physical space to create art with a infinite sculptural field even the observer is external to.
In this next example a found space has been made an integral part of an artwork. Artwork and space are one and people are invited. This is not a simple juxtaposition of art in space but nor is it space as art or architecture as art. It’s an artwork that could exist nowhere else but in this space.
Now we’re finally beginning to approach where we want to be.
A space constructed of elements unique to Architecture.
A space that has its existence as Art.
A space that admits the presence of People.
In all his works I know, artist James Turrell uses our perception of light to conjure up spatial experiences as artworks one contemplates and ponders accordingly. In this next image the volume is created out of nothing but light.
These next ones admit people and are also constructed from light but lack the usual spatial delimiters of surfaces with shadows.
Turrell’s Skyscape series have a chamber with an opening to the sky and, because the frame of that opening has no apparent thickness, it makes the sky appear as if on a screen. It’s bizarre how this makes it seem more real to us but most art is about making something strange in order to gain our attention and focus it. Within, Without is one of Turrell’s skyscapes and is part of the permanent collection of the Australian National Gallery in Canberra.
The approach path slopes down below the surface of the moat-pond as you cross it to enter the truncated pyramid at a corner. You realize you’re not as indoors as you thought you’d be as you find it’s hollow, see a square of sky, and find yourself external to another raised pool of water pond with an object-structure at its centre. Either of two inclined L-shaped ramps will take you to its entrance and the space within from which you view the space without (and by doing that, I venture, your space within). It’s a series of thresholds leading to one you can contemplate but not cross. The entire thing is a work of art.
This artwork uses much of the stuff of Architecture to make something that is very clearly Art and not Architecture.
- There’s spatial anticipation and progression.
- There’s the play of light and shadow on simple spaces as well as masses.
- There’s more materiality than you can shake a stick at.
- There’s a sequence of spatial experiences as you progress inwards.
- There’s the heat of the summer air and the cool sound of water.
- There’s the view of the sky that never before looked so stunning as it does now.
The question then is In what sense is architectural space Art? And what makes it Architectural and not Sculptural?
I don’t want to get diverted by arguments of the Function vs. Form kind because I’d like to leave open the possibility of Function (or Performance, etc.) simply being a different form of beauty even if our era has no appetite for such ideas. But the issue of Function isn’t irrelevant. The sole function of Turrell’s Within, Without is for persons to enter and contemplate it or the sky or themselves etc. It doesn’t exist for them to have a sit down, a lie down or a sandwich, chat or nap though it could be used for any of those.
Let’s suppose Within, Without wasn’t part of an gallery compound but on privately-owned land. It would still have the same existence as Art, and it won’t suddenly become architecture if utilities, plumbing and some items of furniture were added to make it habitable. It’ll still be the same artwork but with people living in it. It’ll be as if – if you’ll excuse me – the accoutrements of living are conceptually external to the artwork. The existence of the artwork remains conceptually separate from the people camping inside. All the same, that existence is a fragile thing and is easily compromised by the physical requirements for (the function of) habitation. For example, adding a glass roof to Within, Without for purposes of climate control would diminish the gradations of inside and outside that have been so thoughtfully set up and the artwork would suffer more from that than it would from a bed or a sock or toaster lying around.
Many people offer opinions on what makes architecture different from buildings but the question What makes art different from architecture? remains unanswered and, until now, unasked. What if it was possible to live in art? Where does that leave architecture? Is it possible to live in art that stays art and does not become or claim to be architecture? After half a century of increasingly joyless iterations, we’ve probably reached the end of the road with Houses are Art. Art as Houses opens up new frontiers.
So then. We began with ART IN SPACE! and ended up with Art as Space or, to be preceise, selected architectural devices used to create spatial experience as Art. The goal now is to find the conditions for intersecting a basic habitability with that and in doing so create Art as Houses.
How it’s going to happen is another question. How to add people to an artwork without making it into or reducing it to architecture is going to need some more thought so this post is the first of four. The plan is to follow it with Houses as Art, Living as Art and Art as Houses.• • •
 Urban Camouflage, IKEA, Stockhom, 2008
 Left: Robert Rauschenberg,; Right: Robert Rauschenberg, Pilgrim, 1960
New Balance Damen w990v4 Laufschuh Marine , adidas Damen Deerupt Runner Originals Laufschuh Leinen / Ecru Tint , Chaco Damen ZX1 Classic Sport Sandale Berry platzen NIKE Damen TR 6 Trainingsschuh für die Saison Schwarz / Weiß / Stealth / Cool Grey , Birkenstock Damen Gizeh EVA Sandalen rot New Balance Damen 1500v3 Laufschuh Porzellan / Alpha Pink NIKE Womens Flex Kontakt Wolf Grau / Weiß-Pure Platinum-Cool Grey Laufschuhe Wolfsgrau / Metallic Rose Gold , ASICS Damen Gel-Kayano 23 Laufschuh Onyx / Silber / Aquarium Prop & eacute; t Damen TravelFit Wanderschuh Orange Drew Shoe Savannah Frauen therapeutische Diabetic Extra Tiefe Schuh Canvas Buckle Marine / Wellig / Stretch , Abby L019 Damen Einzigartige Hochzeit Braut Brautjungfer Party Show Kleid Kegelabsatz Mikrofaser Sandalen Schwarz , NIKE Herren Comfort Slide 2 Sandale Weiß / Metallic Silber Schwarz , Hush Puppies Frauen Classic Walker Schwarz , Michael Kors MK Lässige Sandaletten Schwarz / Weiß New Balance Damen 711V3 Grafik Cross-Trainer Schuh Pigment / Striped Velocity Grafik Vans Damen Chunky Glitter SK8-Hi Slim Zip Sneaker Gold / Schwarz , Gola Damen Harrier 50 Suede Baltisch / Weiß Birkenstock Frauen Daytona Crystal Rose Birko-Flor , Birkenstock Damen Dorothy Sandale Lakritze Musse & Cloud Damen Bluebell Slide Sandale Leder, Tan , Mizuno Frauen 9-Spike Swift G2 Switch Softball Metall Cleat Marine / Weiß , 50 Schattierungen von Silber Tanzschuhe: Komfort Abendkleid Hochzeit Pumpen, Ballsaal Schuhe für Latein, Tango, Salsa, Schaukel, Theather Kunst von 50 Farbtöne (2,5 \ 3 \ 7016- Silber , Capezio Frauen-Manhattan-Charakter-Schuh, Schwarz , Walking Cradles Frauen Pool flache Sandale Schwarzer matter Schlangen-Druck / Kork-Verpackung adidas Frauen Sprintstar W Schuhe Weiß / Aschgrau / Echt Lila adidas Damen Adizero Tj / Pv Core Black, Ftwr Weiß, Orange Twisted X Damen Slip-On Tiger Driving Mocs Betrübt , Bella Vita Damen Hadley Ankle Bootie Tan Wildleder TOMS Frauen Klassiker Asche Haflinger Damen ASD Dynamic Slip On Slipper Kapitäne ,  From the Tatsu Nishi exhibition, Sometimes Extraordinary, Sometimes Less than Common, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Aichi, Japan, Gallery, 2006 (Photos by Yoshihiro Kikuyama)
 Ji Lee, Duchamp Reloaded
 The Matter of Time, Richard Serra, 1994–2005
Spira Royal Phoenix Damen 4769 Laufschuhe mit Federn Royal B071LNFHPJ/ Schwarz/ Weiß 88af55b - postnatalanxiety.site
Is it possible for an architecture to be popular and affordable? Is it even possible anymore to conceive of an architecture that exists outside the perceived status- and value-adding mechanisms of art? MUJI are giving it their best shot.
For a start, their houses are not unique in the way that superior art and architecture is supposed to be and nor are they designed to be representations of mass-produced things (viz. Warhol, Lichtenstein, etc.) Instead, they’re designed to be mass-produced. Whether apartments or prefabricated houses, mass-produced housing has always suffered from the stigma of not being tailor-made, of not being unique, of not being art. It will take time to get over our belief that all good art is one-off.
Let’s not forget that many of Japan’s unique and arty houses exist on land leased from the landowner and that their lifespan is perhaps two or three generations max. They’re only slightly less ephemeral than sofas or automobiles so it’s only to be expected that a brand with a reputation for quality at low-cost will expand into the market for houses, the largest of consumer purchases. With such a system of land tenure, most Japanese houses are overdesigned and overconstructed. The modern world doesn’t seem to want buildings or other products made solidly to last for generations. It’s just not the way it’s going. Many of our favourite Japanese art houses have lived longer in our memories than they ever did in reality.
Completed in 2007, Sou Fujimoto’s O House was destroyed by the tsunami accompanying the March 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake.
Even without natural disasters, the Japanese are already receptive to the idea of replacing their houses when they no longer fit, or when they wear out, or when they simply don’t like them anymore. Perhaps the strong Japanese brand MUJI (a.k.a. 無印, lit. no brand) is in a good position to make the Japanese (and by proxy, us) see the beauty in buildings that work well, are low in cost, have a simplicity that can be interpreted as an aesthetic, and that are not designed to be handed down over generations.
The MUJI Hut is the kind of tinyhouse oddity we see on the internet and, rightly or wrongly, associate with Japan anyway. Aesthetically, it re-presents pretentious minimalist aesthetic qualities (a.k.a. brand values) we’re already attuned to.
MUJI entered the housing market after IKEA and are currently marketing three different types of house. They take a new approach to finding an aesthetic for affordable, mass produced housing. They are attempting to engineer a product that prompts us to see beauty in the simple and mundane (yet not in an overtly fashionable or stylish way), that works well, that performs well, and at a reasonable cost. They’re rethinking the shed as a high-performance shed and, if we forget about the distraction of houses as art, this is something Japanese architects have been doing for more than half a century.
Storehouse Unknown Yayoi Period (approx. 300BC – 300AD)
Locally-sourced timber frame and infill, all raised on timber columns to protect valuable commodities from floodwaters and rats. Overhanging thatch roof reduces rain penetration. A design classic.
SH-1 Kenji Hirose 1953
Hirose’s own house was Japan’s first building using lightweight steel. It used little material, had many of the advantages of a wooden frame and could be factory produced. Infill walls were either brick or glass. It was not raised on columns for the sake of it, and its roof was no bigger than necessary.
Itsuko Hasegawa House at Yaizu 1 1974
Yamakawa Mountain Villa Riken Yamamoto 1977
An old favourite. It’s not a shed in the sense of construction and materials, but in the sense of having nothing to do with the quality of interior spaces created, connections between them, or how they relate to the outside.
[If the nature of the various rooms is to be determined by the relationship with the outside, here it can be said that there is no place to engage with the outside, that is, every room is a homogeneous place of only the inside. So it is impossible to explain the linkage factor (the cause of the connection, relation) in each room. It only has to have the use function. Whether it is tied up or apart, it does not matter how it is.]
The translation is faithful but it’s not helping me understand anything. I remember this house from the time and still believe it has something we can learn from. I don’t yet know what it is, and include it here to keep it’s memory alive until I do.
Kazunari Sakamoto House in Sakatayamtsuke 1978
House in Komae Go Hasegawa 2009
House in a Forest Go Hasegawa 2006
Pilotis in a Forest Go Hasegawa 2011
Osamu Ishiyama Dracula’s Den 1995
Osamu Isiyama is a serial maverick and each of his buildings pushes some boundary. With this house, the clients wanted a comfortable box-like house, open inside but closed to society. The wall deformation is the sole architectural event and everything else happens as it would in any nondescript rural building. The architectural press shunned this one.
Danchi Hutch House YYAA 2013
Yo Shimada House in Rokko 2011
Despite this one having a pitched roof and being up in the air, no-one’s ever said it references Ise Shrine or Katsura Palace. It was more important for it to be built from lightweight components and do all the right things re. passive design.
That quick history above shows two opposing forces at work on the Japanese shed. One is that Sheds are Art. The other is that A shed is a shed. Kengo Kuma has a history of trying to reconcile the two so it’s not surprising his name is associated with a house for MUJI.
The Window House 2016
Kengo Kuma is reported as architect on content-accumulator sites such as ArchDaily, Dezeen, etc. but MUJI makes no mention of this or the level of his involvement. This might be because Kuma was merely design advisor or it could be because mentioning it would be contrary to their no-brand ethos. Either way, the design idea is that the size and positioning of windows is for the purchaser to decide according to practical or whimsical criteria they wish. Again, there are plan variations of size and proportion, and an interactive website will price them for you [!]
There’s also a choice of two basic layouts, priced.
Interiors are nothing to be ashamed of.
There’s an infinite number of variations for just the number, size and position of windows. The arrangement of functions inside the house is also flexible. MUJI’s fabricators have obviously devised a system of manufacture and assembly that can cope with imposed site conditions but is also not compromised by things purchasers might like to customise, such as the positioning of windows and the allocation of functions.
The Wood House [木の家] 2009
The main features of this house are the double-height space and the deep eaves. The architect was Kazuhiko Namba and this house is the result of his research since 1995 into the “box house” concept I want to write about soon. On the non-Japanese internet, the name of this house is often googletranslated as “Tree House.” This is of no great consequence but the house is often mis-attributed to Kengo Kuma which, as these things go, probably doesn’t matter that much either. The website of Kazuhiko Namba and his studio is not translated into English and he deserves our respect for that.
In addition, Wood House has two basic layouts with the more open being for a family of four.
This is why you’ll see many images of MUJI’s Wood House (sometimes called Tree House) and few will be the same. Like IKEA, MUJI have found a way to make the catalogue house work, but MUJI appear to be doing it without repetition. Either the concept of “economies of scale” is a fiction or MUJI have found a different way to achieve them. Their interactive website plans suggest that variation without redundancy is something can be designed for upfront.
The Vertical House 2010~ MUJI + Tohoku University of Art and Design
Of MUJI’s three types of house, Vertical House has least kerb appeal but is the most accessible. If Rural Studio in the US aims to provide the US$20K house, then the Japanese equivalent is the JP¥10 mil. house and this is what it looks like.
Here’s what the MUJI website has to say. As a statement of intent, it’s good.
“Vertical House proposes a new type of urban house that makes good use of small sites. The high “MUJI House” standards for airtightness and thermal insulation control the indoor temperature and air quality and the three-storey void provides an even level of comfort throughout the house. Split-level planning allows for six distinct spaces that have no doors or partitions yet which are connected by the central void. … This research collaboration between industry and academia explores how the comfortable internal environment of timber construction intersects with greater environmental imperatives and the Japanese culture of living with Nature, and asks how the Japanese house should be. Vertical House arose from attempts to solve questions of how people are to live in the city, using passive design to create a comfortable environment neither hot nor cold on small sites that don’t receive much solar insolation, and connecting family members while providing their individual space.
This time there’s no scope for infinite variations. Fixed variations accommodate different site proportions, directions of access as well as buildable volume truncations determined by Japan’s sunlight code. With its end entrance and large genkan for bicycles and shoe storage, this first variation is for sites deeper than they are wide. Ground level is utility level, first is living and second is sleeping. It’s two rooms per landing and a three storey lightwell. But see how finely the levels are set. The traditional genkan [Ent.] level is one step lower, but doesn’t need a high ceiling so the living room above absorbs that height. It also absorbs height from the above bedroom under the higher end of the roof. The addition of risers at the room entrance thresholds mean the staircase can be made shorter and the house as narrow as possible. There’s much intelligence in this layout. Plumbing, structure and construction are not complicated. In each of these three plans, the staircases have been ingeniously contrived so rooms are entered at positions requiring the least amount of additional circulation space.
This next variation allows for the parking of a small car so it must still be the case in Japan that you must first be able to prove you have a space to park a car before you can buy one. The cost of this is a complicated plan that now has a bedroom on the lowest level instead of that neat utility arrangement. That bedroom could easily be with the other one on the top floor and the plumbing simplified so it must have been done for some other reason. The house is definitely a three-person house but whether it is for parents and child or for parents and grandparent we don’t know. Having views in both directions on the living space level seems to be a feature.
This next one is tight. Bathrooms at ground, living on first and bedrooms at the top is the pattern. The roof trunctation suggests this house is designed for slivers of land along the south side of a narrow road. Although the bedrooms are bed-spaces, the smaller genkan allows a second space for work and study at ground level.
I can’t see how this can be rationalized any further. It’s close to a perfect object as you’ll find. The three-storey void won’t enhance ventilation of daylighting much more than the stairwell is already doing so I suspect that, like the stairs, it’s the best way to separate sleeping areas and other horizontally while still connecting them vertically. This volume could be bridged over and used as storage but, if you imagine a huge chimney-breast like volume in these next images you’ll agree it’s best left a void.
- http://www.kai-workshop.com/boxhouse/boxhouse01 Spira Royal Phoenix Damen 4769 Laufschuhe mit Federn Royal B071LNFHPJ/ Schwarz/ Weiß 88af55b
When the market for architect-designed private houses finally dries up it will be said in today’s world the private house is passée and anachronistic and no longer capable of conveying architectural meaning of any relevance. We’re practically there now and architects have no option but to cast their nets wider and embrace the mass-produced home as the next least-worst branding vehicle. As far as net-castings go, it’s not that much wider because the number of people having a patch of land on which to build is just another niche market. Tapping into it requires both purchasers and purveyors to discard any remaining notion of the house as a one-off and unique creation of an architect. Many architects perfecting prototype houses for mass production will more likely reduce, not expand, the demand for architects’ services. Although every architect everywhere should feel the obligation to perfect a prototype house for mass production, it’s not going to help their cashflow unless a housebuilder pays them good money to do it, as well as the opportunity to put their name on it.
The purchaser doesn’t get the cachet of a bespoke house but, if they see value in what an architect provides, they can still say they have a designer house. It’s pret-a-porter rather than couture, “a print” instead of an original. The currently preferred term of “catalogue house” is more neutral than “off-the-shelf” that is too casual for purchasers and “limited edition” which remains too pretentious for developers. Developers Cube Haus are on the case, offering four designs by architects of whom David Adjaye is perhaps best known, though Skene Catling de la Peña also have a reputation for bespoke houses.
One of the advantages of bespoke houses is that they can be tailored to suit whatever the owner thinks makes themselves special but another is that they can be designed to suit site-specific charactertistics such as direction of access, direction of sun and wind, and direction of views to and from the house. An architect can’t go too far wrong if they design from these fundamentals. It’s a safe way to begin and also makes sure the selling point of site-specificity is well embedded as unassailable nice things like sun, breezes and views can be used to justify design decisions and, later, their cost.Laufen
Herein lies the cake-and-eat-it contradiction. The developers of catalogue houses want economies of scale and would rather have none of the adjustment or customisation that purchasers usually want. Even if it’s not gratuitous or whimsical, customization may be forced upon a purchaser by those less glamorous site-specific conditions such as size, boundaries, overlooking restrictions and party wall and rights-of-way agreements.
Skene Catling de la Peña claim to have solved this problem by giving their house a central “core” so living spaces can pinwheel around it within the limits of arbitrary site boundaries.  Charlotte Skene Catling says, “Our solution was to pull all of the complicated bits of the house into a central core, and then have the skin adapt to fit the awkward geometries of the given site. It feels more like product design than architecture.” This core must in some sense be structural but would be more convincing if it included such complicated bits as plumbing.
Adjaye Associates’ proposal does. Its bathrooms and circulation are combined into a single module to which other arbitrary modules can arbitrarily attached. It’s good thinking and shows how fluid our functional linking of spaces actually is.
As an approach I can vouch for it.
The structural system of Adjaye Associates’ proposal fits rectangular sites but modules of different dimensions allow a better fit to the proportions of the site. This is limited pre-customization and, while not in the spirit of modules, allows a better fit.
If smaller sites necessitate more customization and accordingly reduced economies of scale, then one way around this is to have 100% fixed designs on larger sites. This is what happens in rural Australia where the primary requirement is that a house be transportable in as few pieces as possible.
This is the route IKEA has taken since 1997 when it began to developo its Boklok range of catalogue houses. We’ve known about them since 2005. 
IKEA have their catalogue houses in their catalogue. I like that.
The other psychological block that has to be overcome is to not denigrate product design but embrace it if one is to deliver the full range of tangible values such as physical comfort, thermal performance and cost-efficiency that designing for manufacture can achieve. [c.f. Architecture Misfits #24: Rural Studio] Early on, IKEA teamed up with Swedish company SKANSKA who look like they know a thing or two about construction.
Larger sites and larger economies of scale are more likely to happen on urban peripheries or land previously occupied by industry or infrastructure. Rather than squash their product onto pocket urban infill sites, IKEA sources property with characteristics that can be sold as part of the product. Their website https://www.boklok.se/hitta-bostad/ asks you where you would like to live, and shows you what’s available in that location. The system is sorted.
There are the three basic types of apartments, a semi-detached house, and a terraced house.
They’re all Skandi modern on the inside but we can forgive them that.
On offer in Uppsala are some Droskan that are a variation of the timber-clad apartment building Älmhult – which, incidentally, is the name of the Swedish town where the first IKEA store opened.
Uppsala is not sounding very central but, as a guide, 1.6 million Swedish Krona is US$180,000, which is very decent indeed.Droskan
They’ve done all the good stuff regarding planning and construction. I’m sure the windows are triple glazed and the insulation is more than adequate.
What fascinates me about these next images is the European-ness of the life they imply. If I went there once the projects are built and inhabited, I’ve no doubt I would see scenes like these.
It’s a quality present in this next image that’s definitely a photograph. The only demarcation of one property from another is those partial boundary screens that provide only 50% screening. Why? Because privacy is a two-way thing and it’s important to these people to know if they’re about to disturb someone else’s. For now, the sun is very low and people are outside and joined in their appreciation of it. We may have reservations about how these dwellings look but what if the vizualizations are accurate and it were really possible for people to be content and live happy lives free from architectural pretence?
Everything in the world is a expression of its place and time and so it’s not wrong to think good architecture is an expression of its place and time. It’s just that every other kind of architecture is too.
Unworried, we understand it to mean good architecture represents its place and time. There are many cultural- and location-specific factors that can be called upon to create associations of place. And making a building look like a product of its time shouldn’t pose a problem since we can’t build in the past and we can’t build in the future. Nevertheless, it’s all too easy to contrive a building to look as if it’s been built in the past, and making a building look like it comes from the future is actively applauded whether it’s achieved by new materials, new technologies or new-looking styles. We never question this, even though new materials, technologies or styles can’t create a “new” architecture any more than new sounds can make music new. It’s not that simple.
If we exclude the human voice and singing, it’s probably safe to say the first musical instruments were percussion and the first music was rhythm accompaniment. Chords and melody were possible but each note required its own instrument and player. People must have wanted more notes in more inventive arrangments because the drum kit and instruments such as the xylophone got solved this problem. The vibraphone is on one branch of this evolution.
With only the digeridoo as evidence, I’d say wind instruments came next. With wind instruments, the limitation of one note per instrument/player was overcome by adding holes to the tube to alter the length of air resonating inside. Instruments such as the fife with six finger holes allowed one person to play many different notes. The modern fife with ten or eleven holes allows a player to make even more. Hitherto [Greek mythology time], melody had been possible by pan pipes with their multiple pipes but now a single person could make melody with only one.
Early trumpets had a single resonator and a fixed pitched but modern ones use three valves to alter the effective length of the tube. The trombone alters the real length of the tube. There are six types of modern flute, all with different ranges.
The dimensions and key system of the modern western concert flute (#3 in the photo) and its close relatives are almost completely the work of the great flautist, composer, acoustician, and silversmith Theobald Boehm, who patented his system in 1847.
These next two diagrams show the relationship between the notes and fingering. The greater the number of open holes the higher the note. Nine different finger combinations produce three different registers, depending on the speed of air blown. Accomplished flautists make all this look completely natural.
This is what a piece of flute music for a beginner looks like.
All musical instruments have their respective strengths but their limitations are usually set by principles of mechanics. Recorders and woodwind instruments are closely related to the flute family but differ in how the air inside is made to vibrate. One of the most difficult things to do on a clarinet is play a high note immediately after a low note so, accordingly, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major has just that, about 2’40” into the second movement. It takes skill and bravery to nail. A player just has to go for it and hope for the best.
The Egyptian bowed harp and the Greek lyre were practically simultaneous developments circa 2,500BC but both evolved from the African Mesolithic stringed bow for which evidence points to circa 15,000BC.
These three types of simple instrument kept people entertained for quite some time. Up to and including the Middle Ages, I can’t imagine too many people having the time or inclination to learn how to play them but it is easy to imagine the nobility having court musicians and peasants having to make do with wandering minstrels at festivals. Both ends of this spectrum are subject to the same limitations. Humans have only two hands and ten digits and, whether percussion, string or wind, there’s a limit to the number of sounds a single mechanical instrument can make and to what a single player can operate. There’s also a practical (and economic) limit to the number of players of different types of instruments that can be assembled at one time and place. [Orchestras defy this and it’s not for nothing that classical music is regarded as the opposite of popular music.]
The Renaissance was the first time in Western history that people had the resources to devote to cultural pursuits as well as have the leisure to appreciate them. Developments in music and musical instruments paralleled those in art and architecture. The evolution of musical instruments is not just a quest for a more complex musicality but a response to the demand for novelty and new forms of entertainment. The theorbo, for example, wouldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been a demand for novel sounds and for novel music to make use of them. The theorbo is a lute supersized, with two pegboards and an additional six strings for added bass. It’s a bass and lead guitar in one but there’s still a limit to what two hands can do.
Robert de Visée’s Prelude and Allemande for theorbo illustrates this new instrument and the musicality it enabled. It’s loses a lot when transcribed for conventional lute or for modern guitar, even a seven-stringed one.
Richard Sweeney can tell you everything you need to know about the theorbo.
Even without wardrobe malfunctions, a player has their work cut out for them. The inherent limitations of manual plucking meant the theorbo never evolved into a harpsichord. For the same reason neither did the zither, variations of which exist in many cultures. The Arab version is a qanun and here’s an 1859 etching of one being played.
The invention of the keyboard made it possible to play the supersized wind instrument that is the pipe organ. Instruments such as the accordion downsized the pipe organ into a portable and popular instrument capable of complex and sustained chords. Alexander Sevastian will make you think again about the accordion.
The invention of the keyboard also made it possible to play multiple chords on string instruments such as the harpsichord. The key mechanism didn’t allow for soft or loud as strings were plucked to the same volume regardless of how strongly or quickly the keys are pressed. Even without this quality of “touch” Bach did his best to satisfy the desire for new sounds with complex polyphonic musical inventions such as the fugue, but it was the invention of the piano with its metal frame and the substitution of wires for strings that resulted in an instrument that, while not portable, had a large range and [to my mind] a reasonably rational method of playing it.
Ludvig van was the first to realize and exploit the capabilities of this new instrument and, ever since, the piano’s range of pitch and expression has made it the instrument of choice for composers. In the two centuries after its invention, the (upright) piano found its way into churches and village halls, pubs and taverns, and into many households across society. It made access to music more egalitarian than it had ever been before. If a household had a piano and one reasonably accomplished player who could sight-read music, then published sheet music meant many people anywhere could hear simplified transcriptions of new classical works as well as new popular music. Live music was the only music there was and home recitals were much more common than they are today.
I once stayed a summer night in a tent at the bottom of a garden of a house in Bregenz. This next photograph is a bit higher up but basically the view. We’re in Austria, Germany on the right, Switzerland on the left.2251387
When I woke there were sailboats flitting across Lake Constance and someone was playing Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata, a bit too loudly I thought, until I heard a mistake – they were actually playing it! This is what music was until the advent of the phonograph. Music travelled as scores and the music you were exposed to depended upon the skill of people you knew and their access to sheet music. Salons and living rooms were as much education as entertainment.
Léon Theremin (Термéн) is an interesting character and had an interesting life.
He invented and named the theramin in 1922. It’s unique in being the only musical instrument a person doesn’t have to touch in order to play it. It permits the theatricality we associate with a certain type of performer but it never looked easy to play. The characteristic wavering quality comes from players not nailing the notes in one.
Léon Theramin was an accomplished cellist so he knew a bit about nailing notes in one. Compare the previous performance to this one of his. The man’s good – he’s not using vibrato for cheesy effect.
The electro-theramin was easier to play because it had a dial to replicate the coil for the left hand and a slider to replace the right. Notes could be now be assigned to marked positions on the slider, as frets do, but you either liked the sound or you didn’t. One commentator said, “it sounds like a cello lost in the fog and trying to get home”. It was part of a greater argument about the authenticity of electronic sounds. [N.B.: The Beachboys’ Good Vibrations, features an electro-theramin, not a theramin.] The theramin may have been the world’s first electronic instrument but all this means is that it didn’t rely upon physical impact to make air vibrate to produce sound.
The theramin produced new sounds and came with a new way of making them but it did not change music. It did not herald a revolution in musicality. And nor did any other the other fantastical musical instruments developed in Soviet Russia in the 1920s. This may have been because “only a few professional, academically educated composers were involved in it.”
I suspect there’s another reason. In music, it is not assumed that every new sound and every new technology will advance something called MUSIC. It is understood that MUSICALITY does not work that way. It is something different. This is accepted and understood as obvious. It is ludicrous to think otherwise.
The Harpeji, the Medusa Guitar and the Marble Machine are all inventive and produce new sounds but are still waiting for a Beethoven to fully exploit their capabilities.
Internet users more attentive than me will know this redesigned violin has been around since 2005. It has only two strings but an interactive surface links to a computer and turns it into a species of synthesizer. The addition of a Star Trek vibe, a computer, and a second string takes us a long way from that first string instrument in Africa 15,000 years ago.
This next image is of a Bogányi piano. Its more open design and fewer legs are said to better direct the sound to the audience. Extensive use of carbon composites is claimed to produce a higher quality sound and make the piano relatively unaffacted by humidity and hold its tune longer. These and other improvements are all incremental and welcome but it is still a piano on which the same repertoire will be played, even if with greater clarity.
The theramin and other Soviet experiments in sound made possible the Moog synthesizer which was a more versatile electronic sound generator operated by keyboard and (as with a pipe organ) a multitude of dials and swiches for various registers. Herbert Waltl’s 1968 album Switched on Bach quickly incorporated these new sounds back into the old musicality and, though it was undeniable evidence of the expressive capabilities of these new sounds, it was not an expression of a new musicality.
It was a new way of expressing an established musicality we were already receptive to. [Thought: Perhaps this is what all newness eventually boils down to.]
Musicality ended up evolving in different routes through rock, disco, metal, punk and hip-hop and a myriad variants, most of which were driven by novelty of rhytmn and not sound. Synthesized sounds were everywhere but [well, for me anyway] Kraftwerk were the first to give them an original voice.
The Fairlight CMI (Computer Musical Instrument) is a digital synthesizer, sampler and digital audio workstation introduced in 1979. It was one of the first music workstations to have come with a digital sampling synthesizer. This is a series II from 1983.
The Fairlight made it it possible to make any new sound at will by simply altering the waveform of a sampled sound but even this ultimate power to shape sound did not lead to a new musicality. Contemporary musicians such a Kid Koala may combine and manipulate sampled music and sounds into sophisticated and entertaining compositions in which every sound – no matter what it is or where it came from – has the inevitability of art but it is still a conventional art despite its unconventional sources.
Although we think architecture now has the means to make buildings in any and many new forms, this should not be mistaken for a new architecturality.
Architecture has never had the equivalent of a piano – an instrument that can be used for the creation, research and development of new embodiments of the art at one end while simultaneously facilitating their dissemination and appreciation at the other.
The Georgian townhouse was an architectural invention that disseminated and appreciated across the social spectrum but, once it was invented, development stopped. Was it even an architectural invention? It seems more like a popularized construction invention, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Perhaps during the short period of overlap between the residential output of Frank Lloyd Wright and the residential output of Le Corbusier, the private house might have been said to be a generator of architectural ideas that could be disseminated and appreciated across society but, since the appreciation and subsequent dissemination was dependent upon other architects, it’s probably not as valid as we would like to believe. Architecture still awaits its piano equivalent.• • •