Saturday, July 12, 2008

Architectural treasure hunt

Can I first just say, when did it become summer?! All through June and the beginning of this month there have been hot summery days and I've definitely been schvitzing, but then again I schvitz all year as long as I'm moving so that's not exactly a reliable measure of the outside temperature. Today it was the first day that felt like the oppressive Tokyo summer I know and despise. There was even a freak squall! I only heard the thunder in Kanda but at that very moment it was raining and blowing like a tropical storm across town in Shibuya and Odaiba.

As I mentioned in a previous post I was planning an architectural tre
asure hunt. I didn't make it after work as I got waylaid until last train at this very cute cafe/bar in Naka-meguro called Combine. It sits right above the river and the whole wall is lined with art and architecture books. There is even a cute European guy on staff who danced around and did some endearing hip jerks for my friend's birthday.

Cute isn't it? It's even better at night with the twinkling lights and the river.

So. I headed out into the thick evening air from Shimbashi station tonight hoping it hadn't yet been torn down. I first discovered it through an article in a Japanese magazine I was reading at the laundromat by our old apartment. I did something I would normally never do-I tore out the whole article and took it home. I forgot about it a short time later until I was doing a search on Tokyo tower and it popped up coincidentally. The building owner was planning to tear it down and build something in its place but the architect who originally built it was fighting this in court. I started searching the Japanese news sites franti
cally, hoping I hadn't missed the chance to see it in person. The most recent article I could find said that in October 2007 the court ruled against the architect and he died the same year, appealing to the world to save his building...

I had a vague idea of where I was going, I knew I had to find a big highway overpass and the building would (hopefully) be on the other side of it. As I neared the highway I scanned the tops of the buildings peaking over it and there was the sign I had been looking for from photographs I had seen!!!
I ran up on to the pedestrian overpass to get a better look and saw one of its inhabitants staring out his round window at me. There were a couple other lights on and I felt a little sad watching the building like a stalker, thinking that only lonely people could live there. For all I know there could be lots of hip young things living there but for rooms so small and eclectic, I imagined all the original inhabitants still lived there, trapped in the same lives they led when it was first erected.

Finally I crossed over and down so that I was standing right under the front eaves of the building. There were several signs in Japanese and English telling people to Keep Out! and No Trespassing! which I guess indicates that there have been some unwelcome tourists trying to enter the building or harassing the people living there. I'm going back in the daylight tomorrow to get some pics and will explain more then.

Unless of course, you already know what my treasure is.


Sarah said...

Interesting architect, though I have to admit that the building in question is really rather ugly!
There's a group on flickr dedicated to the architecht if you're interested. Give you ideas for more architectural hunts. ;)

xf said...

Actually I was almost seriously considering buying a cell there 2-3 years ago. Not to live in, but just to spend time whenever I wanted to, or let friends stay. The price was like JPY5m.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Sarah-thanks for the tip and no the building hasn't aged well but I love its podiness!

xf-That would have been so sweet! I'm surprised to hear they were selling them, I'd only heard of them being available for rent. They should auction the capsules off individually when they tear the place down-I'd put mine out in a forest similar to what the architect did on another set of capsules he built.

xf said...

I heard the cells were separately sold and were mostly ownd by individuals. I hope too that they sell/give away the cells in the end. There should be good demand.

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