Veil/ Village: Kaigan Community Center

Project

The Project acts as a stepping stone for change in the rundown shipyards of the Kaigan Tokyo harbor. Rather than simply wiping out the local fisheries and shipyards for total redevelopment, the project shows what is possible in the area. It operates and embraces the natural grittiness of the site, allowing the community to grapple with the change and incrementally move forward.

The project aims to create a public building with truly public spaces, ensuring that no visitor was given a sense of intrusion when walking within the site.  The program elements of a dojo, library stacks,theater and rowing club all take the form of autonomous masses.

The masses which operate separately from one another are arrange on the site parameters and covered by a large geometry which is the veil. This veil which is comprised of a sun shading fin system creates a sense of enclosure in an otherwise open aired building. The open aired nature of the building highlights the residual spaces between the masses. These then negotiable spaces which take the form of seminar rooms, study spaces and gathering areas along with the array of columns help suggest space as well as help filter circulation from the street’s edge to the water front. It is this act of filtering with defines the loose edges of the building as it acts through structured informality, instilling a sense of wandering and movement through the residual spaces.

Interview

What prompted the project and the approach to the site?

The project looks to stand as a stepping stone for change in the rundown Tokyo shipyards of Kaigan. Rather than proposing a top down master-plan for the site and subsequently wiping out the local fisheries and shipping ports for total redevelopment, the project shows what is possible in the area.  It operates and embraces the natural grittiness of the site, allowing the community to grapple with the change and incrementally move forward.  When approaching the site, I thought it was important to directly address the building’s role within the public realm. With the design process I decided to challenge the traditional typology of a community center and address the idea that a public building such as this should operate with equally public spaces. The residual public spaces of the project that lie in-between autonomous programmatic masses are approached through structured informality. Rather than creating defined perimeter, the projects uses objects which help define the street edge and filter people through the site towards the water. This allows visitors to loosely wander through the site ensuring that no one is left with a false sense of intrusion.

What dictated the various drawings through which you articulate the project?

I believed that project called for a drawing set which not only displayed the over arching compositional relationships within the building but also aided in structuring the informal conditions in the design. The relationships between the project’s autonomous building masses and the interstitial public spaces that formed the community centre, as well as the juxtaposition of the uniform veiled roof against the seemingly arbitrary arrangement of reading/ gathering spaces below were key to the buildings design and it was important that the drawings clearly translated these relationships. Additionally, the drawings attempt to ground the viewer to something familiar (i.e. plan, section, elevation) in a project that challenges traditional design constructs.

How do the views sit in relation to the classic plan, section and iso?

While the drawings (i.e. plan, section, elevation) used more traditional visual conventions, I saw the views within the project as an opportunity to communicate something other than material or scale. For me it was more about communicating ideas and capturing specific moments within the building. While the plans represent the public areas of the building and translate the concept of filtering circulation from the street’s edge to the water, the views hold greater potential. They capture the significant relationships of the project that are lost in two-dimensional projection

When constructing the views what was the main objective? How were these specifically framed to reveal defined moments?

The views looked to capture the key relationships and moments of the project. For me these moments are found when looking at the open aired spaces of the building. In particular, the community space and the entrance/ arrival of the project were areas that I thought could not be overlooked. The views mainly focus on the relationship between the uniform overhead veil and the below programmatic objects, as well as the tension of the buildings loose perimeter as it addresses the street’s edge. To capture these moments, I decided to position the viewer squared directly perpendicular or parallel to the dominant geometry of the veiled roof in all the views. Applying this rule throughout all the visualizations brings a level of legibility to them. Rather than confusing the viewer with an obscurely angled view, it put emphasis on the spatial relationship in which I was exploring allowing the viewer to read the view instant clarity.

Within the views you always position the observer at a height which is above that of an individual, what is the effect and purpose for this?

This approach was taken to evoke a tension between the loosely structured masses of the ground level and the uniform repetition of the projects veiled roof. This tension is seen in its purest form within the views and I wanted to find a balance of these opposing elements within them. To achieve this, I placed the viewer in the project at a midpoint between a view more focused on the lower masses and a view with its attention on the veiled roof. This allowed me to give equal attention to the experience of walking through the project on ground level and approaching the building looking up towards the prominent overhead sunshade.

What ‘drafting’ tools did you use when developing and finalizing the project? How did these effect and influences the final architecture and its representation?

The project while eventually finalized within three-dimensional space was predominantly developed in plan. I think from the beginning I was largely focused on achieving the motion of filtering circulation through the site and for me I was most successful doing so when exploring the idea in plan. This early development of the project lead to what I believe is a very strong and influential drawing set for the building. While there are may areas of the project in which I explored spatial conditions detached from two-dimensional drawings, I found that it was always the plan that stood as an organization system to which I was following.

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