Pavilion Tokyo 2021: New urban landscapes and the architectural folly

The pavilions look to re-modulate how we read cities, through nine interventions designed and conceptualised by some of the most renowned Japanese architects and artists.

by Devanshi ShahPublished on : Aug 19, 2021

Our methodology for reading urban spaces and cities is part of a constantly evolving discourse. Studying movement patterns, infrastructure and landmarks have become an important part of urban studies. In recent years there has also been a shift in studying movements within cities in relation to events or demonstrations. These often manifest at specific moments and are linked to larger global events. During the Olympic Games, host cities are transformed to accommodate the events and the large influx of people. An interesting subversion of this transformation manifests through the Pavilion Tokyo 2021. A part of the Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 organised by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Arts Council Tokyo (Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture), the Pavilion Tokyo 2021 looks to re-modulate how we read cities, through nine interventions designed and conceptualised by some of the most renowned Japanese architects and artists, namely Terunobu Fujimori, Kazuyo Sejima, Sou Fujimoto, Junya Ishigami, Akihisa Hirata, Teppei Fujiwara, Makoto Aida, Yayoi Kusama and Daito Manabe + Rhizomatiks.

  • Detail of Global Bowl by Akihisa Hirata | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
    Detail of Global Bowl by Akihisa Hirata Image: Courtesy of ToLoLo studio
  • STREET GARDEN THEATER by Teppei Fujiwara | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
    STREET GARDEN THEATER by Teppei Fujiwara Image: Courtesy of ToLoLo studio
  • Detail of STREET GARDEN THEATER by Teppei Fujiwara | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
    Detail of STREET GARDEN THEATER by Teppei Fujiwara Image: Courtesy of ToLoLo studio

These pavilions create an interesting conversation about the importance of an architectural object and its site context. Ranging from garden spaces to open plazas, there is an innate design element that requires the nine pavilions to be seen not as isolated urban objects but as transformative additions to the existing visual narratives. In a comment to STIR, WATARI-UM, The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art that planned this project, Etsuko Watari, Chairman of Executive Committee of Pavilion Tokyo 2021 spoke of the inspiration behind this unique urban intervention saying, “[We] wanted to create a new landscape within the city of Tokyo which can show more narratives and individualistic human nature”. With this initiative, one can potentially read a city through the act of adding an urban folly.

  • Tokyo Castle by Makoto Aida | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
    Tokyo Castle by Makoto Aida Image: Courtesy of ToLoLo studio © AIDA Makoto
  • Cloud pavilion by Sou Fujimoto at Yoyogi Park | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
    Cloud pavilion by Sou Fujimoto at Yoyogi Park Image: Keizo Kioku
  • Cloud pavilion by Sou Fujimoto at Takanawa Gateway Station | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
    Cloud pavilion by Sou Fujimoto at Takanawa Gateway Station Image: Shuji Goto

One of the nine pavilions is Kazuyo Sejima’s 'Suimei'. The word suimei is a reference to how clear water shines under both sunlight and moonlight. It is a reference to both hope for a brighter future and a reflection of the history of Tokyo. Visually the material and form of the pavilion resemble the curvilinear flow of water while reflecting the sky. Based on where one looks at the surface from it would seem like the reflection is constantly changing. The historical reference here is poetic and layered. Water is a significant element in Japanese culture, flowing water patterns are often used in kimonos and signifies a range of meanings. From "smoothing away hardships and misfortunes", to "flowing water is always pure and does not go bad" and as a "purification and disaster prevention,” all these idioms have a similar message of optimism and hope. There is a strong element of hope embedded in Sejima’s concept as well. The design itself is based on Kyokusui, a feature of curved waterways seen in gardens built during the Heian period (794-1185).

  • Aerial view of Suimei by Kazuyo Sejima | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
    Aerial view of Suimei by Kazuyo Sejima Image: Courtesy of Kazuyo Sejima & Associates
  • Suimei by Kazuyo Sejima | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
    Suimei by Kazuyo Sejima Image: Courtesy of Kazuyo Sejima & Associates

Terunobu Fujimori’s Tea House “Go-an” is a play on the idea of building types. As opposed to some of the other pavilions, Fujimori’s intervention seems to have a purpose. The pavilion sits at the corner of a street with a view of an intersection and the Japan National Stadium, the main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Games. Go-an is the teahouse’s given name, which is a common practice for this particular building type but is unusual for architecture. The traditional teahouse was formulated 400 years ago and Fujimori reinterprets this to create a more interesting architectural feature. Designed as a table-style teahouse that sits on a small rise, one can enter it from the pavement level. Because of the teahouse’s form, at night when the lights on the inside of the tearoom are on, the structure acts more like a large lantern than a teahouse. This gives the pavilion an inherent duality in how it interacts with its urban context.

  • Tea House Go-an by Terunobu Fujimori | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
    Tea House “Go-an” by Terunobu Fujimori Image: Courtesy of ToLoLo studio
  • Interior view of Tea House Go-an by Terunobu Fujimori | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
    Interior view of Tea House “Go-an” by Terunobu Fujimori Image: Courtesy of ToLoLo studio

The materiality and form of the structure are also interesting. The main body of the tearoom is made of J-panels while the exterior is covered in burnt cedar. Charcoal along with soil are two of the main elements of the pavilion. The material also has a concept behind it, as all organic substances eventually turn to charcoal, and all inorganic matter and all inorganic substances end up in the soil after weathering. It is an interesting parable about where all built matter ends up. The interior of the teahouse is a Ryurei (table style) tea ceremony room. Here the table becomes a central object, with a hole made in it, to install “ro”, or a sunken hearth.

“2020-2021” by Daito Manabe + Rhizomatiks | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
“2020-2021” by Daito Manabe + Rhizomatiks Image: Keizo Kioku

Daito Manabe + Rhizomatiks’ installation, “2020-2021”, occupies an open space in front of the WATARI-UM building. Using artificial intelligence, the installation charts data that has been collected since the first state of emergency announcement in Japan. The display which at first glance appears to be a simple light display is an informational chart. This also acts as an initial introduction to an accompanying exhibition at WATARI-UM. The Museum will highlight the process of each of the pavilions with sketches, plans, models and the actual materials used to create the physical pavilions. Snippets of each of the architects talking about their concepts will also be on display alongside their projects and works, documents, and movies produced by Kensaku Kakimoto. The idea of the exhibition is to reveal a deeper understanding of each of the nine pavilions and their intended impact on the urban fabric of the city of Tokyo.

The Obliteration Room / Yayoi Kusama. ©YAYOI KUSAMA; Yayoi Kusama / The obliteration room 2002–present; Collaboration between Yayoi Kusama and Queensland Art Gallery. Commissioned Queensland Art Gallery. Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2012; Collection: Queensland Art Gallery, Australia; Cooperation: OTA FINE ARTS | Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 | Pavilion Tokyo 2021 | STIRworld
The Obliteration Room / Yayoi Kusama. ©YAYOI KUSAMA; Yayoi Kusama / The obliteration room 2002–present; Collaboration between Yayoi Kusama and Queensland Art Gallery. Commissioned Queensland Art Gallery. Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2012; Collection: Queensland Art Gallery, Australia; Cooperation: OTA FINE ARTS Image: Keizo Kioku

Pavilion Tokyo 2021 - one of the programs of the Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 - is on view until September 5, 2021. STIR is a media partner of Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13. You can visit the official website here: https://paviliontokyo.jp/en/

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