Today, in 1976-actually, even before that-I feel irritation at my inability to express directly or simply the base of residential architecture: that is "what is a dwelling" or "what is an ideal dwelling"', as well as what should dwelling be. It must be thought that I cannot convey what a dwelling should be unless through the dwellings I have designed and the method of their design. Therefore, if I am now to talk about dwellings, it can be thought there is no other method than to talk with respect to the inescapable intention, and the method of making it concrete, related to my dwelling designs, as well to analyze the content of what these mean.
I have designed several houses since my Kumono-Nagareyama House, and now, finally, one of them is being built. Here again, I am confused by the expression that accompanies the realization of the house (Machiya in Daita), and feel unease at being unable to escape my irritation. Within this, however, with the completion of this house ahead, I feel I have to dispose of how "architecture" can achieve a definite reality. The ridge has been raised, the framework completed, the base for the finishes of the wall, floor, and ceiling, as well as roof and exterior walls, has been laid. At this point, I feel my responsibilities to the construction of the dwelling are finished. I thought, if possible, I would stop the completion of the dwelling at this point, and would have this construction continue to be as it is on the ground. In short, with the state of the framework and base for the finishes completed, this plan was in a sense finished, and my architectural activity was completed at this point, and I thought that this is how far it should go. With that, I greatly hesitated in applying the finishes and completing the interior, as well as finishing the exterior and therefore completing the building's form. Of course, construction of the building as designed was completed, but I felt that its final condition was not a matter of such importance to me.
To look at if from a slightly different angle: this dwelling is organized outward from a central room, which I call the "main room" to the several "rooms" and the "connecting rooms" that link them. I felt that it would be okay if other people were asked to design each of the interior surfaces of these rooms, that there was no need for me to design down to that level of detail. Rather, materials would be left to acquire their own finishes, and these would become the finished surface. In addition, furniture would be added as appropriate for the inhabitants' lifestyle. And with furniture and inhabitation, a particular intention towards these things that was not central to my attitude towards this house would begin to design the space. Certainly, then "space" would appear based on the finishing of the wall, ceiling, and floor, or on the addition of furniture. That space, might then become a symbolic space.
I have thought for a long time that the central activity of the architect is to bring forth "space". However, in this dwelling, I didn't have that much interest in consciously determining such a space. I thought it would be good if the starting point of this essay was looking at what type of matter space was, or what it meant. Further, I thought it would be good if it became a method to make accessible the organization of my other houses, and to clarify my words in relation to them.
As I stated, in the long time since I began to study architecture, I felt that the most important theme of residences or architecture was the content called "space". However, I now feel that the meaning of "space" within architecture is largely disappearing from my consciousness. While I have for a long time been trying consciously to make "space". I find upon inspection that I have nevertheless worked to deny or erase that "space". The tendency appears in my activity and methods of design, the dwelling themselves, and even in the words recorded with those projects. And I have come to feel that my own understanding of space is based on a variety of misunderstandings. With that, I must explain how I came to interpret "space", as well as how I think about it now.
First, simply, I position space as the meaning content revealed from the gathering of several elements that physically establish a particular space (for the interior of a room it would be the individual construction elements of the floor, wall, ceiling). Having done that, I realized that it might be called a "paradigm". Therefore, it is an extremely abstract content, not separated from the realm of words. Because meanings are words. Looked at in this way, it can be thought that one must deal with symbolic content regardless of whether one is concerned with "space" or not. That is, I became aware that if one pursues the paradigm of space, it seems impossible to avoid the addition of new meaning. If one thinks in this way, what I was really pursuing was the sense of "space" as symbolic space.
Certainly, I have used the word "space" in several places. For example "dry space", "plain space", "cruel space", "mute space", "inorganic space", "as-is space", "characterless space", "semiotic space". However, are all of these modified spaces really "space"? Certainly, if one calls a physical volume simply enclosed by a ceiling, walls and a floor "space" then I have certainly created that. However, in the abstract realm of words, that is to speak of space in a symbolic form, it doesn't seem as if I have created it. Haven't the adjectives like "dry", "insignificant", and "empty" that I have attached to space, indicated an attempt to deny or erase the "spatiality" as a space of meaning? To say it differently, the consciousness of my architectural activity up to now has been to build "space", and my struggle was caught up in the denial or erasure of the opposite meaning that space equally holds.
The concepts and words brought forth within society and history give us the abstract "spatiality" as a meaning, and give position to architecture. However, I felt that this was an unbearable pressure. Aren't the various conditions that surround us, the culture, and the meaning held by words too tied up with architecture as well? Isn't that a tragic problem for architecture? What then is content that is not like that? Perhaps it is content that the field of architecture holds a priori, but that can't be spoken of now. Rather, it is not a content that can simply be spoken of in words, or exchanged for words. However, my use of negative adjective is the erasure of meaning as a region of words that have come to be entangled with the discourse of architecture, and perhaps not a negation. Cannot the content that carries over into architecture by the addition of meaning moreover be called "space"? Given these terms, I can discern in my own attempt to make space the struggle to erase the meaning of space. Of course, the type of space that erases meaning probably produces an alternative type of meaning. I will pass on that until later. To me, "space" became a not necessarily important aspect of architecture. This being the case, I thought it would be good to discuss that I tried over and over to erase it.
As with "space", I must explain how I think about and have dealt with form. Regarding my residences, the exterior appearance has been where I felt it most unnecessary to be irritated. Until now, I have had almost no opportunity to speak about the exterior appearance of the residences. Or, rather, it could be said that there was no reason to. Perhaps that was interpreted as my lack of my consciousness with respect to the exterior appearance. In reality, I have heard criticism that in my residences there is no exterior, or that I am ignoring it. Of course not. The exterior appearance is that to which I am consciously applying my power, and which I think is going the best. However, that kind of criticism might mean that my intentions are being interpreted naively. In short, can it not be said that exterior shell is what has best erased or denied the attached meaning with respect to my architecture? With respect to the matter of not having much concern for meaning, I would like to explain my work a bit further by looking at the two points below.
At the present time, I cannot build a symmetrical elevation. The power and absoluteness that symmetry holds is unbearably appealing. Actually, within my sketchbook such symmetry often appears. Until now I have been unable to bear the meaning, the mysterious power, and subsequently, the indecency that symmetry holds. In other words, the meaning that symmetry holds is content that now, at the present time, I want to erase. If in the future it comes to no longer hold that meaning for me, or if it comes to transcend that meaning, then perhaps I will be able to use symmetry. Like symmetry, simple geometrical form has its appeal. However, I can't naively take it up, either. However I try, or however I think. the form directly expresses itself as that form itself. If that form comes out to the forefront, then naturally it is troubling. Does geometric form really deny the addition of meaning by humans? If so, or if it were possible, then it would be a very effective method for me. At the present, like symmetry, because of the strong absolute meaning held by the shape itself of primary geometric forms, I am unable to use them.
Here, by speaking about the exterior appearance of the building, I have spoken about the form of architecture. Of course, it is not necessarily the case that exterior appearance equals form. However, form directly manifests an exterior appearance. It is unbearable that through the manifestation form becomes visible. In other words, there is something unbearable in the formalism that attaches the meaning of strength to what is visible as the exterior of a building.
As a method of thinking about residential design, I use the typical orthographic projections of the plan, section and elevation. I definitely do not think with models made from things like clay (although I do make models). And of course I don't sketch using isometric sketches like axometrics or perspectives or oblique axometrics (although I am interested in them). Therefore, it is probably correct to think that the accumulation of my architecture is plans, sections, and elevations. Among these three, the section is the most fundamental. Rather than thinking of the section and elevation while I do the plan, it is almost certainly correct to say that I think of the plan and elevation while I work on the section. While sketching I consider the volume of space held by the section, and if I don't call that volume itself "space", then I tend not to think of my method as "space". Therefore it might be said that I don't think the section necessarily serves space. The section is nothing more than the section. The form and scale of the section are its most definite content. Therefore, how is the form decided?
Now I am working on a sketch of a rectangular gabled house 10.8 meters along the eaves by 5.7 meters along the gables. As explained above, my central sketch method is the section. Thus, in my sketch book I draw the gabled section and it takes the form of a gabled roof frame. From those several sketches I decided on one section, and the pitch of the sloped part was 7.5 to 10. However initially, the sketch I began intuitively was about the ratio. Then I sketched slopes ranging from 3:10 to 5:10 and steeper. Going more and more above 7.5 to 10, I produced an austere, strong space. At that time I felt it was "Gothic". In the same manner, by lessening the 7.5 to 10 slope, the space expressed by the section became gentle and warm, and could be thought to be somehow enclosing. I realized it was "Romanesque". Further, the 5:10 slope definitely express an appealing power held by geometric forms. The 5:10 slope, the "Gothic" slope, and the "Romanesque" slope were all appealing. However, I wasn't able to choose pitch from among them. That is, the production of the good feeling "Romanesque" was troubling. So was the "Gothic" that manifested an austere space. And so the even stronger space produced by the 5:10 slope. All these had to disappear. I don't know if there is a section that doesn't produce a space of meaning. However, I didn't want to allow the appearance of a space that enables explanation or one that is colored by historical meaning, the manifestation of a representative space. I thought it would be best if the section was just an architectural vocabulary where the meaning disappeared.
I had thought for a long time that the floor plan of the residence expressed in the architectural plan functioned as a method toward space. The plan, like the section, has a direct relation to "space". However, if I now look back and think, I feel several doubts about whether my plans were actually so related. That is, the plan proposes that the intention and conditions of the designer which must be translated into an architectural vocabulary. The action best and most clearly expresses the attitude of the designer. I stated that we translate into architectural vocabulary, but that is not necessarily the usual circumstance. For example, it can be translated as a construction of the function and style of life, or as a housing technology that supports it, or as a method to establish its intentional spatial conception, or as a conglomeration of these. As I myself said in the beginning, it can be thought that I came to see the plan as the spatial method to achieve my goal. However, I have come to feel that, unnoticed, the plan and its translation has ceased to be that for me. First, let's consider the room names on the residence plans I have designed.
In my first residence I called the central room the "great room". After that, in several residences I called it the "living room", and in all my recent residences I have called it the "main room". The initial great room was probably intended, as the historical meaning of the word suggests, as a single space. That matches my intentions towards "space" as indicated in the previous section on space in this essay. And I only used great room in that single residence, and after that I changed the room that was central to living room. I thought that type of room was usually called that, that is, convention and not lifestyle determined the naming. That is, by conveniently picking the most commonly used name, in a strategy to erase the spatial method as the meaning bestowed by the name great room, can it not be thought that I was trying unconsciously to erase the problem of "spatiality"? Later, I realized, in the end, that "living room" wasn't just an empty name. To the extent that a lifestyle determines content, the usual name that had entered my unconsciousness, I came to realize, had influenced me with the very meaning that I had previously thought irrelevant. In the end, I feel that the abstraction of a name must confront its space. After that, with my own consciousness of space growing thinner, I came dryly to think of the interior of the residence as a collection of "rooms" that were entirely empty of meaning; they became ordinary, neutral composition -- volumes. The names "main room", "room", and "intermediate room" written on my plans are the reflection of this conclusion. It is therefore correct to a certain degree to suggest that my plan was itself a method towards space. I mentioned earlier that the section was just a section. In accord with that, let me state here that the plan is ultimately just the plan. That is, the plan is just a horizontal section, I am reluctant to put any more meaning into the plan.
What I have just expressed about space and form, as well as section and plan, doesn't directly relate to materials. If architecture was not a thing, but an abstract conceptual field, then the problem of materials that are the elements that organize it would be perhaps of almost irrelevant content. In the past I have written that there is "architecture" in the design plans. Further, in this essay I stated that I felt my "architecture" was in the framework and base. Thus, with respect to architecture, what are the wall, floor, and ceiling, as well as their materials?
In the time when I intended a single space, the space was, for example, a physical space enclosed by walls, floor, and ceiling, and expressed by the sum of the construction elements. However, I realized that a content appeared, a condition separate from the construction materials, and when the content manifest itself, the materials actually disappeared. Because of that, I came to think of the construction elements (and of course their materials) as a method to support space. Therefore, I think I tried to avoid the direct expression of the construction elements, and thought to erase them. That is probably why in the past I have stated I wanted to use ordinary materials in the most ordinary way possible. Therefore, I came consciously yet in a vague way to attempt to erase the meaning of the wall, the meaning held by the ceiling, and the type of meaning expressed by the floor.
Afterward, there occurred a change in my consciousness towards the construction materials; their use became the testing ground of my new understanding. That is, the wall was a wall, the floor was a floor, and the ceiling was nothing more than a ceiling. In the past that has been one element of what I called the "literalness of space", and as a method towards the erasure of the "expression" that comes to the forefront even in mundane construction materials; I had to think this way.
At one time I considered the problem of whether, for example, a wall (either interior or exterior) could produce "architecture". Certainly, if one thinks "a wall is a wall", because the wall itself becomes architectural vocabulary itself, then thinking that the wall itself produces "architecture" will not prove logically contradictory. However, I myself could not emotionally agree with the wall (or the floor, or whatever) producing "architecture". In short, I could not bear to allow the wall to have that kind of absolute meaning. With this content, it is probably okay to read "architecture" here as concept. If it is a concept of architecture that cannot bear spatiality, then the architecture that is produced by the construction materials like the walls and floor similarly can't bear it.
What I have stated here about the construction elements and their materials is to me a most frustrating aspect of architecture. I think I have spent much time and effort trying to deal with the "expression" that inevitably appears, as well as the "meaning" that I cannot erase. However, I unfortunately couldn't erase the expression or the meaning, and perhaps they simply cannot be completely erased.
In this essay, with respect to space and form and the content of the residence that attaches to them, I have come repeat that I want to erase them or deny them. What does that mean? Moreover, what is the meaning of such an action of architecture and for residences. At the close to this essay, I must now consider this point.
Until fairly recently, I really liked the title of a book of a certain photographer, Nakahira Takuma, "In order for the words that will come". It is because I have come to think even now the acquisition of concept (words) is the central content even in the action of making objects, and I have thought that the act of architecture by making clear meaning content that has up to now been un-obtainable, makes possible the attachment of new concepts. And I thought that concept at that time became a new word, and appeared in our world. Unfortunately, the concepts we are conscious of have a mutual relation with words. Or it is perhaps that concepts are words themselves. Even with architectural concepts this is inescapable. Given that, is architecture a mechanism for producing meaning? The subject of architecture is often positioned as words. The subject is discovered as the architecturalization (kentiku-ka) of the language concept, or perhaps the inverse. Yet the architectural method called technique is explained with words which can be thought of as expressing architecture itself as the product of meaning and "space" as architecture's main content. Actually, if architecture attempts to maintain a clear position within culture and society, it is curious that it has not lent itself to evaluation on this point. The content that architecture manifests might be "meaning". If so, I dread an unbearable self, perhaps due to the meaning architecture holds, or its form or method of expressing that meaning.
Residential design is perhaps for the benefit of my existence caught up in this world. It occupies a section of my consciousness. The magic spread of meaning in this world will not support a place of moderation for my mind and spirit. Much intelligence and information, as well as the bind that forms their frame, do not allow for the preservation of our spiritual moderation. Further, the material world, which is a projection of this state, and even the architecture itself that enfolds us, refuses a place of moderation. This double meaning manifests to us an unbearable world. Within that, I cannot express if the "meaning" that I hope to erase, that I hope to disappear, is the "meaning" that forms everything, or if it makes up only a portion of that "meaning", or if it is the way "meaning" is manifest, or if it is a separate transformation in a "structure" that lies within a relationship of "meaning". To myself at this time, I can only consider how the vague content of that unbearable meaning might be erased.
Perhaps architecture is composed almost totally of societal meaning. If so, to me, it is probable that I must erase architecture itself. However, if within architecture there is an a priori region independent from culture or form daily sense, then with the erasure or denial of the former meaning, one can expect that other region to come to the front. If this region is hypothetically existent, let us call that "architecturality". And it is natural that I must hope that such a region exists, and if I think this way, I must think it is on the far side of the world of words. Therefore, the distant region can only be approached from this side through the activity of discovery of a "structure" that can only be taken as belonging to an architecture vocabulary within "architecturality". If one thinks this way, the subject of architecture, and words, becomes not the purpose but that method of discovery. Of course, that subject, and those words, as well as that concept, must disappear.
What I have expressed there is my own disposition of the content that I have been thinking about for a long time, consciously and unconsciously. The unorganized parts are many, and the parts that might be thought of as organized are vague. The repetition of this type of organization may allow the possibility of a new development. However, my words don't seem to allow the discovery of a structure (based on architectural vocabulary). This is because I can only approach architecturality from this side, the side that builds architecture. Therefore, to me, what words can do is continue the struggle and pleas of my own unfulfilled architecture. Even then, in the current 1976, what might be stated clearly is that "Residences are the most certain method towards architecture. However, opposite that, they also have the greatest possibility to lose architecture." (1976)