The Closed box is a “fortress”
The Fundamental subject of my work since 1968 has been the closed box, a play on my own quite simple intuition that “contemporary space is a closed world”; and my designs have since advanced as a continued interrogation of the meaning of the closed box. Initially, it was a fixed part of my spatial understanding. In other words, the “closed box” was offered as a method towards a realization of a spatial form embodying the desire to organize a world within the interior of a literal box; and there, by conducting natural light into a tall, closed chamber, to stage daily life. I came to think of this consciousness as a reflecting of the conditions of the world and society, the sum of relationships surrounding the self. It is natural, in a sense, for an architect to enclose one’s work as space within a fixed frame and deposit within it all the concepts that are one’s world.
To some critics, it seems the “closed box” is one example of a defensive posture for the residence against the confused and deteriorating urban environment. Does this imply that one abandons the closed box when designing in the better environment of a large plot in the suburbs? I have had the opportunity to design in a housing development with a relatively good environment, but, even in that environment, and “open space” with never possess a feeling of reality. Granted, the literal attitude of the “closed box” placed in that environment is probably that of a defensive space. However, while the conditions of that environment might increase the seeming authenticity of that space, they do not directly become the reason for existence. It is clearly a space that exists within relation to the conditions of contemporary society and culture. For this reason, one can say that the “closed box” is a fortress against the confused and contradictory cultural world of contemporary society.
《散田の家》 1969年 摄影：新倉孝雄
“Semiotic Expression” and “Literalness”
The “closed box” is made real in the accompaniment of “semiotic expression’. The “semiotic expression” then is the spatialization (kukan-ka) of the actual plan. Furthermore, the “closed box” gives position to abstract space (kukan), and “semiotic expression” gives position to concrete space (supeisu). Thus the spatialization of “relationship”.
With “semiotic expression” as well, a simple conception was the departure point. The “closed box”, by enclosing on the interior the small boxes that are the rooms, materializes the residence as plan. Of course, what I am interested in is not the content of those small boxes, but rather the remainder of the space in the “closed box” that is cut up by these small boxes and called the “main space”. Therefore what is always at the center of my consciousness is the “relationship” between the “main space” and the method for making the residence from the various small boxes that are “closed boxes”. Therefore, in the beginning, I thought that what produced those “relations” was the “semiotification” (kigou-ka) of those various methods. To that end, I called the disposition of the methods that are the concrete compositional elements of the residence one kind of “semiotic treatment”, and this was my first way of thinking about “semiotic expression”. However, that method of disposition was vague and held the possibility of producing a frivolous formalism. Therefore, I tried to construct within the “main space” an area that expressed the entire dwelling within a condensed form. I called that the “supporting space as the subject”, because it was the space that directly expressed the relations of the organization of the residence. That was what I called “semiotic expression”, and can be thought of as meaning the most highly developed spatialization of each design. However, reality can not be perfectly held in that space specifically because it depends on the abstraction of the spatialized “semiotic expression”. That is where I came to think that perhaps space needed to be expressed as an even more concrete form.
That is, the space that is manifest is not a fiction but expresses itself as a single existence, as a space that exists with no other reality. In other words, within architecture, it erases completely the vagueness based in emotion and perception, and the direct expression of the existence or construction of the thing becomes its own literal space. If that is called the “literalness” of space, I would like to see in that literalness a dry world that transcends the emotion and perception that cloud space. That is, it can be thought in one sense that the “closed box”, with the “semiotic expression”, condenses one spatial paradigm as “literalness”. For that reason as well, the “residence” can be thought of as the best means of achieving an architecture. (1973)
《水無瀬の町家》 内観 1970年 モダンリビング201号掲