I have just returned from a first trip to Japan, a trip full of architecture as well as much else- and this will form the basis for several blog posts. This first post puts together two buildings 'made' in London, but built in Japan. The Nagakin Capsule tower was designed by Kisho Kurokawa and finished in 1972: it provided the most minimal of dwelling standards in its capsule flats, and now stands derelict in an area of Tokyo full of new development. In clear emulation of Archigram projects done a decade earlier- Peter Cook's Plug-In City would have consisted of such prefabricated pods suspended from a service network, as Kurokawa's building does. But even closer is Warren Chalk's design for a Capsule Tower, done in 1965. However influential Archigram's work was, this is among the closest realisations of its principles- and now soon to disappear.
The second building originating in conversations in London is Foreign Office Architects' Yokohama Port Terminal building, completed in 2002. Farshid Moussavi and Alejandro Zaera-Polo, then young and untried, won the competition to build this major piece of urban infrastructure in 1995: then tutors at the Architectural Association in London, they had both worked for OMA. Heralded as both a new urban type- a cruise ship terminal interwoven with a public space, an extension of nearby parks- it also represented a new architectural vocabulary of form, an unparalelled urban topography.
As Zaera-Polo has written: 'the project is generated from a circulation diagram that aspires to eliminate the linear structure characteristic of piers, and the directionality of the circulation.' In other words, a complex and flowing spatial model is adopted, changing direction and level, and enabled by the use of folded steel plates and concrete girders that minimise vertical support. Space seems to drift and fold, an exciting but not disorienting experience: some have said that the built project is disappointing compared to the radical nature of the spaces as drawn. While the project perhaps promised magic, the building does realise a powerful and effective new kind of architecturally determined public space.