Podium: Feminising our environment

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The Independent Culture


From a lecture by

the Japanese architect about her work,

given at the Royal Academy in London

ELECTED OFFICIALS are expected to represent a wide variety of users when developing public architecture - but as society has become more complex, this representation has become increasingly outdated.

I believe it is necessary to create a system of partnership between public administration and the public itself, through a combination of programming and planning workshops, as opposed to the current system where select administrators present decisions already taken. A more participatory process is needed.

Such a process, I believe, would lead to changing inspirations and lifestyles, and a shift in our cultural development. If there is free participation in architecture, public space can truly take on the task of bettering human life.

Architecture is intimately related to life - from its initial planning through to its post-construction management - and the process of making architecture has enormous potential. In our experience, the public administration of each locale is very different, and we have accordingly taken very different approaches to our various projects. Rather than listening to a select group of representatives, we have found that meeting and involving many people face to face is the best way to establish trust.

To do so, it is critical to have a non-hierarchical organisational structure. We aim for a think-tank environment, responsive to local ideas. Organising symposia and recruiting staff members from the local population is an important part of this process. With this attitude, genuinely participatory workshops become possible, and architecture and programming come to have an intimate relationship, since all are working towards shared goals.

Even after construction begins, there should be continued dialogue with the community - a way for groups to take tours and for local universities to use the construction site as a learning resource for engineering and architecture students. In order to create a place that is loved by the local people, traces of their participation should be evident.

In the case of the design of the Niigata Performing Arts Centre Workshop in Japan, we created and ran the N-PAC Workshop (Niigata Performing Arts Centre Workshop) for three years.

Born from an idea that architecture should not be separated from programming, this workshop trained the planning staff of the new facility and studied public hall management issues and the establishment of a network of public facilities. The focus of activity was on public lectures concerning a wide variety of topics. These helped us to learn about local opinions and to create a new audience for the planned facility.

I personally participated in all the various meetings - writing texts, lecturing and attending lectures, acting in workshops, and leading round- table discussions - in short, experiencing and learning together with the N-PAC staff and local people.

Currently there is an exhibition of our work at the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, and an installation designed by us at the nearby Boimans Museum. Both of these have as their common theme "archipelago".

An "archipelagic" or "inclusive" process accounts for various project conditions, the complicated and varied opinions of people, the plurality of relationships involved in architecture. Conceptualising architecture in this way is therefore akin to island-hopping, a non-linear, eccentric way of thinking.

Waterfront areas have an abundance of ever-shifting winds and tides that comfort because they resonate with human and musical rhythms; therefore, incorporating natural cycles in the creation of new places is necessary.

"Fluctuation" is a concept incorporating notions of freedom and dissipation. Like the never-ending, indeterminate process of living in the city, it is impossible to forecast. Our research on the "process city" points to an architecture that incorporates the collective memories and latent nature of the city, as well as the open possibilities of flexible, empty space.

The rapid ageing of society should be considered in these terms - how it can be mobilised to create a softer, feminine, and more positive environment. Along with these more conceptual notions, the "process city" should also consider water usage, plantings, and other ecological factors in order to both preserve and create nature.

It is my hope to make an architecture incorporating the fluctuations and flowing processes of everyday life - environments that change and adapt with our life changes.