Bow Wow from Post Bubble City is Atelier Bow Wow's follow-up to the best-selling Pet Architecture, a book of the topologies of Tokyo's nooks and crannies (a sort of "afterthought architecture"). Archilab 2006 -- Nested in the City is the catalogue of a show held between October and December 2006 in Orléans by the Archilab group, whose archives were shown at the Archilab show at the Mori Museum in early 2005. I was there!
These books have a lot in common. They both focus on small projects, built after Japan's economic bubble burst in the 90s. "After the economic crisis of the end of the 90s," explains the publisher's blurb, "the construction of public establishments of average dimension and the competitions of architecture rarefied. The house thus becomes the space of creation privileged for these architects. That's why, in Tokyo, Jun Aoki, Kazuyo Sejima, Ryue Nishizawa, Takaharu and Yui Tezuka, Mitsuhiko Sato, Taira Nishizawa, Masao Koizumi, Yasuhiro Yamashita, Mikio Tai, Yuki Ishiguro, conceive small houses which embody the way of life of their inhabitants and maybe our future today."
I'm not sure if that Cities on the Move-style sense of Asian high-density lifestyles being "the future for us all" still holds -- I think that the particular Japanese combination of sentimentality, modesty, small scale, expensiveness, spartan minimalism, avant garde-ism and domesticity we see in many of these projects doesn't really travel. You can only really imagine these "nests" in the heart of Japanese cities. But that's fine. That's where I'd build mine, anyway, if I won the lottery.
The Archilab show actually tried to build a little bit of Tokyo in France. "The set for the exhibition" explained the Press Release "will conjure up the urban ambience of Tokyo, with its upsurge of images (Chirashi, advertising posters). The entrance to the exhibition will recreate a transitory space, at once somewhere live where you can order a cup of tea while still plunged into Tokyo's urban frenzy. Visitors will be able to walk round the show as if they were criss-crossing the streets of Tokyo, immersed in the organic city and at the same time drawn into the indoor space of city dwellings." The French title of the catalogue is more evocative than the English one: "to make your nest in the city".
Nesting is a post-bubble concept. Whereas earlier generations of Japanese architects like the Metabolists thought big, seeking to mimic (and better) nothing less than Nature itself, the current generation have switched their attention to small-scale domestic projects like the Moriyama House.
Actually, the archi-porn fantasy angle isn't confined to imagining living in one of these structures (or, for the more mechanically-minded, imagining building one). I can also plan field trips -- trips Hisae and I may or may not make in May, when we're in Tokyo -- to the far-flung sites of these "nests". Using photos and rough written descriptions, I've already located the Moriyama House using Google Earth. Although the structure wasn't yet there when the photo was taken, it's amazing to think that such small-scale, personal dreams are not only objectifiable in the real world, but actually visible from space when they're built.