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Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 07:46 am
A passion for polished concrete

Believe it or not, "uses of polished concrete in Japan" is a topic I've been planning to blog about for some time. And now I have the perfect excuse to unleash the comment torrent this topic will undoubtedly provoke ("How dare you suggest that wet-look concrete is a mere compensatory tactic?"). Yesterday, buffeted by a fierce low pressure system, Hisae and I erected umbrellas and headed down to Nadiff a/p/a/r/t.



There I found an area of polished concrete so miraculously shiny that I genuinely thought the rain was leaking in through the window, and tried to splash it with my shoe like a puddle. But let's take a step back, before this text gets too exciting.

Nadiff, to recap, is short for New Art Diffusion. It's an offshoot from Saison Culture; the bookstore, record store, gallery and cafe was started by the people who used to run the Libro bookstore in the Ikebukoro branch of Parco. For the longest time it was in a funky part of Aoyama, near the Maisen tonkatsu restaurant. Then in 2008 it moved to a purpose-built structure on an obscure alley off a riverside footpath in Ebisu.



If it weren't for prominent signs on the lampposts, nobody would find the new incarnation of Nadiff. And that would be a pity, because it's a jewel, an excellent repository of art books and magazines, with two galleries and a bar attached. The only thing that's gone is the record section, boiled down to a single table featuring CDs released by Raster Noton, Casten Nicolai's label. Nadiff has, in timely fashion, got out of CD retail.



But now comes the exciting part of my tale. Nadiff may have got out of music, but it's very much got into shiny polished concrete. The ground-level store's floors boast a fascinating variety of surface sheens. You need to read Schemata Architecture Office's account to discover how haphazardly these textures were arrived at:

"The existing floor was uneven from inaccurate construction," writes Schemata architect Jo Nagasaka, "so we poured epoxy mixed with pine ash on the floor to create a flat surface. The transparent black liquid made different shades of black, following the uneven surface on the floor. It looked like gradation of color on a gradually shoaling beach."



It actually looks, on a rainy day, as if even more inaccurate construction has let the elements seep in and cover the whole surface of the floor with a couple of millimeters of water. It's very hard to imagine such construction imperfections happening in Japan when you consider the care with which such things are done...



...but taking construction imperfections and making a conversation piece of them by subtly drawing attention to them is a Japanese tradition too; it's called wabi sabi.

30CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Fri, Dec. 11th, 2009 11:09 pm (UTC)

First!


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Dec. 11th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC)

Written with the typical arrogance of someone brought up on even, white, privileged floors. For you it might be amusing - and even wabbi sabbi - to contemplate a botched floor that's had to be levelled up with poxy resin, but for the less fortunate it's not so funny. I had a great uncle who was killed while roller-skating on an uneven concrete floor, and I can tell you that in my family that's not a conversation piece, it's a taboo.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Dec. 11th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)

If you'd actually taken the trouble to read my text, Anon, you'd have noticed that I'm arguing for floor-leveling -- the very kind that could have saved your uncle's life.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Dec. 11th, 2009 11:41 pm (UTC)
woggy soggy

the appreciation of things imperfect; the assigning of value to the old and over-used; the melancholy appreciation (aesthetically and emotionally) of one's own humble poverty


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 03:44 am (UTC)

Well I laughed, I think you should let Reginald's great nephew take over your blog when you leave.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 04:01 am (UTC)

lovely post

-Jace


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 05:11 am (UTC)

Momus,

When was the last time you posted an entry with a typo? I can't recall it ever happening. Surely you deserve some kind of award.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC)

I thought the same thing recently.
But then I noticed a typo a week or so ago. I forget which post, but it was definitely there.


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stanleylieber
stanleylieber
Stanley Lieber
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 05:34 am (UTC)

the effect displayed in the last photo is GORGEOUS


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 05:59 am (UTC)

"The existing floor was uneven from inaccurate construction, so we poured epoxy mixed with pine ash on the floor to create a flat surface."

"It's very hard to imagine such construction imperfections happening in Japan when you consider the care with which such things are done..."

Don't believe it; it's just the architect being cheeky, making light of a clever design decision; the floor plan has shows the uneven concrete topography planned-in to it.

http://www.archdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/593901723_floor-plan.jpg


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 06:03 am (UTC)

uh, nevermind.


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subalpine
subalpine
subalpine
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 08:36 am (UTC)

there's poetry in these quotes, and floors, if you just let your mind edit:

pine ash
transparent black
gradation of color


(at least that's what stood out in my mind the first time i read through the quote)


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akabe
akabe
alin huma
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 08:41 am (UTC)

there ain't no wabi-sabi there; just regurgitated droog design and younameit...


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booniebot
booniebot
booniebot
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)

did you see the cat footsteps near the window?




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sm255
sm255
sm255
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)

I love seeing your pictures of Tokyo - the people and the buildings especially. Thanks.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)

I've never seen a sexier surface in my life! Seriously.


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