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Reflection on the past 9 years from the perspective of an architect and management, with Kazuyo Sejima

Architecture that responds to the surrounding environment and time

I: We’ve talked about SHIBAURA HOUSE’s nine years of history. I suppose that you are aware not only of movements in architecture in Japan, but also what international architects are thinking about and the directions they’re moving in. What kinds of changes and movements do you see? 

S: From a while back, I feel like there has been more of an effort to use local materials when building. From my side, I would really like to talk about low-energy and sustainable designs from Asia. About ten to twenty years ago, there was always a contest for ‘Think about energy’ at international architecture competitions.

A lot of people were pushing the idea that, for example, when you used glass, you should use triple glazing, which makes it very thick. However, you might not lose heat from the building itself, but I wondered about how much energy was used while making the glass.

In contrast to the energy conservation logic cultivated in northern Europe, in Asia I would like to create a system which makes the entire process sustainable, right from production. This is one example, but I would like to think about the specific environment that we’re living in, rather than being caught in a single perspective. 

ビカクシダのイラスト
Architecture is what updates

I: Once, I had a conversation with a European architect about why your designs were so highly acclaimed in Europe, and the architect gave me the exact answer. In most buildings, the inside and outside are considered separately, and while the inside is cooled using air conditioning, outside, the building is radiating heat. Whereas when you design, you incorporate the surrounding environment and work well with it. In Europe that seems to be a perspective that hasn’t existed until now, and I still remember today how the architect said it appears fresh. But what about architects in Japan? What’s going on at the moment here?

S: I think for young people, it’s no longer an age for building new things, but rather using and adjusting what already exists. However, I do think that even while you’re using existing buildings, you have to create something new on top of that. For example, if you were to remake SHIBAURA HOUSE in 20 years, the people involved would have to break or get rid of some parts, and create some new parts. I’ve begun to think that buildings are things that are renewed.

And not just through human intervention, but also through being influenced by their environment. The buildings I’ve designed may look like newly built, but, for example, this was originally a concrete building, and the company inside continues to do what the owner’s father did. A building is not only itself, but also its relationship with, for example, the roads, the surrounding buildings, and the view of the canal from here. The building is as it is because of everything that has happened in and around it until now, and I think it would be wonderful if something new and powerful comes out of it in the future as well.