Winning entries of the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition 2010 have recently been announced. This round of the annual competition was judged by SANAA-partner Ryue Nishizawa under the theme "A New Spirit", asking designers to envision a new residential architecture that is based on the here and now, leaving burdens of the past behind.
A total 779 entries were received, with 599 from Japan and 180 from other nations. One First Prize winner was chosen, along with one Second Prize winner, four Third Prize winners, and four Fourth Prize winners.
Following are Ryue Nishizawa's judging comments:
The theme “A New Spirit” for new residential design does not imply a superficial newness, a house simply having a new kind of appearance. Rather, it seeks newness in terms of the values at the very foundation of the house. What I hoped to see was the architect’s innovative spirit—the true creative source of residential design.
When it came to the actual judging, there were a greater number of ambitious schemes and varying approaches than I had expected. Studying them all proved highly thought-provoking and interesting. I also felt anew the difficulty of endeavoring toward something unknown. An answer, I realized, would not be forthcoming so easily.
We in our times, it strikes me, live with new values considerably unlike those of the past. If we could harness our day-to-day lifestyle awareness and way of thinking and living directly to architectural creation, they would produce buildings quite different from those of the 19th or 20th centuries. The contemporary imaginations of people seeking a new kind of house will not fail to pioneer the architecture of the age to come; this we can believe. In this sense, I would implore those who felt drawn to our theme, this time, to not stop with this residential design competition. May they continue to apply their fertile imaginations to the new figure of architecture, hereafter.
This was also a first experience in accepting submissions in the form of digital data. The judging too was undertaken using monitors, projectors, and iPads, and this proved a highly interesting undertaking that taught me much.
There were so many outstanding submissions, I had considerable trouble deciding to which I should give First Prize. In the end, I recommended the Kim/Lim/Park scheme. Theirs is a proposal to return fantasy to the city and architecture, out of a regret that, under modernism’s influence, the city and architecture have become subjects of scientific study and lost their element of fantasy. Many things appearing absolutely useless from the perspective of modernist values—negative aspects, such as the hard-to-reach upper shelves of a bookcase, the darkness of a dangerous back street, the closed-in space of an elevator, a bizarre, haunted-looking apartment building—all become positive assets if we simply shift our perspective to that of fantasy. This scheme, we might say, is a work that compels a conversion of values.
When asked “What is the city?” in an interview a long time ago, Louis Kahn replied: “It is the place where a small boy, as he walks through it, may see something that will tell him what he wants to do his whole life.” This scheme evokes a similar feeling of being inspired to dream. I felt profoundly sympathetic with its basic stance of attempting to rejuvenate the city and architecture by reuniting its positive and negative factors; not only a youth’s dreams but also darkness, fear, shadow, and hardship.
Their approach of responding directly to our theme, “A New Spirit,” is also excellent. The one thing that made me hesitate to recommend this scheme for First Prize is the exclusively personal beauty of its presentation and its manga-like atmosphere. Disregarding these, however, then all the more, it possesses the freshness of a conversion of values suggestive of Venturi, I felt.
I was fascinated by the title of the Second Prize Suzuki/Makino scheme, “A House Where People Also Live,” and particularly by its use of the word “also.” This “also” is likely a declaration that people too can live here, if they wish, but no longer are people the central concern; hereafter, the ecology will be central. In this “also” I felt a scale of such immensity that it places anthropocentrism in a relative perspective. Like the first place Kim/Lim/Park submission, this scheme has a sharpness of approach that coerces us into a conversion of values. I was undecided until the very end to which I should award the highest prize. In terms of its presentation, the Suzuki/Makino submission cannot be called skillful and neither is it especially beautiful. I could feel, however, that it possessed a Buddhist world view, shall we say, of all living things, birds, plants, fish, and people, living together; a way of thinking that affirms the diversity implied by the cycle of life and death. At the same time, it shows the smallness of the thinking behind a modernist approach to architecture, and I felt strongly sympathetic with its great scale as such.
What finally unseated this scheme from its candidacy for First Prize was an inherent contradiction. With its vision of vast scale, it does place anthropocentrism in a relative perspective, but for all that, human beings as always occupy the largest floor area in the heart of the building. Its spatial layout is anthropocentric; and people live comfortably there in accord with values surprising similar to those of modernism. Even then, however, it is clearly a scheme having powerful appeal—the scheme to which I granted the highest evaluation, along with the First Prize submission.
Continuing, the Third Prize scheme of Suzuki/Ichijo offers a house for the coexistence of cats and people. This scheme, we can say, also suggests a shift away from anthropocentric values. It caught my sympathy because it is more contemporary than the afore-mentioned First and Second Prize schemes and, moreover, more corporeal and more human in scale. It is also appealing in the way that cats, people, and house are all presented as exceedingly cute. Its gentle view of the partnership between cats and people is striking.
I felt some doubts about how it takes the conventional house-shape as a basis. The aspect of pinching and transforming that house-shape also seemed a little elementary to me. Even then, however, the scheme transcends these problems with the human scale permeating it as a whole. Its sense of contiguity evading an abstract circuit of reasoning—as if the designers’ own feelings had directly become embodied in architecture, is excellent.
The Third Prize YoungWook/Jeyong/Joohyun/Boram scheme asks how the house might change if the concept of reusing water were taken as pivotal to architectural creation. This scheme, too, in a certain sense, sets forth in an easy to understand way the “conversion of values” sought by the assignment, by creating architecture with a focus on water. The tastefulness of the drawings is also attractive. If, like the First and Second Prize schemes, it had gone further and developed a vision not only of architecture but also of the world of which it is a part, I would have rated it more highly I think.
The Third Prize Fukuhara scheme constructs a house that is like one big city district, by connecting ordinary house-shaped roofs in a cluster. It replaces the conventional image of the nuclear family household with a new model for the family and human relations, and it attractively portrays architecture as producing a new figure of the family. I also felt a certain sharpness in how it expresses this by clustering roofs together in the context of a traditional downtown townscape like those found anywhere in Japan and achieving connection with the surroundings thereby.
It was unfortunate, then, that the depiction of the space below the roofs was a little questionable, shall we say, or that it appeared more like a pavilion than a house. The scene presented looks like a momentary event, a school festival or something, so we do not get a feeling of people actually living there.
The Third Prize Tanaka/Sasaki scheme proposes to revitalize the traditional downtown quarter through a reversal of functions. Taking, as its context, Tokyo’s traditional downtown quarter with its streets crammed with buildings, it relocates the ground-level shops and stores to the upper levels of the buildings and devotes all ground-level spaces to residences, thus unfolding a residential community of traditional mood at ground level.
The wild absurdity of the scheme surprised me—if the functions are reversed like this, people will have to go up two floors or more in order to shop, leaving the ground level with a domestic residential district atmosphere. While seeming to propose a friendly, warm old-time traditional townscape, the scheme also evinces the chaos and madness that rules a city, and its depiction of that townscape fits this perfectly and is skillfully done. (I didn’t get what was so special about the chimney affect.)
The Fourth Prize Iwakura scheme is for a house of movable parts that can be made into floors or walls, thus enabling changes in spatial layout. The house is like a mechanical box, and the scheme describes in beautiful drawings the spatial changes enabled by its built-in variability and the space of a large, hollow void. The house’s appeal lies in its overall mood, which suggests the freedom and carefree manner of someone living in the great outdoors. Yet, the house offers only two choices, a floor or wall, and hence, the outer walls gradually disappear as more floors are produced, so that the house becomes an outdoor space, and in this one senses an unrealistic situational premise. The scheme presents a certain absurdity: why restrict the user to simply two choices, a wall or a floor?
The Fourth Place Taeheon/Hyejin scheme endeavors to realize in actual architectural space the unlimited human relationships enabled by the Internet, Tweeter, and so on. I rated this submission highly on two points: its attempt to embody in architecture, as is, the varied, instantaneous human communications brought about by the computer, and its depiction of this in attractive image drawings. Still, the scheme leaves unclear any kind of a methodology for realizing the Internet’s connectivity in architecture.
The Fourth Place Emilie/Marc scheme is for a house of spherical shape like a mochi rice cake (?). The house is not simply round, however. Seeing how gravity in the sphere is directed to the center, and that a boy lives on its surface, one concludes that this is not so much a proposal for a house as for a house-sized planet. There is little detailed explanation, so I am uncertain, but the scheme gives us to feel, overall, a strange realism and poetic worldview. I felt in this idea of creating a house-sized planet (or rice cake?) the impact of its absurdity and, at the same time, a fantasy-like charm, evocative of the Little Prince.
The Fourth Place Awatani scheme proposes creating an immense and moreover lightweight house. There were a number of proposals having a similar inclination, but among them all, this scheme expressed most clearly the impact of the house’s great size. I could not grasp from the drawings alone the meaning of creating a house using polyethylene film and solar sails, yet the scheme sufficiently communicates the concept of a huge and surprisingly lightweight house.
Judge's comment and images via Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition.