In the fifth of a new series looking at influential housing plans, Joe Morris picks Atelier Bow-Wow’s own home and office in Shinjuku-ku,Tokyo
This sectional drawing of Atelier Bow-Wow’s own studios and home from 2005 continues to captivate me. In some ways, it is a representation of how my mind’s eye works as I travel through the city; construction, space, materials and people being overlaid as one.
The role of graphic representation is significant to the way we work at Duggan Morris Architects. Narrative underpins our decision making and the ability to communicate the central idea to a project through a single image is a powerful tool.
The work of Tokyo-based Atelier Bow Wow has resonance for me in this respect. Established in 1992 by Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kajima, the firm is famed for its micro-scale domestic architecture and its explorations of ad hoc architecture. The architects have published their work and their thinking in a number of books, such as Made in Tokyo, Behaviorology, and Graphic Anatomy.
In the latter, building plans and sections are drawn at 1:20 scale, in single point perspective, in such a way as to evoke a spatial quality, while at the same time being highly technical and loaded with data. It is an unusual technique, but one which is utterly engrossing. Building elements, both architectural and non-architectural, are included and labelled with a precise detailed notation of material, dimension, finishes, and textures.
This almost mechanical depiction of architecture allows buildings to be liberated from the conventional subjectivity of its authors. The way the drawings are composed and structured encourages the eye to move through the spaces, focussing on detail, materials and spatial interrelations. The drawings also capture the relationship between the interior and exterior and specific ways in which the space can be utilised.
Atelier Bow-Wow’s own domestic residence and office is located on a flag-shaped site surrounded by buildings and connected by a narrow strip of land to the road. A response and sensitivity to available gap spaces around the building has resulted in the specific placement of openings; rooms coexisting with the exterior wall of a neighbouring building, and so forth. Functioning as a semi-public building, Atelier Bow-Wow sought to - and has created - a soft divide between the privacy of the home and the public nature of its design office, through a continuous ribbon of spaces connected by a staircase weaving up through the building.
The practice’s articulation of ascent within the structure sees the nature of spaces change, as occupants rise up through the building, with walls converging to constrict upper levels, shifting the internal scale of the building to a domestic sense suited for living.
Joe Morris is co-founder of Duggan Morris