05: Forces of Nature

SHORT REVIEW

 

Forces of Nature is a book documenting the Kenneth Kassler Lecture delivered by Toyo Ito at Princeton University in 2009. It begins with an introductory essay called 'Patient Search' (a clear node to Corbusier's term) by the then dean of the school: Stan Allen. The text and opening statement make clear why the school has chosen Toyo Ito to deliver the prestigious lecture but also advocates of him to be one of the most salient, influential and clear minded architects of the last century. 

Ito's work only reveals its richness and complexity through construction - not because the architect revels in materiality, but for just the opposite reason. It is only in built form that the subtlety of his dematerialized relationships - the play of light and space activated by the inhabitant - and the sophistication of his tectonic solutions becomes evident - Stan Allen
It is simply impossible to think about domestic space in the same way after his 1976 White U house, arguably the most radical house of the twentieth century - Stan Allen

The lecture given by Ito loosely describes only four projects: the Tama Art University Library, the Crematorium at Kakamigahara, the California Berkeley Art Museum and the Opera House in Taichung, Taiwan, yet it is enough for the audience to glimpse the high level and status-quo shattering provocations of the architecture presented: the way the Berkeley diagram disrupts museum standards with its bulging walls accommodating gallery spaces in a cellular fashion with a facade presenting the thin slabs as a functionally corrupted house of cards, or the way the undulating roof at Kakamigahara forces the columns to erode the relationship with the roof and create an ever-shifting space, or the way the ellipsoidal arches at the Tama Art Library remind us of the arch as an element in architecture,  and perhaps of its post-modern connotations yet here at the Tama Library the arches are used to create the gentle curves that organize space and are active in the facade with subtle lightness and superb tectonic intelligence.

Accompanying the lecture is an essay previously published in 1978 called 'The Reflection of the Sacred in the Profane World', in which the author seems to try to elucidate the urbanistic implications of the White U House after an article about it appeared in the magazine Shinkenchiku, and later delving into a central idea: the understanding of modernism as a movement of homogenisation force in the world, (i. e. profane). The text goes to great lengths to explain the counterpoint of modernism and its ideals.

Venturi was the first architect who showed me that the architecture that modernists believed was the pinnacle of the abstract and sacred was in fact subconsciously proliferating throughout the profane world - Toyo Ito

Final commentary, in conversation with Ito,  is provided by Julian Worrall in a text called 'Base and Superstructure', which recalls the words of Thomas Daniell in 'Tarzans in the Media Forest' by stating that the four decades of Toyo Ito's practice and its projects might be catalogued equally as his own interests: robot, city, body and nature (White U, Taichung Opera / Ghent Forum for Music, Sendai Library and Serpentine Pavilion). An interesting conversation ensues about the architect's projects and their relation to non-standard ideas developed in collaboration with engineers Matsuro Sasaki and Cecil Balmond.

Ultimately, underlying Ito's indefatigable efforts to forge a new set of formal operations in architecture is the conviction that they can liberate people from the constrictions of modern environments and reconnect them to the sources of their vitality as living, feeling beings - Julian Worrall

Closing the publication with: 'Picturing "Home for all" ', a call-to-arms from Toyo Ito on taking action as architects as a reaction to the tsunami that hit Japanese coasts on 2011 with an open submission of ideas.


FORCES OF NATURE - TOYO ITO, jessie turnbull

princeton architectural press

ISBN 978-1616891015