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The Way Architect Anna Nakamura Works

Anna Nakamura and Taiyo Jinno, creators of, Anna Nakamura+Taiyo Jinno EASTERN design office, have had an interest in architecture since their twenties, as they were travelling through the world and exploring the architecture of the world and Japan. At that time they were especially drawn to Islamic architecture, the Great Wall of China, the architecture of Luis Barragan, Japanese tea houses, Japanese Zen temple gardens, and cave dwellings.


In 2003 Anna Nakamura and Taiyo Jinno cooperated to launch a new office in Kyoto. "We work in a small office of four people (including staff members). At the time of its founding, the office started with two projects: a private house in a small mountain village and a 10,000-person capacity design for the 2008 Beijing Olympic wrestling stadium.

From the onset, EASTERN simultaneously designed buildings at the small scale and the extremely large scale. The private residence in the mountains (Horizontal House) was to be completed in 2007, however even though the owner has moved into the house, construction still continues today.

Horizontal House
Horizontal House, Photographer: Kouichi Torimura

Creativity with Architectural Problems

For an important idea to evolve there’s a question of how many ideas that have been emerged; at the same time there’s a question of to what extent we can discard these ideas. The more ideas we think up, the more ideas we discard and thus, the quality of the architecture becomes a clear cut.

Anna Nakamura says that she and her team reference to two things when creating architecture:

1. Things that're vitally necessary to form. Why? From what reason was that form born? That origin must be clearly understood. Along with that, we choose a form and imbue it with an unknown poetic feeling.

2. For the inhabitant to feel as if they have the whole world. To have the whole world” depends on how you take architecture, your world, the space you are living in, without knowing the house at all, privacy, comfort without asking, ambition, independence, will, anger, alienation, perhaps familiarity with place and self. To become accustomed to the feeling that those kinds of things rule your own personal world.

As these two things can be commonly understood throughout the world and are our motive for creating architecture. That is to say, when the area around the site is not very good and a large opening is made in such stylishly produced buildings that use too much glass, I do not think the people can attain their own personal world. Who can open their hearts in a place where one’s sensibilities cannot be protected?

An example of things that we have made is the light that is made from 60 slits, each 14 centimeters wide. The moment that a wriggling wave of light passes through architecture via a small perforation-like round window, it creates a cross. The cross of light moves from hour to hour. Stripes of light and shadow dance like children chasing after a deceased spirit. An aperture as if you were living inside a tree. Slits long and thin enough to survey the mountains and the flight of the gods who live there. To be honest, these words (the feelings that come to mind when experimenting with architecture) describe a scene that anyone can understand. Some places are similar to all humankind. Like underground water that gushes out when you delve into something deeply rooted in the soil, it is possible to sense this in Japan, in Portugal, in the nooks of Tianjin (China), and even in the slums of Mexico. We seek out that kind of easily understood effect with the expression of architectural apertures.

Without making a large window, we create architecture (at this time) with only a slit, a round window, or a thin curve and imagine the interior of a hidden inner garden. That “other place” becomes detached from the rest of the world on the outside and, although paradoxical, becomes surrounded by the architecture on the interior. And thus, the empty space within oneself comes into reach and the movement of clouds and the direction of the sun are brought to the forefront.

Slit Court, Photographer: Kouichi Torimura

Becoming Productive!

Make a rhythm of your daily life, as well as your weekly life. During that rhythm, it’s necessary to take time to reflect; to think about things in your own in silence, and take the time to reexamine your work with calm eyes.

Without making conclusions, only by yourself, it is necessary to debate and discuss. If you have thought of an idea until now that isn’t good, readily leave it behind and continue forward with courage.

Every day, we go jogging in the evenings. Jogging helps our heads to cool down. Then at night with a cleared head, we reexamine our work. It is usually at this time that good ideas float to the surface.

Architecture Nobody has Seen

Nakamura says that the most challenging with this profession is to make architecture that nobody has ever seen before and yet be an architecture that cannot be separated from the site. When making architecture it’s important to give the client and the people living there such satisfaction that they say “I understand”. “To make architecture so that the inhabitants feel as if they have the whole world”

By seriously grappling with their work every day, and by never giving up, Nakamura overcomes this challenge.

It is similar to when a sports player is asked “In order to produce good results, what is the number one factor?” and they respond “It is daily training.”

She says that there are 3 points that distinguishes an architect from becoming successful from one that doesn't.

・Whether or not those architect’s works are singular and unique
・Whether or not their buildings match the site, client, and the people living there.
・Whether or not there is a consistent ideology found in the works of those architects.

Living with Architecture

It is important to look at a lot of architecture. Not only just today’s contemporary architecture. Look at as much architecture as you can from the West, the East, all over the world. Look at everything from antiquity to the present. More than learning history, rather understand the power lurking inside that architecture and feel its importance.

Also, it is important to take each part of your immediate lifestyle carefully. Talking to people, dining, drinking, reading books, listening to music, relaxing without thinking of anything idly, moving from room to room, and looking at the scenery outside… Always consider how these individual things in your life happen in architecture or outside of architecture. An architect’s privileged work is to bring about abundant happiness for the building’s client, inhabitants, and site.

Slit Court, Photographer: Kouichi Torimura

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