Apr 262012

In the introduction to “Project Japan: Metabolism Talks”, there was a pair of groupings that caught my attention. The first of these was a group of three powers: bureacracy, business, and media. The second of these was a group of vulnerabilities, specifically the lack of space, the consistent presence of natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and the difficulties of incorporating technology in a systematic manner. As propounded by Kawazoe, “we regard human society as a vital process… the reason why we use such a biological word, metabolism, is that we believe design and technology should be a denotation of human vitality.” I interpret this statement, along with the manner in which the vulnerabilities were addressed by specific projects, to be a comprehensive portrayal of the justifications of those respective project concepts.

I was particularly taken by the Floating Cities as proposed by Kikutake. The first set of diagrams in the following image presents a floating surface that achieves its buoyancy through its aggregates as it extends into the ocean, and its figural form from the water lily. Such projects treat the natural boundary between land and sea with an organic attitude; it seems not so much about the earth invading the water but more so about embracing the sea with the manmade structure. In more abstract terms, the project transforms a recognized vulnerability into a unique, conscientious solution.

Many of Kikutake’s propositions include the use of smaller units to create a larger composite, which is also reflected in Maki’s concept, “Group Form”. This part-to-whole relationship is reflected in natural landscape of Japan, and also presents a different perspective to view the layers of infrastructure within the nation. Group Form capitalizes on an interdependence that begets form, contrary to a form that is critically and intentionally designed. If this idea is, similarly, taken to its abstract hierarchy, then the notion of Group Form is a healthy acknowledgment of the bureaucracy between those small parts and a proposition to address the unification of the small, individual archipelagos composing Japan to form a larger architecture.


Passing through the Post-war reconstruction and the Great earthquake, perspective of Japanese creators has been changed in terms of scale.

Figure 1 Tokyo Bay Plan by Kenzo Tange

Scale A. Grand Urban Visions of Metabolism (Seamless connection from human to city)

After the War, numbers of Metabolists in Japan came up with visions of reconstruction. Their initial concepts and master plans were big enough to cover the entire construction of new cities. Even though the realization has been done in relatively small sizes, the projects and plans had strong future implications. For instance, Kisho Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo is representing a new form of architecture as in urban scale. From a construction process to final output and afterwards plan, every step was experimental and practical enough to inspire and to change the following massive urban constructions.


Figure 2. Small Tokyo: edited by Darko Radović and Davisi Boontharm, was published by Flick Studio and IKI

Scale B. Small and Fragmentized(Characterization of New smallness)

After Japan had quick recovered economy and had built the substantial parts of the cities, the scale of planners had been changed as well. Stabilized society made architects and creators to think more about everyday lives rather than grand infrastructures of cites. The scale of creations has been gradually decreased. Small and fragmentized units of designs, which are much more tangible for humanity, have been evolved lately. Degradation of urban development and shrinking population of Japan also helps the downsizing of objects. And, this new scale phenomenon, ’Smallness’, has been developed profoundly and has symbolized the new urban scale of metropolitan cities in Japan.

Figure 3 [ METABOLISM – The City Of The Future] exhibition] at Mori Art Museum in Roppongi

Scale C. After Earthquake

After earthquake happened, the concept of Metabolism has been arising again. This grand vision of new cities has been refocused. Since the Great Earthquake swept away the entire infrastructures of cities and following earthquake predictions are threating the existing structures, radical envisioning of new cities has been needed. And Metabolism visions are persuasive enough to inspire the new reconstructions.

However, is it an appropriate scale of idea for new cities?


Figure 4 ASADAS SCALE - Asada Takashi

Scale D. Continuous Scale

Lastly, I want to refer  ‘ASADAS SCALE’, which is proposed by Asada Takashi. He worked with Kenzo Tange in the Tange Laboratory at Tokyo University. His concept of this scale is to connect every object, which is from a single atom to entire galaxies, into a single loop. After seeing the aftermath of Hiroshima Atomic Bomb, he was shocked by the fact that two single atoms could evaporate the entire city instantly. He had tried to think about the positive use of this instant continuous scale in innovative urban construction. Even though this concept is still in figurative stage, this scale could be valid in terms of reconstruction of disaster affected cities, since it is covering both small everyday lives and large urban envisioning at the same time.

Emergency in Slow Motion

 Posted by Jegan Vincent de Paul on April 19, 2012
Apr 192012

By Rachel Riederer, April 19, 2012
Cross posted from: Guernica Magazine 

 “The Island President,” a new film about the crisis in the Maldives, wants to heat up the way we talk about climate change.

Jon Shenk’s documentary The Island President, now in limited release, follows Mohamed Nasheed through the first year of his term as President of the Maldives—but the movie doesn’t open in that tropical string of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it opens in Denmark, at the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit. Nasheed is surrounded by cameras and interviewers asking him about the climate negotiations. Will they get a deal potent enough to save his nation from destruction?

To the people of the Maldives, the climate change debate is a matter of survival. On average, the 2,000 tiny islands that comprise the country are just 1.5 meters above sea level. As the sea level rises, they are washing away. Perhaps only climate watchers will remember the specifics of that summit and the toothless deal it produced, but Copenhagen casts a long shadow over Nasheed’s story. We didn’t solve climate change three years ago. It’s like watching Kate and Leo cross the gangplank to the Titanic: Whatever else might happen along the way, we know that boat is going down.

Final Project Concept

 Posted by Kimberly Li on April 10, 2012
Apr 102012

Immediately following the 3/11 disaster in Japan, South Korea was the first country to send in a rescue team and continued to send relief aid and resources to Japan over the course of the month. A reported $31.8 million was pledged as aid, but the good will between the neighboring countries was quickly soured as old disputes were once again brought to surface. Upon approval of natonal elementary school textbooks and publication of the Diplomatic Bluebook 2011 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – both of which asserted Japan’s claims over the controversial Takeshima / Dokdo Islands – South Korea put a damper on their generosity.

This incident, though appearing to be a petty fight over a petty 46 acres, is a continuation of a long-term dispute over the islands. This project aims to contextualize the most recent argument over the islands through a historical timeline and a cartographic study of the representation of the islands and respective claims of ownership. The localized intention of the project is to remain as close to objectivity as possible in the portrayal of this century-long dispute, and to leverage the point of conflict to call attention to the underlying tensions between Japan and Korea. On a broader scale, the project is also a comment on the practice of map-making and proposes an alternative form that embeds a history of ownership as opposed to merely the current status of possession.

The project will take the form of a series of hand-drawn maps and a historical timeline that corresponds with the maps and details, through time, the island dispute. The compilation of maps, which could loosely be interpreted as a “textbook” of maps – reflects the incident related to 3/11 as well as the inherent history through its pages. The maps are to be aggregated in reverse chronological order, with the most recent incident detailed first. As became evident through midreview, it may be difficult for all maps to be repurposed at a single scale; accordingly, the handful of scales will be chosen to depict the context of the islands as well as a detailed depiction of the islands. Ideally, the maps will span a number of years with varying frequency, and that frequency is to reflect the activity and escalation of disputes surrounding the islands. For example, perhaps five maps are necessary to accurately portray a period of conflict or war, whereas one is sufficient to portray a period of rest. In creating the maps, other layers of information may be crucial, such as the representation of movement of borders through military occupation, as well as the demographics of the islands and its inhabitants. The production of these maps, and the layering of information, are to adhere as cosely as possible to the graphic standards of map-making. The accompanying historical timeline will serve as a guide through the series of maps, and will contains descriptions of significant events regarding the claim to the islands as well as a parallel background that explains the political and legalistic implication of the respective events.

The following images are taken from How to Lie with Maps, authored by Mark Monmonie, and show a few examples of the kind of information portrayed in a map that is relevant to this project.

Apr 032012

I first saw Werner Hertzog’s Lessons of Darkness as a 14 year old around 2000. The Kuwait war was something I had never been formally introduced to, or at least it hadn’t been something that I had remembered, if it was mentioned in my curriculum or at the time of its duration. I think I might have been Herzog’s perfect viewer, fascinated, horrified, unable to believe that this had really happened. In reviews I have read this is referred to as a sense of alienation that is created by the decontextualized photography and narration, the apocalyptic romanticism that Hertzog espouses. The power of the film is difficult to dismiss, although it looses some of its power as it is contextualized by the type of information that we use to understand such events; the nations that act, the reason for the initial drilling, the conflicts and reasons behind the physical events. I am not persuaded by the arguments that the film is corrupt because of it’s aestheticization of this violence. Perhaps from the perspective of someone who knew of the oil fields and had been introduced by the BBC, rather than by Herzog, would see this information recast into the guise of this alien documentary and have such a reaction, but to someone without that knowledge, the style of the film serves an indispensible role in its power. It was the trance of vision without full knowledge that made my first viewing unforgettable. I wonder if anyone else in the class has a different first experience?


 Posted by Donguk Lee on April 3, 2012
Apr 032012


What is the border line between volunteerism and tourism indisaster affected area?


Visiting Minami-Sanriku gave me a great impression in terms of good energy of local people. People that I met during the trip look very lively and energetic. And substantial volunteerism from all over the world looked positive and helpful for the community.

However, I also sensed a fine line between volunteers and local people. Since there is a strong difference between these two, due to the cultural differences, act of volunteer could be acted as intrusion. There is a necessity of transparency of actions to make volunteerism to be remained in a positive level.

The paper is about the architectural transparency which aims to intervene in the consistently celebrated building. It could give a good inspiration for us to think about certain transparency in the consistently visited area for an opposite meaning.

How much transparency should act of volunteerism maintain in disaster affected area?





Legal Issues Related to Sovereignty over Dokdo, Jon M. Van Dyke

The paper presents a long history of claims over the Takeshima / Dokdo islands. There are some very interesting points of contention that may play into what information ought to be conveyed in the final set of maps, and what anthropological or demographic would provide the best basis for an objective context. Here are some examples:

  • “Toward the end of this decade [1880], Japanese fishers began to confuse the names of Ullung-Do, Takeshima, and Matsushima on their applications.” The question raised here is whether or not name is indicative of ownership. If a map does not delineate boundaries around the islands, then can the naming of those islands serve as a substitute? This becomes especially critical when considering older, historical maps when the practice of marking maritime borders had not yet been standardized. If name were held equivalent to ownership, then there actually may be a conflict in determining ownership in particular cases; for example, a map could potentially depict Japanese territory inclusive of the islands but attach the name “Dokdo” to the islands.
  • The concept of terra nullius is discussed in detail in the paper. Japan has purportedly treated the islands as terra nullius (“land belonging to no one”) in the years leading up to 1905. If this is taken to be true, then in the process of repurposing pre-20th-century Japanese maps, the islands should be marked as terra nullius and not belonging to either country.
  • That Japan claims terra nullius and Korea claims prior occupation opens the debate to demographics. Who was physically living on the island, and what number or extent determines occupation?

The paper also presents a proposed solution to the dispute: that Korea be given possession of the islands while Japan be granted a seabed boundary that nestles up to the islands. However, the dispute over the islands is ultimately one over the sea surrounding the islands so such a solution would only shift the focus from the islands to the sea between Japan and Korea.


This week’s work is an incredibly touching series of individual experiences, responses, statements, stories, and reflections. Deeply personal and often hopeful, these messages offer an interesting link for those connected to tsunami, both locally and from a distance.

One of the most powerful components of this work for me was the use of single words as titles: Relief, Pajamas, Overwhelmed, OK. Each of these titles actually convey a message in themselves.

When I relate this to the question of the work I hope to do with the children in Japan and Afghanistan, I feel that my word is “voice”, but to concisely convey this to the children will be difficult. Given the language and translation challenges, and my hope to connect children visually rather than through language, I wonder how this same power can be conveyed through images. A single word comes with a host of connotations and impacts, but a picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. Can the same coherence be offered through children’s images that are often filled with much more content and imagination than they seem to at first glance?

Project Update – Textbooks and Maps

 Posted by Kimberly Li on March 13, 2012
Mar 132012

Most recently, I have been focusing on maps that define the relationship between Japan and Korea over the Takeshima / Dokdo islands. My goal was to track the changes of possesion and claims on the islands, and use this as a way to analyze the tensions between Japan and Korea.

Dokdo or Takeshima is a blog that I found to be extremely helpful because it sourced many geographic representations of both Japan’s and Korea’s claims on the island. In terms of Japan’s representation of its land, David Rumsey’s online collection of Japanese historical maps contains depictions ranging from the early 1600s to the 1900s. I hope to be able to collect a number of relevant images and superimpose them to create an archive of sorts on the conflict. I find a certain significance in responding to this issue of international debate in a manner that mirrors its causes and contributors.

There has been a long history of “textbook disputes” – which is to say that the nationally-approved publications of various school textbooks in Japan have consistently served as kindle to the fire between Japan and Korea. The most recent instance of this is that related to the halt in 3/11 relief efforts from South Korea, after twelve textbooks that propounded Japanese ownership of the islands were approved. Out of those twelve, four went as far to say that Korea was occupying the islands illegally.

Interior of Japanese Textbook

Covers of the Texts

The textbook is especially crucial because the government is responsible for approving its contents; thus, anything written in the texts have been inferred to be supported by the Japanese government – implicitly, if not explicitly so. The propagation of material on this issue is a national matter, but it is especially important to the people of Shimane Prefecture (the prefecture to which the islands belong, according to Japan’s delegation).

Posters from Shimane Prefecture

The purpose of compiling these different representations is not so much to preserve a history, but to deliver a comprehensive and overwhelmingly objective presentation of the conflict. That the compilation – hopefully very extensive – borders on absurdist encourages a discussion that goes beyond the islands themselves and addresses the greater importance of creating a positive relationship between Japan and Korea.

Mar 132012

Rather than discarding relics we should animate them.

Relic has its own power and beauty.

Two factors, psychological linkage to human and its own physical presence, make itself invaluable.


For the first step, I am trying to derive the attachment between disaster relics and affected people in Japan by interview process.

Relic is the man-made concept. We could define this object as relic, since we have used it once before.

Therefore, each object is inevitably tied to personal memories.

If we could be involved within positive parts of memories, the usage of relic could be more valuable than using other new objects.

In this regards, I am in the process of conducting the interview.


In terms of second factor of relic, the physical presence,

I think that an appropriate way to extract the beauty of it is to using sound and shape.

Bernhard Leitner / Sound Cube


I find out that Bernhard’s sound cube is a good model to be a contrast to relic structure.

This regular hexahedron has speakers within stated intervals.

A flow of energy in this cube would completely proceed within rational prediction.

In contrast, relic model would be sounded in arbitrary way.


Red dots are indicating the spots of sounds.

This sound equipments will be implanted in each relic to present a sound wave that is generated by shape of it.

And, I also chose the method of duplication.

A concept of propagation might be the most contradicatable one to the conventional way of treating relic, discarding.

Resemble the natual process of inbreed, I am planning to multiply the same relics to make a monument for disaster affected area.