21.9.16

.

After marrying, this blog fulfilled its purpose, which was to speak my mind for those who wanted to understand me (not for them to have to understand). Therefore, this blog will remain for reference, and testify to a person facing his weaknesses without support to overcome it. The answers are in the +1,100,000 words written in the past 3 years, and the thoughts and things I've had and done since I was 5. I don't think you will read it, but it's there.

That's all there is to say.

3.8.16

I got married yesterday

7 years and still the same.

1.8.16

Monday morning in Kabukicho

I also took photos of a life-size Godzilla and the New Sky / Gunkan / Battleship Building, but those photos came out a bit too boring to be posted directly here.

17.7.16

K Museum; Sony Building



The K Museum, or K building in Ariake, a 20 min walk either way from Tokyo Teleport or Kokusai-Tenjijo, was meant, I think, to house a museum of infrastructure. Makoto Sei Watanabe designed it, together with parts of its landscaping. As far as I know, it has never been in use. These days it just sits next to the bridge over to Odaiba, unknowing of whether it is forgotten, or has forgotten itself. Yesterday there was an impromptu water park set up next to it, and cosplaying teenagers were having photoshoots in its adjacent park.

Later in the evening we went to Ginza, to have a closer look at Yoshinobu Ashihara's Sony Building. It opened in 1966 and is slated for demolition next year. A couple of years ago it underwent an extensive refurbishment, where the focal point of the building - a gameboy-like facade with light behaving like pixels - was removed. For decades, the facade had been lit up in various patterns, symbols and messages, themselves icons of a futurist Japan at the time when colour-TV was considered a work of the devil to older people in Sweden.

Now the dizzying showreel is moving to Ginza Place, a rather disgusting piece of work I suspected a big name was behind when we passed by it last thing yesterday on the way to the metro. Today it turned out to be Klein Dytham, arguably the most respected and successful "foreign" office in Tokyo. They have a thing for cheesy patterns, I think.

Because of the previous refurbishment, it's very hard to tell what remains of the original design in the Sony Building today, apart from the general massing. The facade has been reduced to a generic billboard, at times given a slight nod to a more dignified past, as contemporary artists are picked to attach some kind of temporary piece of visual art to it. The overall feeling though is one of regression. Although I know nothing of the practical reasons behind the removal of the original facade, it stands out as yet another example of the collective amnesia (more positive: material transcience) of Japanese cities and architecture.

The first floor of the Sony Building has a curious entrance to an English pub attached to it. Spared the spotlights of brash product exposure, it's easy to miss. The sign on the door tells us it's celebrating 50 years in Ginza this year - 1966-2016. I couldn't help wondering if this pub had been there since the very inauguration of Ashihara's building. That to me is Japan, a Victorian, mahogny-clad pub sharing stairwell with an illuminated machine.

14.7.16

a day outside the house

Yesterday, as I exited the turnstiles between the blue line platform and Center Minami station, I walked by a small impromptu market stall, with two middle-aged men in wheelchairs behind the tables. One of them wore glasses, and was black. They sold bread. There was a sign hanging at one end of the table, with "bread corner" spelt out in hiragana and katakana. Two nurses stood next to the men; one of them addressed the black man. His responded was slow and clumsy, with a voice that faded away before he had finished. His eyes turned back to the table and the tiny buns there in plastic bags. He smiled a bit, then more widely, in his impeccable baker's hat, baker's clothes, and wheelchair.

I saw them only briefly, but I could understand why they were there and what they were doing. They were not doing macho 14-hour white-collar Abenomics business. They were not even running a company. The black man was a patient from a local nursing home. Assisted by others, he had baked buns which he now sold for nothing outside a shopping mall in Yokohama. Although that's all I know of him, and likely all I will know, his appearance, his quiet mix of embarrassment and pride of having made these things and being able to give them to others, seemed very rare in this city.

As much as people want to be strong and self-sufficient and achieve if not great things then at least things to be noted, when you see someone achieving more - with an afternoon in a nursery home kitchen - than you could ever print out with your portfolio after 10 years and innumerable nights and early mornings in architecture school and practice, it's hard not to ask who is the wisest, who is the most capable, all while you see - in those eyes looking away - that wish to just be able to take care of a normal life, and the knowledge of never being able to do so.

We came back from the mall and the grocery store. The tables were gone. Neither the nurse, the black man, nor his friends were there. Again the white floor, the wide clean windows over the tracks, and the gates to the blue line. Still, going home, going to sleep, waking up and going through another day, I find myself wanting to go back there. I would like to see him again, read the sign that says "bread corner", and I would like to buy a bag of buns this time.

11.4.16

memory

very strange.
those things we keep seem to tell us everything about who we were at that point
until we cannot remember anything else, and start to shift who we were
with what we seemed to be.

Tokyo tomorrow ...
where have I ever been?

9.4.16

suddenly Hertzell

Like walking through a Barbican confusing itself with Stirling and a repainted Hunstanton School.

6.4.16

what to do?

At a certain distance from London, I'm still more or less dragged into it, the architecture scene, of course, because, well, it does have the media, and it did have Zaha. Sadly, it doesn't have Zaha anymore ... just ZHA, which, I fear, will soon be renamed ZH+PSA, then to PS+ZHA, to PS(ZH)A, and then to PSA (formerly ZHA). Please prove me wrong, PS. Or, better yet, do whatever Zaha wanted.

"Turncoats" is apparently becoming a phenomenon. Or, at least it is marketing itself as one. And I did see a few likes on Facebook from friends. So I went to the site, and felt ... several emotions. Part of me started to laugh at the infantile-still-worn-out rebellion against "a stagnant present"; all good I suppose? But, it *is* a bit strange when you do your best to fight the (vapid! self-congratulatory! hero-worshipping!) media, the (inefficient! out of touch! stuffy!) academic institutions, and the (morally bankrupt! conceited! self-absorbed!) architects themselves. Apparently the suggestion is to quit architecture. OK. That is, quit it but basically just staying in the building industry - becoming a Peabody hero (I thought they were loved by architects...?), or Bompas and Parr (I thought they were loved by architects...? #2). I still think the AA graduate who turned into a proper chef and didn't really care about architecture anymore would've been more interesting in this respect. Or, you know, a person who is still an architect, but also the "first architect in the world to acquire the qualification of sommelier" (this guy).

Furthermore, it *is* strange to hate the media and the schools, but then relying on them for attention, influx and panel participants. Partnering up with dezeen, in this aspect, seems absurd. Anyway, the solution to it all, according to turncoats, seems just to be to have shitloads of fun, which is also only possible by getting drunk, saying ostensibly rude things, and turning everything on its head. But reinventing the format, style or setting of the debate is, to me, like reinventing the table because the table is boring. But, then again, I read an article on the flight from Poland showcasing awesome designer remakes of grand pianos - mostly making them 10 times more expensive - so perhaps it resonates with the larger public. Whether that's inherently a good thing, is another thing.

The thing that irks me more is this: how do you counter it? It's like the Venturi debate once again, where you're a "bore" if you don't play. van Eyck certainly did play, but, I find, that if I do the same, I really just become an awful person. I can of course do like I've just done, point out some of the flaws, but even then I cannot avoid being sucked into the generally quite acid style of arguing. It doesn't seem reasonable to put fire out with fire.

I'm worried about it. These days, I don't feel that architecture itself is dying, I feel that architects seem desperate to kill it, reinvent it, subvert it, build it up from scratch. Again. So, nothing can be kept in its present state, nothing seems worth keeping. But fighting seems nice. What does make it even more worrisome is that fighting, the way people fight these days, is safe, because you don't risk anything. The most you can risk is by not fighting, because then, you're a conservative. Nevermind that the idea of fighting the artistic system is as old as Modernism gets, retroactive avant-gardism. In a society of free-speech, speaking freely is the safest thing you can do. In fact, it's come to be expected. The acid stuff, that is. Getting drunk is fairly legal too, because getting drunk has been a part of the avant-garde since the beginning as well. Smashing up the venue is nice too, I guess, unless it was designed by someone in the panel - which it probably was.

Meanwhile, the storm rages on outside. People dying, being beaten up, exiled, tortured, executed, raped. Here as well as there. And, in the midst of this, people love and make love. Children are being born to grow up to kill others, kill themselves, or continue to make love. The world is an absolutely horrible place and a beautiful place, at the same time. You can walk through a park one day, and being thrown into 12 hours of physical interrogation the other. One moment you cheer, the other one you cry, and you don't even know when the switch will take place. When you have, and when you don't, and when you have again. So we play it safe by being naughty when and where it's safe. Of course we can call bullshit on the ornament-is-crime, today, because no-one believes in it. Go to any design site today and you'll be hard-pressed to find something that couldn't be called ornamental. Also, I don't understand the desire to escape academic debate by adressing academic topics. Ornament ought to be the safest one there is. Whether you hate it or love it is irrelevant, it's in the box.

I'm often a bit sad these days that it is so hard to find truly strange, odd and weird buildings. I mean, everyone (outside of Barcelona) must've been positively shocked by Gaudi when he got into his gears, and I guess in a way Las Vegas could be shocking, but did a culturally alternative architecture just stop there? Search for buildings outside of the "contemporary" mantra, and you either have novelty (a strange term, since it's basically just ducks and strawberries made into buildings), neo-Gaudi (absolutely none with the genius, save perhaps Bruce Goff and Hundertwasser, although I haven't heard them mentioned for a long time, probably because they're "too obvious"; as if Mies should be dismissed because he's also "too obvious"), or stuff right in the tracks of the genuine avant-garde (Smithsons to Archigram to Superstudio to Eisenman to Tschumi to Koolhaas to Woods to Pask to Lynn to ... seems to have died after him, can't really call Aravena avant-garde). At the same time, it's sad that it is so hard to find truly strange, odd and weird - but, here's the thing, relevant - debates, articles and discussions. I'm sad probably just because of personal reasons, but... I always felt architecture was more than bickering, pyrotechnics, showmanship, marketing. It IS of course. I know that. And I know that my view of good architecture will always be different from yours. But do we have to fight about it? To we have to renounce the other's existence? Do we have to fuck up the institutions that fucked us up, just because we and a few of us feel that way? Is it fair?

In Candide, Voltaire's final insight seems to be for the wise one to retreat and cultivate his garden, as you will know once you remember it (if you, like me, went through it in high school, at least partially). He cannot win, he cannot change the world. But, is that a resignation? Isn't this, really, Voltaire's most uplifting point? That when we all cultivate our own gardens, we don't have to scorch the land around us. Perhaps what Voltaire saw, was the lack of inherent value in confrontation. In fact, it became counterproductive. You don't have to be wise to realise that, or to practice it. I think we all know it, but when it becomes easy and permissible, even encouraging, to strive for personal dominance, we naturally go in that direction. I wouldn't go so far as to say I am a social determinist, but people are easy to mould.

I think architecture has a future - I just hope it's a good one. Not a callous one, like it is now. It really does feel that way nowadays, callous. Because being callous is being safe.

11.3.16

language mixups

When you want to say "oneiric" and you end up saying "onigiric"
then start to wonder which one is the strangest.

When Koolhaas-san arrives in Tokyo, to be greeted with a:
"Koolhas-san, you alived!"

Also just when you insist on living "proper shitty life"
in the city, and you realize that the two are quite interchangeable.

8.3.16

Unsharp Mask / The Fog over Cerulean Tower

When I went to bed last night, I could hardly use the computer. My vision had deteriorated quickly, because of overwork, sloppy use of eyedrops, careless rubbing, and lack of sleep. When I woke up today, it was much the same. Reading text gave me a headache. Looking at floorplans gave me a headache. The only thing that relieved me somewhat was looking towards the yellow-green window towards the garden, frosted, filtering the overcast morning sky, and casting a thin light onto the coffee-coloured curtains. The room was dark, but not terribly dark. It comforted me somehow. Not the hard plasterboards or the rectangular LCD-screen, but soft textile, soft light.

I called in sick in the morning, distressed with what I saw. Normally - that is, a year before - I would've been shocked, seized by fear, for whatever had happened, for whatever could get worse, for however I would learn to live with this. Nowadays, I adapt quite quickly. I arrived at work after lunch, no changes to the eyesight. Using Illustrator or Photoshop was a pain. Reading the news too, although, stubborn as I am, I continued reading anyway.

I don't know why it happened, but after a while I began to reflect upon this new condition. And speculate. Move. In the head, and with the body, with these eyes I had suddenly been given - or, rather, an exaggerated version of something I've lived with now for about 4 months.

I tend to describe this changed vision as "blurriness", because that's the only word people seem to understand. But, what is actually happening is a strange, if not opposite, then at least very different track. I call it the unsharp mask. As if every line I see, every letter I read, has an outline whiter than the whitest of the paper, jittering and vibrating noisily - as if shining. Perhaps you're making a face now: why is he complaining, if he sees *sharper* than before? Of course, that is not entirely true. It is a form of blurriness as well, but technicalities aside, it makes it very unpleasant to face strong contrasts and sharp lines. The intensity of the unsharp mask takes away the actual ability to see the image.

I think this is where some kind of unique, driving artistic motivation comes from. Not from an imaginary concept, an invented controversy, a temperament willing to piss paint on the canvas. It comes from necessity. The necessity by which we see. Only a man who does not see what we see can do and choose what he wants to change the world into naturally - because for him, there's no choice.

I cannot do a Libeskind, not because I'm thematically opposed to his techniques. I cannot do a Schumacher, not because I do not agree with his political leanings. Today, I couldn't do a Libeskind or a Schumacher simply becaue they gave me a headache. I couldn't look at them. They made me feel physically sick. The buildings themselves. No architects, no contexts, no moral or immoral agendas. And, I thought, why not? Why not accept it? It's not like I can do anything about it, anyway.

I looked in other directions, like a man refusing to eat a certain kind of food because he no longer tastes salt or sweet - like my father, for instance. I went to Rembrandt, to Goya - artists I had no interest whatsoever in before, and perhaps still do not have, other than for the fact that some of their paintings (certainly not all) provided me with a perceptional absence of pain. It was neither cerebral or unconscious - I was just happy being able to look at something without wanting to close my eyes after four seconds. I even enjoyed an interior by SANAA.

When I left the office about an hour ago, I looked towards the skies of Shibuya. It was foggy, for the first night since October - or the first one I will remember, at least. The Cerulean Tower stood only with its red lights popping through the uppermost layers - and even then, much weaker. It was as if the city itself acknowledged this twist of fate and softened the city around me. Strangely enough, by then, the exaggerated unsharp mask I woke up with had started to abate, probably due to a more frequent use of eyedrops during the day. I was a bit torn on how to react. In a way, I was happy to return at least partially to a functioning, regular human being - one being able to rack up Rhino hours for the projects to be .pdffed into the outbox. At the same time, I was a bit sad I had lost this new vision of mine. I had seen things and thought of things I had never seen or thought of before.

Such as how the present condition values sharpness - in times when we're all losing our sight quicker and earlier, a form of visual tinnitus, countered by turning up the volume (maximising the histogram span). The city throws sharpness at you, in every white-brick-black-mortar facade, in every halogen sign, in every window, steel, steel - even the wood refuses complete seamlessness. Text, text everywhere, there to be read. Advertisements, road signs, product descriptions, cars, subway ventilation outlets. If we counter sharpness, it is intellectual - a willingness to "question" and "subvert" the "present condition" which I've just described. Not out of necessity. And hence, it is just a poser's position, as unable to deter sharpness as surely as it will be blind before turning 60.

It also brings me to wonder about the graphicality of our artificial world. Not "graphical" in the sense of "graphical violence", "graphical promiscuity", or similar, no, "graphical" in formal terms. Early Modernism is its sharp lines, wherever we go. Architecture. Art. Sculpture. Writing. From Mies to Corb to Duchamp to Moholy-Nagy. Kandinsky and Klee enter from the idea of contrast. Bright colours, intense colours. Turrell and Klein bring it to the extreme and LeWitt combines them. Simple vast spaces of evenness, and a punch of black, or throbbing red.

Even as of a few days ago, Anish Kapoor acquires the rights for the "blackest of black", a new material of this intense search for the utmost contrast.

All these things come *after* the way I see. Not before.
It is a prime example of the body operating way before the mind
of the eye seeing before there is a word to describe what it sees (and wants).

I still see this way. Not as intensely as a few hours earlier, but it's there, and it keeps me thinking. I will keep it. I will adopt it. Maybe it leaves me, I don't know. It's there now, at times, sometimes less, sometimes more. I make use of it because I need to, and where I don't want to use it, I don't.

Maybe it should also be mentioned how all of this started: not very surprisingly, with a medicine. The withdrawal from Olanzapine. I won't go into the details, but it is a weird thing to think of: that while the avantgarde is speculating on how biochemical interventions may change our way of perception, I have become an unlikely specimen and outcome of an experiment of this calibre. It's rare, of course. It's very rare. The only similar account I've read about was from a woman in the US, whose hearing became extremely intensified and augmented after she quit - and stayed that way. I suspect a similar thing has happened to my eyes.

This hasn't changed the world, but it has pulled me in a different direction. I cannot design buildings the way I've designed them before, quite literally because they discomfort me. I need something else, of which I don't know of yet. How it will look like. A blurred building? (Not the Blur Building.) Without the white and without the black? With hardly a line? I don't know, but I want to see.