Jianwai Soho and Peter Zumthor comparisons


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Jianwai Soho and Peter Zumthor comparisons

  1. 1. Jianwai SOHO – An Art of ExperienceOn case study from Yamamoto and theories from Peter Zumthor Nicholas Socrates AR1Ad040 Architecture Reflections (2009-2010 Q4) Teacher: Nelson Motto 12 January 2011
  2. 2. 1. IntroductionMemorable experiences of architecture break through our consciousness. People who visit,work and live in architecture identify themselves within the space. Architecture is the art ofbringing together beings and the world, and this intervention takes place through our senses.Experiencing architecture is multi-sensory. Qualities of space, matter and scale are measuredtogether by the eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, skeleton and muscle. Architecture strengthensone’s sense of being in the world, and this is basically an enforced experience of the self.Instead of mere vision, or the use of the five classical senses, architecture can involve severalrealms of sensory experience simultaneously, which interact and fuse into each other.1“There was a time when I experienced architecture without thinking about it. Sometimes I canalmost feel a particular door handle in my hand, a piece of metal shaped like the back of aspoon. I used to take hold of it when I went into my aunt’s garden. That door handle stillseems to me like a special sign of entry into a world of different moods and smells. Iremember the sound of the gravel under my feet, the soft gleam of the waxed oak staircase, Ican hear the heavy front door closing behind me as I walk along the dark corridor and enterthe kitchen, the only really brightly lit room in the house.[...] Memories like these contain the deepest architectural experience that I know. They arethe reservoirs of the architectural atmospheres and images which I explore in my work as anarchitect.” 2Light, form, colour, sound, movement, texture and smell, are examples of how architects havecreated certain atmospheres. These atmospheres are the stimuli in Peter Zumthor’s basicmodel of emotions. Similarly, architect Riken Yamamoto also has this way to feel and designarchitecture. In this essay, I am going to explore the case study Jianwai SOHO designed byYamamoto combined with Zumthor’s theories on experiencing architecture by all the senses.                                                                                                                          1  Experiencing Workshop, Available at:http://issuu.com/simondroog/docs/workshop_experience?mode=embed&layout=http%3A%2F%2Fskin.issuu.com%2Fv%2Flight%2Flayout.xml&showFlipBtn=true&AID=10829131&PID=3662453&SID=skim725X515840  2 Peter Zumthor, “A Way of Looking at Things” (Spon Press, 2006), P 1.   1
  3. 3. 2. Background“Large, high French windows let the sunshine in, bathing the rooms and reflecting off thewhite surfaces. This technique is widely used in Japanese interior design, and RikenYamamoto makes better use of it than anyone.” 3Jianwai SOHO is located at 39 East Third Ring Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing (oppositethe China World Trade Center). The buildings have a total gross floor area of 700,000 squaremeters on a site of 169,000 square meters. Jianwai SOHO includes 20 high rise towers andfour villas. There are 20 rooftop gardens and 16 pedestrian lanes. This Project was completedin 2007.Redstone Industrie invited the Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto to design a project inBeijing. Beijing is where Riken was born, and the project was where he could realize anarchitectural concept that he had failed to achieve in Japan. This concept was SOHO, standingfor “Small Office Home Office”. This architectural concept was in line with the philosophy ofPan Shiyi, chairman of Redstone. Jianwai SOHO, is a housing project which combineshousing and working space through the adoption of information technology. The high-riseSOHO buildings, together with the China World Trade Center, lend Beijing a cosmopolitanair. 4There are several hundred stores at Jianwai SOHO, including Starbucks Flagship Store,Tongrentang Flagship Store, Yuxiang Renjia Flagship Restaurant, Dong Tian Image Styling,Markor Furnishings, Ajisen Ramen, Wendy Wu Restaurant and many other stylish boutiques.These shops, along with the several hundred companies that have moved in or signed leases,have turned Jianwai SOHO into one of the busiest urban centers integrating residential areas,offices, recreation facilities and retail outlets. An increasing number of commercial, cultural,and fashion events have taken place at Jianwai SOHO. At the Jianwai SOHO SummerCarnival, which runs for four months each year, pop stars, poets, artists and writers presentconcerts, poetry recitals, street displays and theme salons to audiences who come in large                                                                                                                          3  Jianwai SOHO: Leader in a New Way of Life, Available at:http://www.sohochina.com/en/news/detail.asp?id=21487&cid=12  4  Jianwai SOHO Official Website Available at: http://www.sohochina.com/en/jianwai/index.asp     2
  4. 4. numbers from all over the city. Fashion shows of famous brands have also been held here.Each year, Jianwai SOHO plays host to over 40 events of various types. Jianwai SOHO hasintroduced not only a new style of housing, but also a new way of living.5The building and all its spaces and elements make up a total environment where every detailbelongs to the same family of forms. Every object relate to its neighbouring objects. Even theSOHO’s smallest interior details, lounges, chairs, signs, and telephone booths were designedto harmonize with the shaped buildings. He wanted passengers passing through the buildingto experience a fully-designed environment, in which each part arises from another andeverything belongs to the same formal world.Thirteen pedestrian streets connect the fourteen buildings at Jianwai SOHO. The design of theunderground garage includes a sunken grass field, lending the whole area the quality of athree-dimensional space. Jianwai SOHO is located in the Beijing Central Business District(CBD), but its streets are filled with human activity, in strong contrast to the unfortunatesituation of lively daytimes but lonely evenings common to US and European CBDs. Rikenexplained that his design of the streets was inspired by his experience of Ceutas traditionalalleyways.“I would like to build Jianwai SOHO into a place with alleys running between buildings forpeople to explore. I do not want to call it a street block because it is not a closed, monotonousspace, but rather an open place with department buildings, stores and offices in it.”“I gained my inspiration from a Moroccan city called Ceuta. Every possible thing--humanbeings, donkey’s dancing, sheep’s bleat, shops, ancient houses mosques, restaurants, thefragrance of mint and tobacco, and the odor of human bodies--were mixed togetherindiscriminately. Passing through an alleyway lined with souvenir shops aimed at touristsand brushing away the importunate hands of vendors, I suddenly arrive at a street of houses.There is an entrance to a mosque, well ornamented with strikingly beautiful tiles, and then asmall square. Corridors of houses cross casually overhead. In no time at all I feel lost. Theentire city is a maze.” 6                                                                                                                          5  Jianwai SOHO: Leader in a New Way of Life, Available at:http://www.sohochina.com/en/news/detail.asp?id=21487&cid=12  6 Jianwai SOHO/Riken Yamamoto, Available at: http://www.chinese-architecture.com/jianwai-sohoriken-yamamoto.html   3
  5. 5. Yamamto himself says about his design: ‘…buildings in which the architecture combined thesurroundings would express the drama and specialness and excitement of travel… a place ofmovement and transition…’ Movement, as one of the architectural means that Yamamotoused to create specific architectural atmospheres, can elicit specific emotions.As we have said, the majority of people consider architecture and space as an essentiallyvisual experience. But in this case, Yamamoto design Jianwai SOHO not only as singlebuilding blocks where space in between the buildings is the emptiness, but also as a greatenvironment for life; an environment that is stimulating to the senses. It is obviously light andshadow, proportion and colour, perspective and decoration, sounds that reverberate, surfacesthat our feet walk upon, textures that we touch, temperatures that determine our degree ofcomfort and smells that surround and seduce us. All these things together multiply oneanother into an ensemble that we perceive as a whole SOHO surrounding us, the movement oflife; feeling and experiencing it as a whole.3. Case StudiesThe buildings in Jianwai SOHO can serve to move occupants emotionally and elevate theirexperience. Every space is about the layering of perceptional stimuli for all of the senses. Likea musical composition, spatial features come together into a symphony for occupants toexperience. In Jianwai SOHO, there is a sense of pressure, a sense of balance, a sense ofrhythm, a sense of movement, a sense of life, a sense of warmth, even a sense of self, whichpsychology is beginning to recognize. 73.1. SightThe eyes want to collaborate with the other senses. They define the interface between the skinand the environment between the opaque interiority of the body and the exteriority of theworld.                                                                                                                          7  Rasmussen S.E., “Experiencing Architecture” (The MIT Press, 1962)   4
  6. 6. While Zumthor imagines his childhood experience by visualisation by the other senses,Yamamoto was also firstly touched by seeing Ceuta’s busy and amazing city image and thenhe went on to design Jianwai SOHO.Jianwai SOHO has a greatly appealing image because of its variety, eventfulness, possibilitiesof choices for walking through and the stimulation of an intense atmosphere that eachindividual can explore a specific and unique story by themselves. For many visitors andresidents in SOHO, these paths are dominant elements of SOHO’s image. They observe thisSOHO city while walking through it. It is designed as a maze which can be explored byvisualisation.There is a potpourri of every conceivable thing. It is not just the roads that crisscross. Pathsalong with the other environmental elements are arranged and related. The passageways,small squares, public green spaces and shopping streets all do so, sometimes drawing thepedestrian unknowingly into a building. From a street so narrow two people can barelysqueeze past each another, one enters a square where people are gathered. Every step forwardbrings a change of scenery. The pace is dizzying. Moving through these spaces, one canalmost feel the SOHO city breathing in and out.People walking in SOHO can also visualize the neat planning grid of the district planning bylooking at the “edges” of SOHO buildings. By edges, I mean the linear elements of façade ofthe SOHO buildings. One edge closes one block off from another. The similar façades of theSOHO buildings as a whole give us a “break-linear” image, like a dash line, to some extentleading people in certain directions of this city maze. These edge elements, as dominant aspaths, are for many people important organizing features of the SOHO city.As a district part of Beijing, in a sense we deem that the SOHO maze is composed by severalelements sharing similar characters – similar overpasses, similar facades and etc. Despite thesimilarities existing everywhere in this district, Jianwai SOHO still stands out in thesurroundings while still in keeping with the similarity of its neighbourhood by a ‘30 degreestrategy’.In order to eliminate interference from one building upon another, Riken Yamamoto shapedeach structure to be slender, and angled them at 30 degrees eastward. In this way, every   5
  7. 7. apartment will boast access to both moderate sunshine and privacy.8 Overpasses extend overthem, so that one has the impression of being in an underground passage, but in the nextmoment the sun in beating down from directly overhead, making everything a dazzling white.This feature was highly appreciated in the bidding evaluation and might be called a minorinvention at least in Beijing where history animates the present, almost all buildings areoriented on a north-south axis and nowhere can we find any large buildings that are evenslightly angled.3.2. Hearing“I gained my inspiration from a Moroccan city called Ceuta. Every possible thing--humanbeings, donkey’s dancing, sheep’s bleat, shops, ancient houses mosques, restaurants, thefragrance of mint and tobacco, and the odor of human bodies--were mixed togetherindiscriminately.”9“I remember the sound of the gravel under my feet; […] I can hear the heavy front doorclosing behind me as I walk along the dark corridor and enter the kitchen…”10Hearing is another way of experiencing things or architecture supported by both Yamamotoand Zumthor. In terms of architecture territory, sounds measure space and make its scaleunderstandable. Sounds reflect in a space, and that way it gives us an impression of its formand material.When we stand on the ground floor outside Jianwai SOHO buildings, we can “hear” thepeople of this area, as internalised by Yamamoto. People are given a parallel experience byclosing their eyes and putting themselves in their surroundings, especially at night. Hearingbusy shops besides them and people talking and walking through the over bridges connectingbuildings above the ground, they can imagine the layout of this area, and enjoy a spatialexperience by listening to the seeming remote traffic sound and construction sound nearby.They can hear how spaces or buildings radiate out from themselves by different echoes.                                                                                                                          8  Jianwai SOHO Official Website Available at: http://www.sohochina.com/en/jianwai/index.asp  9  Jianwai SOHO/Riken Yamamoto, Available at: http://www.chinese-architecture.com/jianwai-sohoriken-yamamoto.html  10  Peter Zumthor, “A Way of Looking at Things” (Spon Press, 2006), P 1.     6
  8. 8. “The live reflections of echo and re-echo within a stone cathedral increase our awareness ofthe vastness, geometry and material of its space. Imagine the same space with carpet andacoustically softened… a spatial and experiential dimension of the architecture is lost. Wecould redefine space by shifting our attention from the visual to how it is shaped by resonantsounds, vibrations of materials and textures."(Steven Holl)“Sight isolates, whereas sound incorporates; vision is directional, whereas sound is omni-directional”.11 One regards an object, while sound approaches; the eye reaches, while the earreceives. SOHO buildings don’t respond to our stare, but they do send back our echo. Everyparticular building has its own characteristic sound because of different volumes that theyhave, which forms a grade of intimacy of distance, an invitation or rejection. Through its echo,a space is understood as equally as through its visual shape. This is often unrecognized bypeople because the acoustic observation is generally an unaware background experience. Butstill, this is one of the goals that the designer wanted to achieve—to make people listen, listenin the maze.3.3. Touch“Sometimes I can almost feel a particular door handle in my hand, a piece of metal shapedlike the back of a spoon. I used to take hold of it when I went into my aunt’s garden.”12The skin reads texture, weight, density and temperature. ‘The only sense which can give asensation of spatial depth is touch, because touch senses the resistance and three-dimensionalality of shapes and material bodies, and therefore makes us aware that thingsextend away from us in all our direction.’13 Vision exposes what the touch already knows. Wecould consider the sense of touch as the unconsciousness of vision.In Zumthor’s theory, “touch” is an important way to feel/design architecture. Despite that thispoint doesnt seem to be an indispensable means of Yamamoto’s designing, we still can findout one or two in the deisgn of Jianwai SOHO which is involved with “design via touching”.                                                                                                                          11  Architectural Means, Available at: http://experiencingarchitecture.com/2010/05/18/architectural-means  12  Peter Zumthor, “A Way of Looking at Things” (Spon Press, 2006), P 1.  13  Architectural Means, Available at: http://experiencingarchitecture.com/2010/05/18/architectural-means     7
  9. 9. The first way to experience SOHO by “touch” is “texture from touch” which refers to theprocessing of information about surface material and microgeometry obtained from tactileexploration. Though textural information can be obtained both visually and auditorily, touchyields much finer and more complex textural information than do the other sensorymodalities.14 When we run our fingers across a surface of the SOHO buildings, we perceivethe surface as being rough, like sandpaper, or smooth, like glass; the surface may also varyalong other sensory stimuli, such as hardness (e.g. facade texure) vs. softness (e.g. grass ingreen space), stickiness vs. slipperiness. Also, whether a texture is thermally isolating orthermally conductive (like metal) contributes to the textural percept. Different aspects oftexture are encoded by different populations of receptors.Large, high French windows let the sunshine in, bathing the rooms and reflecting off thewhite surfaces. People touch the sunshine and feel the warmth---this is the second aspectwhich is associated with “touch”. This technique is widely used in Japanese interior design,and Riken Yamamoto makes better use of it than anyone. In Rikens design, whiteness, lightcolors and decent furniture have formed an unprecedented fashion in exterior and interiordecoration in Jianwai SOHO. No matter what Colorfulness called it, whiteness guided orwhiteness dominated for the texture of building is not only the interior that is gray and whitebut also the whole building.3.4. Smell[…] restaurants, the fragrance of mint and tobacco, and the odor of human bodies--weremixed together indiscriminately.15[…] were hard and unyielding under my feet, and a smell of oil paint issued from the kitchencupboard.16The most determined memory of any space is often its smell. ‘A particular smell makes usunknowingly re-enter a space completely forgotten by the retinal memory: the nostrils awaken                                                                                                                          14  Rebecca Maxwell , Peter-John Cantrill, “Beyond Appearances - Architecture and the senses” Available at:http://www.ebility.com/articles/beyondappearances.php  15  Jianwai SOHO/Riken Yamamoto, Available at: http://www.chinese-architecture.com/jianwai-sohoriken-yamamoto.html  16  Peter Zumthor, “A Way of Looking at Things” (Spon Press, 2006), P 1.   8
  10. 10. a forgotten image, and we are enticed to enter a vivid daydream. The nose makes the eyesremember.’17 Memory and imagination remain associated in the meantime.Jianwai SOHO is a combination of multi-functional buildings. People walking by can “smell”the “function” of SOHO city. It is not complicated for people walking to be aware of thelocation of the restaurants, clothes shops, copy shops, supermarkets and central green space.In light of this, smell is a last but not least way for people to experience Jianwai SOHO bystimulated olfaction.4. ConclusionOur experiences are the result of our perception with our senses. We experience by what wesee, what we hear, smell and touch. Without our senses there would be no experience. Fromour childhood on we learn from our experiences with the world around us. Rasmussen says:“By a variety of experiences (the child) quite instinctively learns to judge things according toweight, solidity, texture, heat-conducting ability.” All this also holds true for architecture.The stimuli we perceive with our senses tell us all we need to know about a space.In architecture all senses are important, but the sense of sight is very dominant. The othersenses are underappreciated in architecture. We could pay more attention to the other senses,as the combined perception of all the senses gives us our total experience of a space.Researches show us that perceiving solely with vision gives us a distorted perception ofspace, especially in comparison with the separate use of smell and touch. They tend todescribe space a lot more accurately. We leave so much of our spatial experience to chance ifwe leave the other senses untouched during the design process.“[…] modern design at large has housed the intellect and the eye, but has left the body andthe other senses, as well as our memories, imaginations and dreams, homeless.” (Pallasmaa)Bibliography:Books:                                                                                                                          17  Rebecca Maxwell , Peter-John Cantrill, “Beyond Appearances - Architecture and the senses” Available at:http://www.ebility.com/articles/beyondappearances.php     9
  11. 11. Peter Zumthor, “A Way of Looking at Things” (Spon Press, 2006)Rasmussen S.E., “Experiencing Architecture” (The MIT Press, 1962)Article in Books/on Internet:Kevin Lynch, “The City Image and Its Elements”, Melville C. Branch, Urban PlanningTheory (University of Southern Califonia, 1975)Rebecca Maxwell , Peter-John Cantrill, “Beyond Appearances - Architecture and the senses”Available at: http://www.ebility.com/articles/beyondappearances.php (Accessed 9 January2011)Internet:Multiplicity and Memory: Talking About Architecture with Peter Zumthor, Available at:http://www.archdaily.com/85656/multiplicity-and-memory-talking-about-architecture-with-peter-zumthor (Accessed 10 January 2011)Experiencing Workshop, Available at:http://issuu.com/simondroog/docs/workshop_experience?mode=embed&layout=http%3A%2F%2Fskin.issuu.com%2Fv%2Flight%2Flayout.xml&showFlipBtn=true&AID=10829131&PID=3662453&SID=skim725X515840 (Accessed 10 January 2011)Architectural Means, Available at:http://experiencingarchitecture.com/2010/05/18/architectural-means (Accessed 8 January2011)Jianwai SOHO: Leader in a New Way of Life, Available at:http://www.sohochina.com/en/news/detail.asp?id=21487&cid=12 (Accessed 11 January 2011)Jianwai SOHO Official Website Available at:http://www.sohochina.com/en/jianwai/index.asp (Accessed 1 January 2011)Jianwai SOHO/Riken Yamamoto, Available at: http://www.chinese-architecture.com/jianwai-sohoriken-yamamoto.html (Accessed 1 December 2010)   10
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