Wednesday, October 16, 2013

inspiration...toyo ito

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2002 by Toyo Ito & Cecil Balmond & Arup

Tama Art University Library by Toyo Ito

Hermes Pavilion by Toyo Ito
image via:

Last night I had the surprise pleasure of hearing 2013 Pritzker Award winning Japanese architect, Toyo Ito speak about his most recent work and his future goals for architecture. Sadly, I had no clue who he was walking into the lecture, oops! But upon leaving, I took away a few nuggets of wisdom that I can apply to my own approach to design.

Above are a few examples if you too are not familiar with his 40+ years of work. His designs are very cool and futuristic—using glossy finishes and angular facets to soaring arches of concrete and glass. I especially find the Tama Art Library interesting due to the variety of seating designs—basic table and chairs for discussions, to personal study in front of huge nature facing windows, inset benches for lying down, and tippy stools for seated body movement. The last example features his work for the Hermès Pavilion showcasing their watchmaking creations on display at Baselworld 2013 in Switzerland. I picked up on the relation to his bent wood technique he featured for a new library opening in 2014 (sorry, no pictures allowed and couldn't find them on-line) to theses Hermès structures, not realizing that this was also his work! I find this technique very beautiful, comfortable and organic, my kind of modern design.

His main message for the night was to feature his recent project Homes-For-All that came out of the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. As an architect, to see entire communities destroyed and buildings lost has to be devastating, but it takes a good person to ask themselves how they can help using their skills to meet a need. He and his company began to design privately funded community spaces for these remote villages that were totally destroyed, to supplement what was lacking in the government provided housing. He said he took off his "architect" title and sat down with these farmers to hear from them their needs. His designs became human focused, nature focused and history focused, something he noted was not often related to modern design in urban cities. Often, in an urban setting, buildings do not relate to each other, just as personal units to not relate to each other, therefore creating a homogenous city scape lacking any reflection of a unique community with distinct history. (He shared an image of Tokyo that seriously could have been anywhere, which surprised me and made his point.) These farmers did not choose to live in the modern cities, so why bring this kind of design approach to rebuild their community? He and his team built brick ovens, pressed mud floors, and cut down damaged trees to use for structures in each of these different communities. After 40 years of pushing the architecture envelope, he showed his design strength by not forgetting to listen to the client, and in the end, he made so much of a difference in quality of life in each community.

Life Lesson: know when to use your ego, know when to leave it at the door.

Home-For-All built in the Miyagino ward in the city of Sendai (note the more traditional design aesthetic)
more information Home-For-All via

He ended his lecture with his new goal for architecture:

Open to nature, harmonize with people.
Toyo Ito / 2013

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