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HOME > FOCUS> Shuhei Endo and Sou Fujimoto: "New Geometry Architecture"
Shuhei Endo and Sou Fujimoto: "New Geometry Architecture"
Thomas Daniell
Freestanding strips of thin polystyrene foam Polystyrene surface used as a screen for images
Freestanding strips of thin polystyrene foam Polystyrene surface used as a screen for images
The gallery in the Kirin Plaza building, Shin Takamatsu's brooding masterpiece at the commercial heart of Osaka, has long provided a generous and hospitable venue for avant-garde art. In recent years, with architecture critic and historian Taro Igarashi as part of the curatorial team, exhibitions on avant-garde architecture have also become relatively frequent.

The current show is entitled "New Geometry Architecture: Toward an Alternative Modernism," and presents the work of two architects born a generation apart: Shuhei Endo (born in 1960, established his office in Osaka in 1988), and Sou Fujimoto (born in 1971, established his office in Tokyo in 2000). Although they have distinctive design approaches, they share an interest in unusual building forms, primarily involving curvilinear surfaces.

Shuhei Endo is well known for his experiments with corrugated steel sheets, which he forms into continuous looping bands that are able to act as walls or roofs. By using them to wrap and shelter architectural spaces, Endo gives a clear visual expression to his desire for spatial continuity between interior and exterior. Sou Fujimoto has produced a number of interesting built and unbuilt works that also experiment with unusual shapes, most notably his winning proposal for the Annaka Environment Art Forum competition. Although the project has sadly been cancelled, it would have been a vast single-level hall, ambiguously divided into smaller zones by a protean outer wall that simultaneously defined semi-enclosed exterior plazas.

Rather than just filling the gallery with models on tables and photographs on walls, the two architects have each taken half the space to install a full-scale fragment of their personal ideas about space and form. Safety regulations required them to use lightweight, light-colored polystyrene, and this same material has been used to line the gallery floor; visitors must change into slippers before entering the exhibition.

Endo's contribution is an array of freestanding strips of thin polystyrene foam, laminated in various combinations to give differing degrees of rigidity. They naturally tend to curl and droop, and the gallery air-conditioning keeps them waving at random speeds and rhythms. Some areas of the polystyrene surfaces are used as projection screens for images of Endo's buildings. Adjacent to this, Fujimoto has designed a thick polystyrene foam wall that traces a casual loop in plan, overlapping and intersecting itself -- an architectural object designed for the exhibition, with no direct relation to any of his real projects. Some very ordinary light fittings and items of furniture have been placed within, perhaps intended to contrast with the warped walls. Window-like notches give fragmentary views of the spaces inside, and of Endo's objects beyond.

Indeed, the two installations act as frames and backdrops for each other, and are complementary in their configurations -- droops in elevation versus loops in plan. Perhaps the primary difference between them is that Fujimoto has consciously designed his shapes, whereas Endo's shapes emerged naturally, reflecting the emphasis in his recent work on using catenary curves generated by the effects of gravity on construction materials.

It's a moot point as to whether there is anything especially new (or even geometrical) about the work here. Perhaps a limited budget kept the exhibition from being as innovative as it might have been, but the use of unadorned shapes made from a single material has distilled the show into a lucid and interesting spatial experience -- which is, after all, what an exhibition of architecture should provide.

Polystyrene wall tracing a casual loop in plan Ordinary items of furniture placed within
Polystyrene wall tracing a casual loop in plan Ordinary items of furniture placed within
All photos by Kazuo Fukunaga,
© Kirin Plaza Osaka
New Geometry Architecture: Toward an Alternative Modernism
Kirin Plaza Osaka / http://www.kirin.co.jp/active/art/kpo
15 July - 3 September 2006
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