25 May 2013

59 TOYO ITO - Tomorrow Where Shall We Live? Bangkok, 1996

It was in January 1996 when Toyo Ito gave his first lecture in Bangkok.

Actually he was already in Bangkok in early 80s. Then he got the impression of people living 'like a fish' on the watery environment from the canal of Bangkok.

“I recall a boat ride I once took on a canal in Bangkok and the impression made on me by the sight of people living on the water’s edge. The people had adapted successfully to their watery environment......... The people dwell like fish, their bodies steeped in water......... The water flowing about those people was overwhelming, and the space that enveloped them was extraordinarily humid.”

from Toyo Ito, “The Transparent Urban Forest”, The Japan Architect, 1995-3 (Programming)

First excursion of Ito-san in 1996 visit, therefore, was a boat ride in the canals he likes.

In the photo here, there are Kulapat Yantrasast, Sujin Osatarayakul, myself, Ito-san, and Pratran Teeratada

On the back of the boat, we have Pakorn Mahapant and Suphakij Pathamanad. 

The boat ride, perhaps, fascinated Ito-san even more, because Bangkok was, no longer a natural primitive environment as when he first visit in the early 80s. But rather it was partly transformed into a modern metropolis with recent advanced technology influenced the way people living with its original primitive environment - people living on the canals were equipped already with cellular phones and satellite systems.
The way people in Bangkok lived, impressed him. While the way he got impressed, fascinated us who had been living in Bangkok since we remembered.

The title of the lecture was "Architecture in the Electronic Age". Ito-san introduced the concept of living with the new technology, especially in the media environment.  The role of architecture as an artificial or second nature to integrate the relationship between man nature was emphasized.

The lecture was hosted by art4d  and sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric (Thailand) and Japan Cultural Center Bangkok. Thanks to Monkon Ponanutree and Pratarn Teeratada, the editors of art4d, who actively supported the event. Kulapat Yantrasast of WHY architecture, who, by then was completing his Ph.D. at The University of Tokyo and I were coordinating the event.

After the lecture, Ito-san got a great idea. He proposed us (art4d + Kulapat + I) to continue our event in Bangkok by doing a competition and exhibition throughout the year of 1996. We were extremely intrigued and very honoured. He even offered to help for sponsorship from Japanese companies in Bangkok. Ito-san told Mitsubishi Electric executives that he must to support the future architects of Thailand!

The series of events in 1996 in Bangkok, began with the lecture in January, followed by the competition for ideas for an installation with the title "Tomorrow Where Shall We Live?".

"ในช่วง 20 ปีสุดท้ายของศตวรรษที่ 20 นี้ เมืองใหญ่หลายๆ แห่งของไทย โดยเฉพาะกรุงเทพฯในฐานะศูนย์กลาง ดูจะได้พัฒนาไปอย่างมาก พื้นที่เมืองหรือ urban space ที่เป็นผลพวงจากวัฒนธรรมไทยที่หล่อเลี้ยงสภาพแวดล้อม น้ำและธรรมชาติที่อุดมสมบูรณ์ในเขตมรสุมนี้  ได้ถูกพัฒนาไปโดยได้รับเทคโนโลยีสมัยใหม่เพิ่มเข้ามา อาคารมากมายหลากหลายถูกสร้างขึ้นมา เครือข่ายการสัญจรขยายตัวออกไปอย่างกว้างขวาง นอกจากนี้ยังมีพัฒนาการที่รวดเร็วปานสายฟ้าของเทคโนโลยีการสื่อสาร (communication & media) ที่ผ่านประสิทธิภาพที่สูงขึ้นของระบบคอมพิวเตอร์ต่างๆ อาจกล่าวได้ว่าเทคโนโลยีเหล่านี้ กำลังทำให้พื้นที่อยู่อาศัย (living space) ตลอดจนรูปแบบชุมชนของเรา เปลี่ยนแปลงไปอย่างมากทีเดียว แต่ทว่า พร้อมๆ กับความสะดวก หากกลับกลายเป็นผลที่เราได้รับจากการที่มีคนมาอยู่อาศัยร่วมกันในเมืองใหญ่ จนปัจจุบัน "ปัญหาคนเมือง" เหล่านี้ได้กลายเป็นวิกฤตการณ์ในชีวิตประจำวันของพวกเราไปเสียแล้ว ณ.วันนี้ ที่เรากำลังก้าวสู่ศตวรรษที่ 21 ถึงเวลาแล้วที่เราต้องมาช่วยกันคิด เปิดมุมองพิจารณากันใหม่อีกที ถึงความสัมพันธ์ระหว่างธรรมชาติและเทคโนโลยีและสภาพแวดล้อมพักอาศัยของเรา ว่าจะมีลักษณะอย่างไร แล้วสำหรับตัวคุณเอง อยากจะอาศัยอยู่ในสถานที่แบบไหน สภาพแวดล้อมอย่างไร ในอนาคตอันไม่ไกลนี้ ลองเสนอความคิดแบบมีรูปธรรมมาดูกัน แล้วมารอดูกันว่าเมื่อฝันของคุณได้ทำให้เป็นจริงขึ้นมาแล้ว มันจะมีลักษณะเป็นอย่างไร "

Competition Brief of "Tomorrow Where Shall We Live?". 

This time, we got the support from Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University as a co-host with art4d for the event. Also Ito-san helped us to get the sponsorship from Shimizu Corporation, Taisei Corporation, Thai Kajima Corporation, Thai Obayashi Corporation, Thai Takenaka Corporation and of course, Mitsubishi Electric.

In May 1996, Ito-san came back to Bangkok to judge the competition. Six students entries and Six professional entries were selected.

After that the twelve selected entries worked on developing their ideas into an installation which was installed during Chulalongkorn Academic Exposition 1996, in November the same year. It was a very big deal event. I was then studying in Colombia University in New York and returned to Bangkok for one week for the event. Kulapat was also working in Japan, he, as well, returned to Bangkok. It was a big reunion too.

We went to venue together a day before the event with Ito-san, and got very excited. Almost every corner of Faculty of Architecture buildings were transformed into an installation space in an attempt to answer the question of Toyo Ito: Tomorrow Where Shall We Live?

I wrote a report on the whole year event for a+u magazine 97:11:

..."(to answer the question) Tomorrow Where Shall We Live?" seem to focus on media and communication technology according to his lecture and message. However, the most interesting point in this event is how to formulate the message of the future with the specific context: Bangkok, the opposition of nature and technology.

From the imagination of participants to a time they have never reached, an urban approach is used in Blowing in the Winds, Penthouse SALA in the Forest City and Express Way Module House. The imagine Bangkok urban space in the future as a product of the present development such as a left over space between buildings, under expressway structure or the rooftops of high rise buildings. The solutions result from using media as an additive dimension compensating for the loss of pleasant space. Particularly in Blowing in the Winds the flow of winds and media is an important characteristic to generate living space according to their similar nature.

At the same time, Experiment in Ripple Space, Future Resident System, Share Time, Envelope and Virtuosoic Evolution predict new social conditions and use architecture as a response to new social systems.....

Exposed Living and Naked House focus on the lost of tangible human dimension by extreme use of media and computer technology... The last group seems to answer the question of tomorrow by more abstract installation with an idea from Buddhist Philosophy. Wel Come Home expresses the journey of our life through time that finally ends with death...... Untitled 1996 which is full of multimedia installation, approaches living space as the mass of energy of four basic elements combining to be emptiness, while 'light' in the architecture space represents enlightenment, the infinite for the future.

Almost all of the installations propose to visualize their ideal space from the imagination. They produce direct experiences in the audience through the model space and inadvertently architectural form itself seems to be less important. As the nature of invisible media, architecture with minimal form but maximum effect would be the answer for our tomorrow....."

Ito-san also sent his installation with the name of Tarzans in the Forest of Media - the idea of media cladding which is light and flexible and that protects us and controls the profuse flood of information was represented in the installation by a model of the rather abstract version of the interior space of his by then on-going project, Sendai Mediatheque.

The installation "Tarzans in the Forest of Media", Bangkok, 1996

In the world, although the event could be very small drops of water in the big sea, it was very significant for the place such as Bangkok. Many architects and young students were inspired and encouraged to rethink about their role as an architect, the environment where they live and want to live.

In 2006,  ten years after, when Ito-san had his solo exhibition, The New Real in Architecture in Tokyo, his exhibition allocated a small part to mention our event in 1996. He hopes to see the future of Asian architects / architecture growing up from Bangkok! 

On March 17, 2013, it was announced that Ito-san is 2013 Pritzker Prize laureate, the sixth Japanese architect who received the honour.

His great works have shown how great architect he is. But it is not only that. The very small events he did with us in Bangkok has shown that he is greater than the works can tell. His enthusiasm to engage the future generation of architects anywhere is truly impressive.

I am certain many architects in Bangkok, who in 1996 had a chance to be in his lecture, to be part of the competition and finally installation including myself, got influenced by Ito-san eagerness to create solution for people to live peacefully, pleasantly and naturally in the built environment. We promise we will try our best to answer your question every time we build...  As the question is very simple, very true and very inspiring --- "Tomorrow Where Shall We Live?".

Thank you very much Ito-san. 

The participants in "Tomorrow Where Shall We Live?" installation:
The Exposed Living: 
Kanika R'Preedakul
Wel Come Home:
Terdpong Mongsonti, Wuttinun Jinsiriwanich, Wit Ariyasriwattana
Blowing in the Winds:
NopppadolChatpattanapong, Sant Suwatcharapinun, Tortakul Nisawattannun
Penthouse SALA on the Forest City:
Hiroyuki Nishioka, Tomohiro Nakamura, Prasitchai Promliphonkul, Prajerd Chabchoy, Vicha Leelathanankul
Naked House:
Yanyong Junviranong
An Experiment in Ripple Space:
Runroj Leesinsawad
Future Resident System:
Direk Wonpanitkrit
Expressway Module House:
Seri Sawangwattanarat
Share Time:
Noppon Pisutharnon, Jessada Srivanichayaporn, Norrarit Boonsomchitr, Sarawoot Juntarasangaram
Virtuosiuc Evolution:
Puttichart Wanichtat, Kitti Monkolwibool
Untitled 1996:
Sarawut Chutiwongpit

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