Incendie de la biosphère

Archives de la Ville de Montréal, VM94-Ud77-27

The above image is not a computer graphic. The Buckminister Fuller and Cambridge Seven Associates and built for Expo 67 in acrylic and steel, burst into flames while it was being renovated in 1976. The fire was triggered during welding work on the frame and the acrylic shell was consumed by flames in about thirty minutes. No one was killed in the accident, though there may have been some injuries. Not surprisingly, the fire has reportedly [1] made it easier to climb the structure, though I have not verified this myself.

Here’s a presentation by Cambridge Seven Associates. A cool feature of the pavilion was that the Expo monorail train route passed through the sphere. I recall feeling excited by the building but being disappointed by the somewhat vague exhibition inside. For example, you couldn’t walk on the simulated lunar landscape – pretty frustrating for a five year old.

[1] (see comments)

Post-industrial Montreal

Pictures taken not far from where I used to live (Rue Bernard and Ave du Parc, in Outremont) as an undergraduate at Mcgill. There was already some post-industrial urban decay in those days, but the grafitti wasn’t as good. It feels like I’ve been on top of this building long ago, but surely it can’t have been abandoned for that long – probably déjà vu. Seems a little dangerous: there’s a sink hole where the roof is starting to cave in. And unhealthy: tons of pigeon shit and mold everywhere.

The building may be the location of this video:

or maybe it was shot in the Bovril building on the other side of Parc.

Projection Mapping Installation, Hala Stulecia, Wroclaw, Poland

O (Omicron) from Romain Tardy (AntiVJ) on Vimeo.

For more information about Hala Stulecia, a UNESCO world heritage building, see the home page, or the Wikipedia page.

Interviews with the designers are also available (unfortunately not really a ‘making of’ video, since they do not reveal much about their methods):

O (Omicron) / Making of from Romain Tardy (AntiVJ) on Vimeo.

Marc Riboud @ Kahitsukan

The Kahitsukan (何必館), a contemporary art gallery in Gion that frequently exhibits black and white photography, currently has a show of prints by Magnum photojournalist, Marc Riboud. The exhibition closes on April 22. If you are interested in seeing the exhibition, and would like a free ticket, let me know.

There’s a really good tsubo niwa (坪庭) on the top floor of the Kahitsukan.


Retro-Futurism, continued

For some time I have been meaning to point out an excellent article on the avant-garde Japanese architectural movement of the 1960’s known as Metabolism. The article, by Amelia Groom, is titled Past Futures, was published in Frieze magazine earlier this month, and includes an interview of Pritzker prize-winning architect/theorist Rem Koolhaas by writer/musician Nick Currie (Momus) who was a guest speaker in our zemi in late 2010. Rem Koolhaas has recently published Project Japan, Metabolism Talks, in conjunction with the Metabolism exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo last year.

The following quote from the Frieze article, a statement by Arata Isozaki (磯崎新) about the Big Roof pavillon at Expo’70, has stayed with me over the several weeks since I read the article:

Okamoto’s tower was allegedly named in reference to Season of the Sun, the 1955 novel by the disreputable current governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, in which the protagonist breaks through a shoji paper screen with his erect penis. The Metabolists’ disapproval of it is encapsulated by Arata Isozaki’s histrionic condemnation in his 2006 book Japan-ness in Architecture: ‘Alas, when at last I saw Okamoto’s tower (looking like a giant phallus) penetrating the soft membrane of the roof, I thought to myself that the battle for modernity had finally been lost.


Here is precisely the meeting of avant-garde modernity with kitsch in an extremely candid and memorable fashion. As we know, Kenzo Tange’s (丹下健三) Big Roof is long gone but the Tower of the Sun (太陽の塔) has become perhaps Osaka’s most iconic landmark. I also found interesting a passage claiming Taro Okamoto (岡本太郎) framed this tension in terms of a simplistic Jomon/Yayoi dichotomy:

Okamoto had pushed for modern Japan to embrace what he considered to be the dynamic, primitive spirit of the nation’s Jomon legacy (c.14,000–300BCE), as opposed to what was perceived as the refined, reductionist and aristocratic aesthetic of the subsequent Yayoi era (300BCE–300CE).

Such simplifying theories of nationality were no doubt influenced by Okamoto’s Surrealist pals during his lengthy stay in Paris in the 1930’s.

Teshima Art Museum – 豊島美術館

The Teshima Art Museum opened in 2011. The center piece of this outdoor ‘museum’ is a concrete thin-shell structure by artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa. Two oval openings in the roof let pass the sounds of the trees, birds, the wind, and the nearby Inland Sea. Water seeps slowly through many tiny holes in the floor, aggregates into drops of various sizes then snakes towards the lowest local point, where it empties again into the tiny holes. Visitors wander the strangely shaped, barren space, a singular environment that selectively amplifies sounds inside and outside the shell. Gradually attention is drawn towards the drama of surface tension and energy minimization being played upon the floor. Watching the surprisingly complex dynamic shapes of the water drops suggests fantasies about the origins of life on earth. The remarkable and somewhat mysterious physical properties of water must be part of what led living matter to get a start on the planet. The shell provides a shelter for quiet and focused meditation on the sounds of the surrounding natural environment and the movements of water on the smooth subtly shaped concrete. Late 20th century technology, in the form of the thin concrete shell, initially visually impressive both outside and inside, gradually slips into the background.

From the museum home page:

Uniting the creative visions of artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa, Teshima Art Museum stands on a hill on the island of Teshima overlooking the Inland Sea. Shaped like a drop of water, the museum lies in a corner of the spacious grounds surrounded by once-fallow rice terraces that have been restored with help from local residents.
Structurally, the building consists of a concrete shell, devoid of pillars, coving a space 40 by 60 meters. On the highest ceiling 4.5 meters above, two oval openings allow the air, sounds, and light of the world outside into this organic space where nature and architecture seem intimately interconnected. Inside one finds an ever-flowing fountains and an ambiance that changes from hour to hour and season to season, revealing countless appearances as time passes.