Leading Japanese Architect Foresees Computers Unleashing an Era of Design Freedom

By Akio
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clicktotweetClick to Tweet: Computers are unleashing an era
of #design freedom in #architecture -@KengoKuma

Kengo Kuma’s architectural designs range from the whimsical (Asakusa Cultural and Tourism Center, a wildly stacked pillar of houses) to the dramatic (the steamship-shaped Victoria and Albert Museum rising in Dundee, Scotland), to the deceptively simple (Great (Bamboo) Wall, a house in China).

Through them he has discovered his calling – celebrating natural materials and creating human connections – and learned that a computer can be an architect’s best friend.

China Academy of Art’s Folk Art Museum (Image © Eiichi Kano)

In the years after World War II, Japanese architects grappled with building homes and businesses to replace what the conflict had destroyed and accommodate booming post-war growth. Japan needed fast recovery as its top priority, and its “first generation” architects delivered.

Kengo Kuma, founder of Kengo Kuma & Associates (KKAA) and one of today’s most celebrated Japanese architects, reveres that generation.

“The first-generation architects basically had to reconstruct Japan, and that sense of responsibility had a big bearing on everything they did,” he said.

Kenzo Tange, who designed the Yoyogi National Gymnasium built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, the building that inspired Kuma to become an architect, is a particular first-generation hero.

Thanks to Tange and those who came after – Arata Isozaki and Fumihiko Maki of the second generation, and Tadao Ando and Toyo Ito of the third generation – Kuma said he feels empowered to pursue a design freedom his predecessors never had.

“Japan’s a wealthy country now, rivaling the United States and Europe,” Kuma said in a wide-ranging interview. “For our generation, I’d say the main thematic question is what kind of architecture we can create in that context of comfort. I think this generation is trying to redefine architecture as a medium for people to connect with each other.”

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: “#Architecture is a medium for
people to connect with each other” -@KengoKuma

REDISCOVERING NATURE WITH A COMPUTER

Soaring buildings with swooping curves and awe-inducing metal façades – the type of architecture that has dominated for nearly two decades – create a sense of wonder, but don’t promote human intimacy or comfort. Instead, Kuma believes that natural materials create the peace that humans instinctively crave.

His most iconic designs – beginning with his award-winning guest house in China known as “Great (Bamboo) Wall” – prominently feature wood and bamboo.

Even the stadium he designed for the 2020 Olympics in Japan – the first Olympic stadium built in his country since Tange’s 1964 project – is defined by its wooden details.

Ironically, however, Kuma’s transition from the concrete, steel and glass of the Industrial Age to the traditional, natural materials that define KKAA’s newest and most iconic projects has been enabled by the leading symbol of the modern age: the computer.

Celebrated Japanese architect Kengo Kuma (Image © K.K. Human Centrix)

“It’s really difficult to use natural materials, to be honest,” Kuma said. “There is so much variability. No two pieces are the same, first of all, and you always have to deal with each material’s size restrictions. The challenge is figuring out how to get all those pieces to fit together and create a functional structure, and that’s where computers are so helpful. It seems to me that you need computer technology to bring natural materials to architectural fruition. Otherwise, they are just too diverse and complicated to orchestrate.”

AUTOMATING THE ROUTINE RELEASES CREATIVITY

By managing many of the critical but routine and time-consuming tasks – from verifying structural integrity to compiling precise lists of materials to managing budgets – advanced computer technology, especially Building Information Management (BIM), actually frees architects to focus on creativity, Kuma said.

“Technological progress had had a big impact. We use CAD to design things in 3D now, for example. With computers, we can dream up virtually any architectural space and convert those ideas into actual drawings. As technology continues to liberate our imaginations, it’s cool how the digital advances in the architectural world have gone step-in-step with a renewed awareness of ‘the real thing.’”

Modern architects tend to spend most of their time finding solutions to engineering, scheduling and budget problems, not creating great designs, Kuma said.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: #Architects are spending time engineering/scheduling/
budgeting, not on creating great designs @KengoKuma @3DSAEC #BIM

“When you call on what BIM can do, it becomes possible to balance out engineering- type solutions with creativity. For example, people used to balance the budget at the end of the project to see whether the costs fell in line with the projections. Those days are now gone. Now you must have your budget in mind right out of the gates and work under those preconditions the whole time, gathering feedback and adjustments as you go. That’s why it’s almost impossible to manage your budget without BIM.

“Achieving a balance of solutions and creativity is one of the biggest issues in the architecture industry. If we can find a way to put these two things together, then I feel we can massively transform the architecture industry.”

DEMOCRATIZING DESIGN

While computers give architects more freedom, however, they also create an environment in which they will face more challenges to their authority, Kuma said.

“Computers democratize architecture,” he said.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: “Computers democratize
#architecture” -@KengoKuma @3DSAEC

“For example, someone who is a complete newcomer to architecture will be able to design their own house. Architects who have enjoyed privilege up to now may be opposed to this, but ultimately I think that architecture will belong to everyone. When that happens, I think we will be in for a very interesting future.”

In this new era, Kuma envisions architects being valued less for their engineering prowess and their ability to bring projects in on time and budget and more for their creativity and ability to create harmony, both in the buildings they design and in the working environments they create.

“If you try to make architecture more complicated, there is no end to how complicated it can get,” Kuma said.

“For that reason, I make sure to keep a model right in front of me. Everyone gathers around the model and talks. I feel that’s the key to not getting complicated. Everyone is actually very interested in architecture. So I think that if we keep things simple, a number of different people can take part in it.”

Sunny Hills Japan (Image © Daici Ano)

NURTURING AN OPEN, CREATIVE ENVIRONMENT

Part of keeping the working environment open involves avoiding hierarchical structures so that everyone’s ideas can be heard, Kuma said, even as KKAA expands beyond Japan with offices in China and Paris.

“I try to maintain a flat organizational structure,” Kuma said. “We want people to understand that they must take on a certain amount of risk when they assume responsibility for something, so we try to stay away from building too much of a hierarchy. That structure lulls you into thinking that someone else higher up on the ladder will always be there, ready to take responsibility for whatever you do. We want everyone to feel responsible for themselves and know that they are creators.”

In addition to encouraging a sense of responsibility, he encourages cultural diversity in KKAA’s staff.

“This diversity doesn’t dilute the character of KKAA; it strengthens it,” he said. “Our organization should be structured so that all of these people can really participate. That is what makes the identity of the organization stronger.”

Kuma’s philosophy is consistent with his definition of leadership.

“I think how qualified you are as a leader really depends on how easy of an environment you can create for everyone to speak up,” he said. “If you create an environment where everyone can easily speak their mind, different opinions will come forth and from those opinions you can find a balance. If nobody expresses their opinions, there’s really nothing you can do.”

A LONG-TERM VIEW

In a world that is rediscovering the beauty of natural materials and human connections, of sustainability and long-term value, Kuma believes that architects are well positioned to lead.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: #Architects can lead us into an era of human connections,
#sustainability & long-term value -@KengoKuma @3DSAEC

“The advantage the architecture industry has is that it can think over longer timespans, as much as 10 years from the start to the finish of project,” he said.

“We are entering an age that is going to be all about taking longer periods of time to think about what will make people happy, rather than shooting for short-term increases in profit.

“Architects are accustomed to listening to people about things. They are accustomed to thinking about things over long periods of time. Architects are people with universally applicable skills.”

Originally published in COMPASS: The 3DEXPERIENCE Magazine

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Kengo Kuma & Associates Adopts Design for Fabrication

Kengo Kuma & Associates Adopts “Design for Fabrication”

By Akio
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China Academy of Art’s Folk Art Museum, Hangzhou, China.
Photo Credit: Eiichi Kano.

We are pleased to announce Kengo Kuma & Associates (KKAA) has selected Design for Fabrication, our BIM solution on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, to improve design speed, accuracy, and collaboration.

KKAA, Japan’s leading architecture firm, is using the AEC industry solution experience from Dassault Systèmes to enhance the quality and efficiency of its architectural designs with a cloud-based collaborative design environment.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: .@KengoKuma & Associates
Adopts Design for Fabrication

KKAA’s designs introduce organic materials that are native to an architectural site’s region—a sophisticated blend of architecture and nature that infuses bamboo, wood, stone and other resources with lengths, angles, cross-sections, arches, patterns and other parameters.

Saint-Denis Pleyel Emblematic Train Station. Photo Credit: Kengo Kuma & Associates.

Notable international KKAA projects include:

  • New National Stadium, Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Stadium (ongoing)
  • V&A Museum of Design, Dundee, Scotland (ongoing)
  • China Academy of Art’s Folk Art Museum, Hangzhou, China
  • Saint-Denis Pleyel Emblematic Train Station, Paris, France (ongoing)

The Design for Fabrication industry solution experience, based on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, provides KKAA with a reliable digital design and collaborative environment, for concept design through fabrication of any architecture project.

This BIM solution enhances KKAA’s parametric design operation and data accuracy capabilities in its design and downstream processes. It also helps KKAA handle organic materials, whose different shapes, lengths and other irregular factors make their use in architecture difficult.

In addition, because of the cloud, Design for Fabrication offers KKAA the scalability to support projects with colleagues in Tokyo, Paris and Beijing. It facilitates real-time access to a single source of project data, enabling KKAA to create more informed designs anytime and anywhere, reduce later rework, and more accurately predict project costs and timelines.

KKAA has the flexibility to improve and refine designs to reflect detailed customer requirements, and can share design models with all stakeholders.

Design for Fabrication provides us with design control capabilities that improve our design speed and accuracy dramatically,” said Toshiki Meijo, Chief of Design Division, KKAA. “Our team can access a single digital resource to better coordinate projects, gather feedback and make any necessary design adjustments. In the future, we plan to deepen this level of collaboration in order to manage multiple projects across offices worldwide while maintaining the high caliber of our designs.”

“Our industry solution experiences tailored for the architecture, engineering and construction industry provide digital continuity between design data and the fabrication model for the shop floor, to reduce redundant design, waste and rework,” said Marty Doscher, Vice President, AEC Industry, Dassault Systèmes.

“Architects at KKAA can more efficiently work with fabricators and builders across the globe to create breathtaking architectural experiences.”

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: How the @kengokuma team efficiently works
w/fabricators & builders worldwide on breathtaking #architecture

V&A Museum of Design, Dundee. Photo Credit: Kengo Kuma & Associates.

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Kengo Kuma & Associates

The Reimagining of Cities

By Alyssa
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clicktotweetClick to Tweet: The Reimagining of Cities | #VirtualSingapore
#3DEXPERIENCECity @3DSAEC

The last half-century has seen massive growth in urban populations. This trend is expected to continue: experts predict 6.5 billion people will live in cities by 2050. And with all cities covering less than 3% of Earth, overpopulation, overpollution and overburdened infrastructure create significant challenges.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: “Cities are the most complex products that humans
make” – @BernardCharles @Dassault3DS #urbanplanning

To address this will require a radical rethinking of our relationship with, and to, urban environments, as well as a shift in mindset within the architecture, engineering and construction industries.

Whether you live in a city or a different type of area, most likely you’ve thought about things you wish you could change. Maybe you think there should be a traffic light in a place that is missing one. Or an easier way to find a parking space, or a new place to live. Technology is now allowing everyday citizens to have this type of influence, and Singapore is leading the way.

Check out this 1-minute video to get a taste of what is happening in a project called Virtual Singapore:

In today’s world, people are constantly generating data. If planners can harness and analyze that data, they can create intelligent cities that better meet the ever-changing needs of citizens.

When completed in 2018, users of Virtual Singapore will be able to map and analyze big data points to simulate scenarios and solutions for everything from disaster evacuation to finding an apartment.

Virtual Singapore will help inform people about where to get the best mobile phone coverage, or allow disabled people to virtually plan an optimal route before venturing out into the streets. Firms can use the information to create better buildings – not just by adding amenities for those living or working in them, but even to architect a specific design to improve air flow throughout the city. Data can also help better identify sun patterns to create more sustainable green spaces. And all of this can be tested (and retested) virtually to help get it just right.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: Take an in-depth look at the
future of #cities | @3DSAEC @CNBCCatalyst

Dassault Systèmes, in conjunction with CNBC Catalyst Content Studio, created an in-depth look at the future of cities, including the need to find equilibrium between government, private business and the public to make these areas successful.

The content – which includes interactive graphics, videos and articles – also explores how 3D printing is being applied to quickly build apartment buildings to meet the burgeoning urban populations.

Click here to get your imagination going about what tomorrow’s cities might look like and how people like you can participate in the process.

Related Resources

CNBC: The Reimagining of Cities

3DEXPERIENCECity

AEC Industry Solution Experiences from Dassault Systèmes



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