Leading Japanese Architect Foresees Computers Unleashing an Era of Design Freedom

By Akio
Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

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

RELATED RESOURCES

Façade Design for Fabrication Industry Process Experience

WHITEPAPER Technological Changes Brought by BIM to Façade Design

Kengo Kuma & Associates Adopts Design for Fabrication

Visualizing 3D Design with Ease

By Alyssa
Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Designers have been working in 3D software for years, generally reviewing their work on a 2D computer screen.  Even as larger monitors were produced, there were limits to how well a product could be viewed on a flat surface; not all product elements could be seen enough to ensure issues were caught early – critical since that’s when it is a lot less expensive to make changes.

Some large, well-funded companies developed immersive CAVEs (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment): virtual reality environments consisting of a cube-shaped room in which the walls, floors and ceilings are projection screens.  Donning a VR headset, users can interact aided by devices such as wands, joysticks or data gloves.

But not everyone can afford to build a CAVE, and even those that can are limited by the expense of the headsets and by the requirement that users be present at the facility in which the CAVE is located.

In 2016, a new solution for 3D design review emerged: low-cost head mounted devices, or HMDs. This development is opening up an entirely new age of design.  Now, many more designers and engineers – regardless of where in the world they are – can immerse themselves in a design and experience it in a way that makes any issues much more evident.  This saves time and money because changes can be made before the physical product is built.

Check out the latest issue of Compass for an article entitled “Product Design Enters a New Reality.”  You’ll discover examples of how organizations like Embraer and NASA are leveraging this immersive virtuality (iV) technology, and how they expect it to improve their designs and the processes behind them, as different teams can collaborate more easily and see – and resolve – issues in less time.

 

Images © Embraer and © HTC

Making Lean/Agile Work

By Catherine
Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

 

By Catherine Bolgar

Businessman designing a project

Product life cycles are shrinking fast in high-tech industries. Companies face pressure to perform on measures that often are at odds with each other: speeding up innovation, managing increasing complexity and keeping costs under control.

Most companies turn to modular architectures to break complex projects into manageable parts, according to “design rules” that organize the pieces into a hierarchy and allow for governance.

“The set of design rules determines who can access what kind of information,” explains Rick Kazman, professor of information technology management at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. “Ignorance is strength—that fact that I don’t know, and don’t need to know, how you implement the rules you present to me is a good thing. I can only focus on so much detail. So not having to think about the details of how you do your thing frees up my mind.

Wikispeed, a group of volunteers from around the world, used lean/agile techniques with modular architecture to develop a car with gas mileage of 100 miles per gallon, or 1.5 liters per 100 kilometers. And they did it in three months.

“It was the shortest design cycle ever from idea to road-certified vehicle,” says Joe Justice, chief executive of Wikispeed and president of hardware at Scrum Inc., a Cambridge, Massachusetts, which trains and coaches companies on implementing Scrum techniques. Scrum is an organizational framework for fast software development.

Group Of Designers Having Meeting Around Table In OfficeIt’s an agile way to manage a project, Mr. Justice says, offering companies less complex governance. Though the idea started for software development, “all companies now are software companies,” he adds. Loosely coupled modules allow hardware, as well as software, to be developed in one-week cycles.

At this rate of change, long-term planning requires a shift toward agility, notes J.J. Sutherland, chief product owner at Scrum Inc. “People would lay out a five-year plan and spend hundreds of millions building [the product]. And halfway through, they would realize that what they were making wasn’t what they need. But they can’t change, because of the cost,” he says.

The Scrum framework involves five short, focused meetings a week, each with a specific agenda and participants trained on what they are to do in each meeting.

It’s modeled on professional sports, where everybody knows what they have to do in each play,” Mr. Justice says.

The work is divided into small modules and the teams into small cross-functional groups of three to nine people. The arrangement provides teams with both ignorance—they don’t need to get bogged down in other groups’ work—and also transparency and visibility into what is being built and what is actually going to be delivered and when.

“The act of teamwork makes everything visible. It becomes part of the actual workflow,” Mr. Sutherland says.

Maintaining independent modules allows for them to be changed without having to change the entire system. But that only works if the design rules are respected, and in the real world, many systems have design flaws, Dr. Kazman says.

“Software systems degrade,” he explains. “That means that over time, developers are going to spend more and more time and effort trying to make changes and fix bugs and deal with the accidental complexity that has accumulated. That means less energy goes into the actual business of your business, like adding features that your customers care about.”

programmer profession - man writing programming code on laptopBecause such degradation happens so incrementally it goes unnoticed, then ignored, until it reaches a crisis level that requires a concerted cleanup. “It becomes the new normal and people just accept it,” Dr. Kazman says. “A lot of the time, developers aren’t aware of the problems. They know they have a yucky feeling but don’t know exactly what to fix.”

Tools can help to automatically identify design flaws. Tooling can determine the number of bugs in the flawed part of the system compared with the well-structured part. At some point, continuing development with the bugs slowing everything down will cost more than just fixing the problems.

Architects need to be proactive thought leaders in terms of promoting modularity and design rules,” Dr. Kazman says. “They need to teach, audit and give examples. They need to be the gatekeeper to ensure that the rules are followed and, if not, that there’s a conscious action to fix the problem.”

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, now working as a freelance writer and editor with WSJ. Custom Studios in EMEA. For more from Catherine Bolgar, along with other industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of iStock



Page 1 of 4712345...102030...Last »