The Matsumoto Performing Art Center
Toyo Ito 2004
photo by mirutake May 2004
Starting from JR Matsumoto Station, I walked along the main street.
I recognized a gray round wall and that was what I was looking for.
The facade appeared to be just so simple.
How can a building stand with such thin columns. The impressive thinness of columns is certainly one of the highlights of the project.
As I faced the building . I found out that the right side of the outer wall made a large curve. It has turned out to be a pleasant site, which was never seen before. It looked so natural though it was not glass walled. The outer wall made beautiful curves. It appeared before me even as some kind of a scene of fairy tale. At this moment, I was not aware of the glass blocks glazed.
Children were gathering and playing around the canal's edge. The small canal ran along the circumference of the building.
The glass work around the front entrance area was simply done. It was only after I entered and faced the broad stairs, that I began to feel the huge interior. At this point I also noticed the bright glass blocks, looking like bubbles, glazed on the dark wall of the approach.
As I stepped up the wide staircase, it became dark and the glass blocks began to show up in dots. The effect of glass blocks getting in the sunlight was beautiful. In a quiet darkness, a brilliant atmosphere has been produced.
Outside scenery can be observed over the large glass window, fully glazed, blocking the wall line. The seatings are furnished. One can sit in front of the large glass.
The carpet around the seats are in lighter color.
The hallway leads curved walk.
As I entered the large hall, red inner walls in both big curves and small curves were altogether making waves forming the shape of a big horseshoe. The lighting made complicated stripes and a gorgeous effect has been produced.
It was a breathtaking scenery where red lights flowed out like a waterfall. It is easy to make the compliment in words, but there must have been so much trials and errors to bring out this effect.
A pleasantness prevailed in the atmosphere the whole day. It was an event held through the consecutive holidays, titled Citizen's Visiting Ｄay. It was nice to see people strolling about. As if getting tired from walking, some of them were seen taking naps on the seats of the large hall. It would be so nice if we were allowed to walk through inside the building like this event on no performance days.
Looking back from the stage side, the audience seats were printed in polka-dot patterns. The polka-dots were colored nearly black in the seats near the stage and as the seats went behind they became more red.
As I stood in front of the building,I found out that the wall on the right side was making a large curve. The place had turned out to be a pleasant one, which has never been seen before. Let's go on.
As it got dark outside in the evening, glass blocks began to light up. My goodness, something so fantastic had begun. The polka-dot pattern began to float up. This pleasant feeling and simple fantasy seem to appeal to all.
Although I simply felt pleasant, I wondered where this feeling came from. Can it be so fantastic ?
Anyway, I simply enjoyed the beautiful scene before me.
Let's think about this architecture.
Although these glass blocks seem to be made as windows to get in the sun-light, they are not enough to lighten up the inside. However, this time, it is the theatre for the opera, and the hallway is designed as a dark space which needs not to be filled with lights. Consequently, it has turned out to be a well composed, not too heavy but a very nice place. The glass blocks are used as the lighting device to light up the dark room.
Yes, these glass blocks function as a device to light up the hall dimly. And at the same time, this device in dim light is furnished as decoration. It tells so also from the fact that they are arranged irregularly and not in patterns.
Gradually I began to think about Toyo Ito's present place as embossing the concept of decoration.
When I thought of this finding , I was quite baffled. Because it seemed to say that the concept of modern architecture, in which the beauty was to be realized in accordance with the use and function. and building up the structure in plane composition , these were all connected in all with the arbitrary decorative method. It came to my mind that , after all, modern design might have been pursuing the concept of decoration as well.
Finding this point, I could not go on writing the visiting note of this Matsumoto Performing Art Center. It is impossible to keep on writing without a total acceptance.
Last time I remember writing that I belong to the generation, who had been taught that the decorative method was the last choice to take on designing architecture. This kind of decorative method in architecture can be seen in such works as the Meguro City Office Complex by Togo Murano, where he designed the inner walls of skylights paved with decorative artcraft tiles and the unique figure of cross shaped lighting apparatus in the entrance hall.
In my standard, the concept of modern architecture in general can be stated as follows: to seeks for the simplest form as possible on designing the necessary architectural parts to be used :to seek for a new form within that range.:to seek for the simplest plane composition:to find a new form bringing out the potential of the materials; to avoid arbitrariness and find a form related to its means. We seem to have tried to be free from the individual arbitrary form or adding the decoration itself.
On the contrary, architectural forms created by Makoto Watanabe and Shin Takamatsu are so unique and arbitrary but too individual that these works can be said to lack the premise of universal base. There may exist an universal theme in the root, but it is difficult to see. Superiority of the suggestion of forms is competed and the universal answer is not what is sought. Their essential point is based on the individual and arbitrary interest.
I now see that they have recently got close towards creating simpleness and the universal concept of modern architecture. I notice that the impressive cockroach of Oedo Line Idabashi Subway Station
was one of such examples.
When I think back to what has been presented, I can see the designer's efforts to make one step further, finding his new stance, without being so grand,
Although I pointed the decorative aspect out this time, it is not like that kind of decoration found in Koji Hara's works
, where patterns are clearly added, but is based on geometrical and abstractive decoration roughly jeweled with glass blocks. In the same way, the arbitrary aspect mentioned is not like Makoto Watanabe's or Frank Gehry's works. It is a simplified pattern which can be manufactured.
The most difficult place to be argued was the evaluation of the place of fantasy. Is it affirmable that the image aroused by the wall jeweled with glass blocks hasn't become excessive as that of the fairy tales of Disney Land, but is within the confines of our familiarity with the polka-dot ?
I finally was able to find his innovation in architecture in the decorative aspect with a most sophisticated way, taking a small step forward, which is never a step backward.
Whether or not this step is lead to the universal design of architecture in this age may be the point of evaluation..
A Roof Plaza (three pieces connected)