CULTURE

Columns and reports

February 3, 2020

Chapter 2: The frame – the window as optical device or trompe l’oeil from Mantegna to Ryan Gander

Whether facing outwards to the world or inwards to the self, an artist is often restrained by the framing device of the window—unable to break free from a rectilinear box or blank surface that demands to be filled, but which can never contain the sheer volume of possibilities and countless multitudes of our cosmos. Indeed, as an aperture, the window, canvas or blank sheet of paper is but a tiny fraction of the whole, representing only a glimpse of our visible reality. While this narrow view might contend that a window or a work of art is a necessarily compromised and merely partial inlet or outlet, it is equally true that much of our life is now increasingly being mediated by these rectilinear boundaries – whether through a television screen, a page, a photograph or a handheld phone or tablet. Rather than permitting only a restricted field of vision, these windows could be seen as magical portals to other universes or even just uncanny and lifelike portrayals of experience.

Accuracy was one of the first and foremost forms of pictorial magic performed by artists, with two early Greek painters, Zeuxis and Parrhasius competing to see whose picture could better fool the eye in an account recorded by Pliny the Elder. Zeuxis painted a bunch of grapes so compelling that birds came down to feast on them. Parrhasius congratulated his opponent and beckoned him to see his work behind a curtain, only for Zeuxis to find that the curtain was the painting.

Featured
July 18, 2018

You Make a Better Window Than a Door

Fenestration Observations is a series of window disquisitions by Matthew Fargo. In it, the translator of Genpei Akasegawaʼs Hyperart Thomasson probes the city for hidden and forgotten features of the fenestral landscape. Join him on his hunt for windows that, seen in a particular light—from a particular and tangential vantage—become accidental works of art.
In this first installation, Fargo conducts an observation on a window from an industrial building in San Francisco.

January 14, 2020

“Traditional” Balsamic Vinegar in Modena, Northern Italy

Among fruit vinegars made from grapes, a balsamic vinegar is an essential seasoning for Italian cuisine. In the city of Modena in northern Italy, it has been used as an anti-fatigue and digestive medicine among nobility and emperors since the Middle Ages. The reason why Modena is said to be the birthplace of balsamic vinegar is because the regionʼs soil, topography and climatic conditions are ideal for grapes (varieties: Lambrusco, Torrebiano, Ancerotta) and the annual temperature in Modena is ideal for aging balsamic vinegar.

In this article, I will refer to balsamic vinegar in Modena as “traditional” balsamic vinegar, distinguishing it from ordinary balsamic vinegar. The difference is in its production method. Ordinary balsamic vinegar that you usually see at supermarkets is made by adding wine vinegar*, coloring, flavoring, caramel, etc, after having fermented it with acetic acid in wooden barrels for 3 to 4 years. “Traditional” balsamic vinegar does not have added ingredients, and is produced by aging in wooden barrels for over 10 years.

The “Acetair Sereni” brewery produces balsamic vinegar in this way. In order to get to the distillery, one has to go up and down the many hills scattered around the base of the Apennine Mountains, as if sewing them together. I visited the brewery around October, just when the vineyards were beginning to change color with the autumn leaves.

  • The hilly area of Modena colored red and yellow
March 8, 2016

Into the Depth of the Window

The end of summer time, like the morning air which feels more and more crisp as the days go by, is one of those things that remind me of the coming of the long winter season. This “summer time” is a system that has been adopted in most European countries, where the clock is set forward by one hour during summer months. The idea of British Summer Time was first proposed at the beginning of the 19th century by an English construction entrepreneur, William Willett. He was convinced that sunlight was being put to waste, when early one morning as he enjoyed riding, he noticed that the entire town still remained asleep with all the shutters closed, even though it had already been hours since sunrise. He later came to publish a pamphlet titled “The Waste of Daylight”, and throughout his life continued to advocate the benefits of utilising sunlight by means of adjustment of national time. However, it was only in 1916 that the system was officially introduced, when the First World War broke out and resource had become a serious concern for the government. At the time, the primary aim of the system was to cut back on the consumption of coal.

  • Hyde Park in the autumn season. In summer, many people can be seen sunbathing on the grass.
January 28, 2019

Dry-cured Ham Culatello in Zibello Village

At the beginning of November, I drove a car north from Parma and aimed for Zibello village. As I passed through the central Old City, I saw fields and houses scattered around. As I advanced the car further north, it suddenly began to fog all over. Even though it was still 3 oʼclock in the afternoon, the road ahead was hazy enough to make it difficult to see without headlights.

Here, Zibello village is close to the Po River, which is the longest river in Italy. The humidity is high, and as the temperature drops, the water vapor in the air becomes a small water grain and  turns into small drops of water, so the area gets wrapped in fog during the winter. The fog produced here in Zibello village is a very important natural resource for the production of dry-cured ham Culatello.

  • On the road from Parma to the production facility
December 17, 2014

Window Bookcase (1)

This project started when we commissioned o+h, the young wife-and-husband team of architects Maki Onishi and Yuki Hyakuda, to design a bookcase for us. This is the first article in a series of entries that will be documenting the making of the bookcase until its completion.

 

Please make a bookcase like a small building…!

In 2007, we at the Window Research Institute initiated our Windowology studies, a research program focused on windows that is grounded in our philosophy: “The window is a product of civilization. Windows embody culture.” We have now published five books domestically and three books overseas as products of our research.

The section for architecture books where these books are shelved in bookstores is generally considered to be an area full of serious books on engineering. This impression that people hold of it as a very academic section has stood as an obstacle to our wish to have many people read our books.

We need to devise something that will make people from children to adults want to pick up our books. But who would be the best partner for us to work with to give shape to this project? After careful consideration, we have commissioned the project to o+h, the architectural practice of Maki Onishi and Yuki Hyakuda.

  • Double-Helix House (Japan, 2011)
March 18, 2015

Giving Color to Windows

Textile coordinator/designer Yoko Ando has been directing how textiles are used around windows in the work of many architects both young and old. Spaces can be enriched by adding color to their windows. Ando invites us to think about the significance of giving color to windows by showing us some of her past work.

  • SUS Corporation Fukushima Factory Dormitory, 2005
    (work done while at NUNO Corporation).
    Design: Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects. Photo: Daici Ano.
May 17, 2018

Part 1: Tai-an at Myoki-an Temple

  Chashitsu or the Japanese tea room was a unique architecture that was built without any expressive ornaments at a time when rich ornamentation was a general trend in architecture. While its main protagonist is tea itself, it is designed in such a way that guests can enjoy sitting there during a four-hour duration by providing various ingenious design elements subtly concealed in the space. This serial article focuses on and discusses characteristics of tea room windows that brought about dramatic changes in Japanese architecture.

 

 

Tai-an at Myoki-an Temple

Part 1 focuses on the Tai-an at the Myoki-an Temple, one of the National Treasures in Japan. The Tai-an is a two tatami-sized corner hearth-style tea room designed by Sen no Rikyu and recognized as the oldest existing tea room in Japan. It is considered as one of the most important existing tea rooms, because it is the origin of the Japanese tea room and the subsequent evolution would not have occurred without it.

March 5, 2019

Cinder Windows

Fenestration Observations is a series of window disquisitions by Matthew Fargo. In it, the translator of Genpei Akasegawaʼs Hyperart Thomasson probes the city for hidden and forgotten features of the fenestral landscape. Join him on his hunt for windows that, seen in a particular light—from a particular and tangential vantage—become accidental works of art.

September 20, 2017

Part 1: Apertures for Light

Fleeting and weak though it is, light in Scandinavia has a mysterious kind of allure to it. Could it not be that the peoples of Scandinavia worship the light of the sun precisely because it fades so easily?

I lived in Denmark for two years, from 2006 to 2008. Living there, I was surprised to find that most houses did not have curtains in their windows. People didnʼt seem to mind even if the inside of their houses were completely visible from the outside. Rather, they would decorate their windowsills with flowers or figurines and display their interior design with pride. That said, the most important purpose of this set up was to allow as much light as possible into the house.

April 1, 2015

Window Bookcase (2)

This is the second entry on the Window Bookcase Project. We at the Window Research Institute asked o+h, the architectural practice of Maki Onishi and Yuki Hyakuda, to produce a furniture piece that can be used for holding a traveling exhibition of books in small bookstores and galleries across the country. The concept for the piece is “a bookcase like a small building”. o+h present their ideas for the design in this entry.

 

Onishi: Today we will be showing our ideas through models. These are still in the making, but they are the two schemes that we are designing: the folding screen scheme, which unfolds to define spaces, and the building scheme.

April 26, 2019

Chapter 1: The studio – exploring the mind of the artist from Caspar David Friedrich to Spencer Finch

An artist contemplates a blank canvas or a white piece of paper in the studio or at a table, perhaps waiting for a memory or some inspiration to stimulate that first mark. What follows is an insight into either their viewpoint of the world or the inner workings of the artistʼs mind at that moment. Either way or whatever the impetus behind that initial gesture, the pristine surface and the bounds of the blank support are there to be broken through, in order to begin creating a window to another reality.

The rectilinear frame of a painting mimics that of a window, waiting to be filled in or opened up. The two-dimensional panel can be seen as an aperture to escape from or to burrow into and hide, while the lack of transparent panes of glass means both artist and viewer are required to insert or intuit their own vision of what lies on or behind the picture plane.

October 3, 2018

Part 3 Shokatei at Katsura Imperial Villa

Members of the Imperial Family were the first to enjoy the luxury of tea, a valuable item at that time, before the art of the tea ceremony was established by Rikyu. They built tearooms called kizoku-gonomi (designed by “kizoku” or the Imperial Family members) often in the soan (rustic house) style and form. These structures give rustic impressions of the soan style at a glance, but closer observation shows that they were designed in refined and elegant ways. Technically speaking, many of them were not designed as “chasitsu” (tearoom) but as “chaya” (teahouse) or more unrestricted structures, and therefore often given names ending with “tei” (gazebo or pavilion without walls). Members of the Imperial Family were the first to enjoy the luxury of tea, a valuable item at that time, before the art of the tea ceremony was established by Rikyu. They built tearooms called kizoku-gonomi (designed by “kizoku” or the Imperial Family members) often in the soan (rustic house) style and form. These structures give rustic impressions of the soan style at a glance, but closer observation shows that they were designed in refined and elegant ways. Technically speaking, many of them were not designed as “chasitsu” (tearoom) but as “chaya” (teahouse) or more unrestricted structures, and therefore often given names ending with “tei” (gazebo or pavilion without walls).

Shokatei[1] at Katsura Imperial Villa[2]

Part 3 discusses Shokatei at Katsura Imperial Villa. The Katsura Imperial Villa site is dotted with four famous chaya respectively designed to celebrate specific seasons: Gepparo for autumn, Shokin-tei for winter, Shokatei for spring, and Shoiken for summer.
Shokatei, the subject of this essay, is a chaya-type structure situated on a mound made of excavated soil from a pond construction. It is a pavilion consisting of a 2-ken (3.6m) wide and 1.5-ken (2.7m) deep space with an earth floor surrounded by a bench-like raised tatami floor along three sides, forming a C-shape.
The north facade of Shokatei is completely open without any wall. It is covered only with a noren (a kind of curtain with vertical slits hung under the eaves) and offers a panoramic view toward the pond. The remaining three facades have large windows, and this open structure naturally blends into the surrounding greenery.

January 23, 2019

Adobe Windows

Fenestration Observations is a series of window disquisitions by Matthew Fargo. In it, the translator of Genpei Akasegawaʼs Hyperart Thomasson probes the city for hidden and forgotten features of the fenestral landscape. Join him on his hunt for windows that, seen in a particular light—from a particular and tangential vantage—become accidental works of art.

September 6, 2016

Tove Jansson’s Window

Photographer Takashi Homma introduces some compelling windows spliced between his own photos and text. Part 1 of this series delivers five photos – one of which is never before seen – plus an exclusive sketch from Hommaʼs latest photo collection, A song for windows, which pays homage to author Tove Jansson.

This lodge is located on a small island among a group of islands just off the coast of Finland; it is also where Tove Jansson, author of the famous Moomin series, spent her summers for more than twenty years. The uninhabited island can be circled by foot in about 7 minutes; the lodge is 4 m in length with a diameter 5.45 m. It is 2.2 m high.

March 9, 2015

The Windows of the Teien Art Museum

Sumally is a social networking service that has been created from the concept of making “an ʻencyclopediaʼ for everything that exists in the world” by categorizing things into the two categories of “Want” and “Have”. Kensuke Yamamoto, founder and CEO of Sumally, was formally an editor of a fashion/culture magazine. Still never one to miss out on an opportunity to experience the latest cultural trends, Yamamoto made a visit to the newly refurbished Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, which reopened in November 2014. Here he shares his thoughts on the relationships that the Art Deco-style building creates between windows and light.

December 18, 2019

Casement window

Casement windows open by rotating horizontally to the left and right from the center, taking either the left or right edge as an axis. Some open into the interior, while others open onto the exterior. Both the left and right panels have the same dimensions: those that only open in one direction are called kannon-biraki (“goddess of mercy”), while those where one side is larger than the other are called oyako-biraki (“parent-and-child”). The ones opening in only one direction used in France since the 16th century are known as French windows.

March 28, 2019

The Battle for Realism

The pioneers (1) Niépce and Daguerre

“I made a dissolution of silver nitrate, much diluted by water, in the same proportions as those indicated in the report above on Photographie, to which I also refer for those who have never made a silver solution in nitric acid. I wetted one side of a thin paper sheet; I laid it out at the back of the camera obscura1 by sticking it on its edges, to keep it flat. I placed the camera obscura vertically, opposite some houses in front of my window, in such a way that the lens was vertical; and by being parallel to it, the paper received the image in full. I left the camera obscura in that state for two hours, at the end of which I went to see, and I found that the silver nitrate had become brown in the places which had received light…”2

September 17, 2015

Tracing the urban brickscape

As surprising as it may seem, I feel that the true quality of a city such as London lies in its “disorderliness”. Within the city, countless elements with various historical backgrounds coexist; their territories constantly overlapping each other. For instance, a single building is likely to have undergone multiple phases of reconstruction and extension in its lifetime, and it is never easy to distinguish the boundaries between the old and the new. Taking a step back and observing the city from a further distance, it is evident that the streets do not have a basic logic in their compositions. This is due to the fact that historically London has lacked an overall urban planning scheme, and as a result the streets form an almost organic network by sequentially linking one place to the next, rather than employing a strict geometrical pattern.

Strolling through the labyrinthine Georgian streets in the City of London, whilst the tall skyscrapers soar high above my head, I am able to enjoy a kind of pleasant disharmony. The image of this city seems to be formed by a sequence -an uncoordinated continuity of individual elements with ambiguous boundaries. It is only understandable that this city is often described as a collection of villages.

  • Old and new coexist in the streetscape
July 11, 2019

Symbolic Realism

The pioneers (2) Talbot

View of the Boulevards at Paris, 1843

William Henry Fox Talbot was in France between May and June 1843. The main reason for his trip was to teach a series of aspiring calotypists and promote his procedure beyond the Channel (along with the ensuing commercial success). Compared to that of Daguerre, his approach had the major advantage of allowing for multiple positive prints to be made from a paper-based negative. With the help of his faithful assistant Nicolaas Henneman, he transported his photographic equipment over almost four hundred miles from Lacock Abbey, and set up a studio right in the heart of Paris, inside an “isolated and lofty house that stands in the place du Carousel [sic] fronting the Tuileries.”1 Here, his workshop was most likely frequented by some of the pioneers of paper photography, including Hippolyte Bayard (famous for his self-portrait as a drowned man, which he took in October 1840 in order to protest against the indifference of the French government towards his inventions), Henri Victor Regnault, Jean-Baptiste Biot, Hippolyte Fizeau and Jean Louis Lassaigne, who all attended a dinner with him on the evening of 29 May.