Architecture Behaviorology

Architecture Behaviorology is the title of 2013 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation lecture given by Yoshiharu Tsukamoto on 7th of March at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montréal, Canada. In 1992, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kaijima founded Atelier Bow-Wow, a Tokyoite architecture firm well known for its domestic and strongly rooted architecture as well as their continuous research on urban conditions and space which is what was the topic of this lecture.

Mr Tsukamoto started the lecture by giving the topic baseline to people not familiar with it in the audience. Behaviorology is then the study of relationships between three kinds of behaviours related the following “elements”: Nature, Human, and Building. Let me explicit a bit what those words were used for.

  1. Nature: looking at micro-behaviours such as heat redistribution at dusk;
  2. Human: dealing with shared behaviours such as gatherings or common understanding and group perception;
  3. Building: considering a longer timespan and a broader space.

Using examples taken from various trips, study cases and their own work at Atelier Bow-Wow, Mr Tsukamoto supports his thoughts and works on behaviours in a striking and efficient way.

Among the travel anecdotes, I particularly appreciated the part explaining the impact of a bridge modification in Copenhagen (Dronning Louises Bro if my researches are correct). By placing a wide bicycle lane (which apparently is world’s busiest bicycle lane with up to 36,000 cyclist each day), it created an enjoyable bubble on each side of the bridge allowing for passing cyclists and pedestrians to stop, chat and enjoy a pause in the day.

People gathering on Bronning Louises bro sidewalk in Copenhagen.

Gathering on Bronning Louises Bro (credits Bastien Vaucher)

Then it switched more onto Atelier Bow-Wow works, to name those featured:

  • BMW Guggenheim Lab, which is a traveling laboratory designed as a mobile theatre to address contemporary urban life issues. It has been traveling to New York, Berlin and finally Mumbai;
  • Split Machiya, a private house located in Shinjuku, Tokyo and which is shared by a couple and a single woman. Appliances and some rooms are shared. It is based on the traditional Japanese machiya typology and aims to solve issues happening in the modern Japanese society such as a house not being inviting to non-nuclear family members;
  • Pony Garden, which generated laughs among the audience, probably due to its inner sheer innocence and honesty to the design initial query by the client;
  • A transport plaza retrofit which unfortunately I was unable to track down, but revolved around inserting what this plaza lacked despite being initially designed for: communications between people;
  • Itakura Core House, an ArchiAid project designed to enable quick, affordable and, extendable housing solution for people affected by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

This lecture reassured me in my technical yet socially-sensible approach to building design, and gave me a reminder to look at scales beyond the usual spectrum scanned by engineers. Food for thought, that is for sure.

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