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Japanese architect Kaoru Suehiro works towards improving the lives of inhabitants and the urban landscape through good, user-centric design. Luo Jingmei has this story.
In the late 80s while translating William J.R. Curtis’s history tome (Modern Architecture Since 1900) from English to Japanese, Japanese architect Kaoru Suehiro became interested in the ideas he read about – that of English avant-garde architecture group Archigram and Dutch Structuralism perpetuated by Aldo van Eyck and Herman Hertzberger.
Then, the Kyushu University graduate had just established his own office after working in a small architecture firm in Tokyo for several years. But the desire to dig deeper into what he had read was too strong and he decided to further his studies.
“At first, I was thinking of going to the Architectural Association (AA) in England. But at that time, my friend told me that Peter Cook – [Archigram’s founder, who taught at AA] – had left the school, so it had become a little boring,” laughs the amiable Suehiro.
So instead, Suehiro headed to the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam. While studying, he also worked in the office of Hertzberger, who was then head of his university. He returned to Fukuoka, Japan after graduation and set up NKS Architects with his architect wife Noriko – the duo had met while working in Tokyo and she had accompanied him to Holland to work in the same office.
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No doubt, Suehiro’s architecture bears influences from working with Hertzberger. “The direction of these Dutch Structuralists have always been to think about how people use [spaces],” says Suehiro. This translates to designs driven by human proportions with “clear, simple and flexible frameworks that let people [engage] the spaces in their own way.”
One such example is the Three-Bundled Cubes house. It was designed for three sisters – two with families. Into a simple block he inserted three tube-like forms containing the private rooms. The residual spaces shaped by the inserts became interesting common areas. Eventually, the sister who was single moved out and her room was inhabited by one of the children who had grown older.
Check out the full story in Cubes issue 55 out now at Singapore newsstands.