Based on "architectural thinking," Koichi Suzuno and Shinya Kamuro of Torafu Architects work in a wide range of areas including the interior design of houses and shops, as well as product design and stage art work. The two have a sensitive and serious air, but contrary to the impression they give, their ideas are remarkably dynamic and unique, revealing flexibility and a sharp perception for what is essential. The architects are also experts in city development. What steps would they suggest for Roppongi? We were interested in knowing their thoughts. First, they began by talking about the "Gulliver Table" presented at the 2011 "Tokyo Midtown DESIGN TOUCH" event.

photo_taro hirano / text_tami okano / edit_rhino

An installation that makes people remember the original landform

Tokyo Midtown DESIGN TOUCH

Tokyo Midtown DESIGN TOUCH
A design event that started in 2007 on the concept of "enjoying design through the five senses". Numerous works are exhibited all around Tokyo Midtown, and the event is for people of all ages. Details can be read here

Gulliver Table

Gulliver Table
A work that was exhibited on the lawn of Tokyo Midtown during "Tokyo Midtown DESIGN TOUCH 2011". The flat wooden structure was like a gigantic picnic table. Because of the sloping ground, one end of the structure can be used like a table while the other end becomes a roof. During the event, workshops for children were held.

SuzunoLast autumn, we made a 50-meter-long giant table called a "Gulliver Table" on the lawn of Tokyo Midtown for the "Tokyo Midtown DESIGN TOUCH" event. The cross-section is linear, but because the ground has slopes, each leg of the table is of different height. In some places, the top surface becomes the floor, and in other places, it becomes the roof; it's a rather unusual structure.

There is this expanse of lawn - which doesn't really have a specified purpose - right in the center of a densely populated city. I thought this expanse of "emptiness" was very appealing, and I wanted to give all kinds of people an opportunity to be more actively involved with the lawn.

KamuroThe mere presence of a huge table outside can make people want to spend their time on the lawn; they might think "Perhaps I'll buy a lunchbox and eat outside," or say, "Let's drink wine outdoors on the weekend." To an elderly man, the table will be a good place to take a rest and to a small child, the table can be used like playground equipment. It's actually very important to have places where people can spend their time as they please, without being tied down by rules. I think we need more places where all sorts of people can connect with the town without having any specific purpose.

I think it might be interesting to have this "Gulliver Table" in other places too. When this flat table was placed on the lawn at Midtown, it became an instrument to make people aware of the landscape, because it made the sloping contours very visible. So the table functions almost like a ruler. By setting up something with a certain uniformity and regularity, one becomes aware of the characteristics of the environment. It would be interesting if a structure like the Gulliver Table was suddenly installed in the hilly streets of Roppongi; it would make the place look different and people would see a landscape through new eyes.

SuzunoIt's interesting how the table is like an instrument that allows you to become aware of things. It requires very little manipulation and yet it gives you a new perspective; it enhances the presence of what already exists. There are many kinds of buildings in Roppongi, but it might be a good idea to have an installation that helps us to remember the original landform.

Small installations can change the way people interact in a city

KamuroWe had a book published in May this year called "Torafu's Small City Planning". It contains our ideas for relatively small moves such as setting up instruments in the city which will renew relationships between things. The Gulliver Table is huge for a table, but compared to large-scale city plans such as planning city blocks and streets, these are really very small, simple steps. It's city planning on a very small scale - just quietly placing an installation here and there, that's all. But that kind of thing can dramatically change way people interact in a city.

SuzunoThere's a bookshop in Jimbocho called "Nanyodo" which specializes in books on architecture; we built bookshelves on the outer walls of the store building. We inserted removable shelves into the grooves of the wall to hold books. Until then, for the people walking by, the walls were just forbidding walls of a building that belonged to someone, but after the bookshelves appeared, the walls came to be shared as if they belonged to everyone, and the entire street became like a library.

The "skydeck" handrail apparatus for verandahs and terraces is also something that we designed that requires little fuss and yet brings a new relationship between things. Japanese terraces may be so small that they don't have space for a table, but just by fastening the "skydeck" on the handrail, it's possible to expand space and come up with more ways to use space.

It's more fun if there are things in a town that personally connect you to it. Instead of just passing through a town to get from one destination to another, it would be nice if there was a spot where you could stop to leaf through a book, or a place with a different atmosphere where you can sip tea; such places make a town appealing and we need more of them.