60 Tsuyoshi Tane(Architect)

Tsuyoshi Tane(Architect)

Tane is a co-founder of DGT Architects, a Paris-based architecture firm which undertakes many projects around the world. DGT was a finalist in the design competition for Japan's new national stadium. The firm also designed the Estonian National Museum currently under construction. Tane was director for the "Architect Frank Gehry 'I Have an Idea'" which began October 16 at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT. We asked him about his ideas to attract more people to Roppongi.

update_2015.11.4 / photo_hiroshi kiyonaga / text_kentaro inoue

Blending the past and future in today's streets

"Architect Frank Gehry 'I Have an Idea'" exhibition
An exhibition focusing on the ideas of Frank Gehry, a world renowned architect who has designed many stunning works such as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The exhibition features a "Gehry Room" modeled after the meeting room in Gehry's office and a "Development of ideas" section, with nearly 90 items including models, photographs, and sketches on display. There are also visual explanations of Gehry's representative works and of the latest technology in architecture. Held until Feb. 7 (Sun) 2016 at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT.

Gehry's manifesto which Tane mentioned in the interview. A Japanese translation is also on display at the exhibition.

I think the key to creating a gathering place is to mix the past and future of a locality. In Roppongi for example, you need to think about how people have used this area up till now, and how it is going to be used in the future. There is the invisible past and the invisible future and you need to combine the two. In recent years, town development has basically meant creating shopping areas, and that is why places such as Aoyama, Shibuya and Roppongi tend to look all the same. I believe the best way to prevent places from looking identical is to study the culture and history of each place. The more you know about the history of a place, the more potential you can bring out of it, and the more likely it is to thrive in the future.

Cities are overflowing with information about the past. The very spot you are standing in could have been the former site of a samurai residence. Or another spot might be where someone was killed, or where important encounters between people took place. If you draw a rough map of Tokyo Midtown for example, drawing in the architecture that used to be here, you can begin to see images - such as footsteps on the ground or a room where someone is sleeping. All the faded memories come back, and can be added to the pile of data. Maybe instead of photographs, you can be more abstract and use maps and words and shadows.

The data does not belong to just one layer, but many layers. So you begin to see the layers superimposed on each other: Roppongi as it was 50 years ago, or Roppongi in the Edo period, and so on. Using projection mapping, you could project images of the people of the past and have the images mingle with actual people walking the night streets of Roppongi. The projection mapping could be programmed so that the images gradually trace our history back to the earliest times. Maybe the images could be projected in different areas of perhaps the flow of people could move differently at times.

Searching data as if digging for ancient remains

Since setting up our office, I've been doing architectural work, but it's only recently that I've discovered the importance of the memories of places; it's finally dawned on me that this is a theme I can work on for the rest of my life. I think I'm interested in the memories of places because it's important for me to have plenty of information. We live in the information age and there has been the development of the Internet; I think the human brain needs all this massive data in order to evolve.

Architects do research every day to increase the amount of information they have about a place - it's a process that's necessary in order to understand the past. I think architects feel the need to collect the data on people of all types and races who have lived before us.

It's like excavating at a site of ancient ruins. As you dig the ground, you find stones and bits of earthenware - proof that there was life in a place. You might also say it's like investigating the scene of a murder. (laughs) There are traces left by the criminal which may or may not be vital. But you investigate everything that seems suspicious and at some point, something becomes clear and you are led to the suspect. In doing my work, there are many cases where I get a concept for architecture after doing a lot of editing on the information I've accumulated on a daily basis.

Architectural works based on a deep philosophy

Estonian National Museum
In 2006, Estonia held a design competition for the Estonian National Museum as a national project marking the country's 15th anniversary of independence. The competition was won by DGT Architects. The new museum is being constructed on what used to be a runway of a Soviet military airfield. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2016.

I began taking this kind of approach after entering the competition in 2006 for the Estonian National Museum project. The plan for the museum is called "Memory Field" which refers to the memories of the place or how the place originally looked. The site of the museum in Estonia used to be the runway of the Soviet military airfield. It's a negative legacy but our aim is to change it into something positive so that the people of Estonia can confirm their national identity and create a new future.

To be honest, I used to be uncertain about architecture; I wasn't sure whether it is about design or art, but after winning the design competition for the Estonian museum, I was forced to ask myself questions and I realized that the memories of a place can become the theme for architecture.

I think architects needs to have a big vision. They need to carefully contemplate things and give expression to things like history and culture. As is the case with Frank Gehry, the power of architects is that they can make works based on a deep philosophy which will transcend time and continue through future generations. Nowadays, it's possible for designers to design homes and artists to make buildings, and I think we have come to a stage where architects are being called to do their part as architecture professionals.