CURATOR Andrew Barrie PARTNER Artspace, Auckland; New Zealand Institute of Architects OTHER VENUE Artspace, 8 August–8 September 2001
Award-winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito explores the future of architecture in the digital age.
In 1995, the city of Sendai holds an architectural competition to design its new Mediatheque—a complex encompassing an art gallery, library, and audio-visual centre. Ito wins with an innovative proposal combining heterogeneous elements: floor plates at irregular heights, seaweed-like tubes running through the plates, and a vertical glass skin hanging from the plates. The building will be translucent—aspiring to an immaterial, virtual quality. The tubes will circulate air and light, natural light captured from the roof and artificial light.
But Ito’s original proposal omits elements crucial to construction. After work begins, issues arise in translating his concept into physical reality and he is forced to rethink. In 1999, working with the design team 000/Studio, he creates a computer simulation based on his plans to help examine and extend his thinking and to help solve problems. It layers and animates Ito's ground plans, elevations, and sections in a continually morphing collage. For Ito, the computer and the construction site are both spaces of creation. He says, ‘Two operations are proceeding simultaneously at opposite extremes, one on the construction site and the other on the computer screen.’ The Mediatheque is completed in 2001.
The show's title Blurring Architecture suggests operating between the physical and virtual. Its highlight is the four-channel computer simulation, projected directly onto the Gallery wall. Its large scale evokes architectural space while establishing the plan as an artistic entity outside of architectural constraints. The show also includes a concept text, floor plans (allowing competition plans and construction plans to be compared), and video interviews with Sendai’s Mayor, a competition juror, and others involved in the project. Ito presents packed public lectures in Auckland and Wellington.
During the show, Mary Watson covertly photographs naked model Ali Hale with Ito’s projections playing across her body. Watson says: ‘Though it was done very quickly and very discreetly, the shoot was so charged it became surreal … Luckily only the images got caught!’ The resulting images are exhibited the following year as Naked Icons at Wellington's Photospace gallery.