Kuma Words 23

Kuma Words 23

Tangles of electric wires

I visited Kathmandu in Nepal during Golden Week. Rebuilding from the devastation of the huge earthquake in 2015 has not proceeded at all, the entire city is full of dust, and you can see the famous tangles of electric wires (photo), but I was still overwhelmed by the mysterious charm that is overflowing from this place.

The slanted structures (photo) that support the long cantilevers on roofs were particularly appealing. How to support structural lines and roof cantilevers is the foremost theme in Asia where there is a lot of rain, and I think that this is the best place to show off your design. No efforts at all were made in this area by architecture in Japan after World War II which focused on emulating buildings based on modernism architecture which have no eaves. I think that the space under the eaves is the greatest design opportunity, and that the New National Stadium that we designed is first and foremost a “Building with a Focus on Space Under the Eaves”.

I was very happy to find that there are many buildings in Nepal that have the same cross-section shape beneath the eaves as the New National Stadium. Traditional Chinese architecture uses a system called “Dougong” which combines horizontal brackets and vertical brackets to support the eaves. The system of diagonal bracing used in Nepal to support long eaves features strength that is lacking in the Dougong system, and the details of the diagonal bracing create a very delicate expression. Therefore, while this system is simple, it is also delicate and subtle.

The other reason that I am interested in Nepal is the fact that Father Minoru Ohki of the Society of Jesus (1927-2016) who was my teacher when I was in middle school spent the last thirty years of his life in Pokhara, Nepal. Father Ohki was the scariest priest at the entire school for me, and when he looked at me with his eyes that could see through you, I always shivered, feeling that he understood everything about me, including my shortcomings and irresponsibility. I took a close look at my relationship with Father Ohki in my book “Kuma Kengo to Iu Shintai” (2018). During his 30 years in Pokhara, Father Ohki was involved in the construction of a school for people with disability.

I gave a lecture at the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu, and had the opportunity to talk about the charm and scariness of Father Ohki with a person who knew him well.

Regrettably, I was not able to go to Pokhara this time, so was unable to visit the school built by Father Ohki, but feel that I need to visit it. I would not be who I am today if Father Ohki had not been part of my life.

The slanted structures