Kuma Words 7

Kuma Words 7

The New York Times Magazine (T Magazine) featured me recently with a most insightful story written by Nikil Saval. He’s conducted a number of interviews with people having different views about me and KKAA, and successfully portrayed our current state in Japan, our expected roles, and challenges that we are faced with. I was impressed by the thorough work of the New York Times.

What I found it particularly intriguing was the way he concluded the article: “Viewed from the coast, it was neither self-erasing nor defeated. It was like a warm beacon in an otherwise dark, haunted place,” citing KKAA’s project in Minami-Sanriku, a town in northern Japan that was devastated by the 3.11 disaster in 2011.

In the 1990s, I began to use the expression “defeated architecture” or “weak architecture,” and nowadays I’m often asked if our big architectural work, V&A at Dundee for example, is at all defeated. In the 1990s, I criticized form-centered architecture of my predecessors and coined the expression “defeated architecture.” I used the word defeated upon my understanding of what was expected from KKAA’s work, facing with the period of post-industrialization and the society of rapid-aging and low birth rate. Based on this idea, we designed V&A as if we were the cheerleaders for Scotland, having learned that they were searching a new identity that would cross the boundary of a nation. Armed with architecture, we wanted to energize and enliven Scotland in our way, and I could feel a great level of enthusiasm arising from all the people in the project. Given a unique site adjacent to the river, we sought strength that could stand firmly in the dynamic nature, while defying usual and conspicuous square-ish buildings. What we achieved finally was a particle and a rhythm that would form the basis of cliffs commonly seen in Scotland.

For us, V&A is certainly a new step forward, but I haven’t found a word yet to explain. So far, I’m telling people that we aim to architecture-ize the nature, instead of naturalize the architecture as our predecessors had attempted. It’s difficult to articulate, but I wanted to look ahead and design something that could indicate the future of our path. I needed to grow out of the defeated mood of the ‘90s to seek positively how the post-3.11 era should be, placing emphasis on locations and non-Tokyo regions. Nikil might have realized from our conversation that I was trying to figure out the course of our time we live, and gave me the word “beacon,” and thanks to him I found courage to move forward.