Yo Shimada of Tato Architects and Paul Hotston of phorm spoke about reinterpretations of architectural vernaculars and their collaboration designing House in Hamilton 2015.

Shimada san’s presentation was themed ‘Misinterpretation’  which was a reference to not only the language and cultural leaps taken when he was commissioned to design House in Hamilton but more generally his reinterpretation of existing ideas and norms when designing.

“My approach to design has always been open to misinterpretation,” said Shimada san after displaying one of his first forays in design after completing university, a trompe l’oeil business card which had the appearance of a shopping docket.

Shimada san talked about creating an architecture that allowed multiple understandings: “I want to create architecture that changes its appearance depending on the point of view, so that it offers new discoveries every day.”

We were given an overview of residential homes Shimada san designed in Japan. He described recent projects such as House in Itami 2012, House in Toyonaka 2015, House in Rokko 2011 and House in Kawanishi 2013. Each of these homes shared a simplicity in form and a remarkable lightness which communicated the sensibilities of the owners and also created a sympathetic relationship with the topography.

In this home he reduced the elements in the space…

House in Itami was an attempt at resolving the conflict of those who want to live in a small Japanese minimalist house but did not have the minimalist lifestyle to match. In this home he reduced the elements in the space, designing parts of the home as if it were furniture creating a serene and seamless interior. For example a toilet was contained in a room that looked like a free-standing closet, or a bench was integrated as part of the handrail to a set of stairs.

His deeply thoughtful approach is replicated in House in Hamilton – the first building he has designed outside of Japan. What is clear are the similarities his Japanese projects have with traditional Queenslander timber and tin architecture, particularly House in Kawanishi. Shimada san thoroughly researched the Queenslander home design bringing fresh ideas to an existing vernacular which can be seen in the newly completed Brisbane home.

Paul Hotston’s presentation elaborated on the House in Hamilton collaboration with Shimada san, their common ground as practitioners and how their collaboration was a gratifying experience for both architects. “One of the great gifts of architecture is the opportunity to collaborate with other people,” said Paul.

‘The shared sensibilities that we found were very compelling and it set for a good project in terms of anticipating a meaningful place relationship with the building which is one of the imperatives of my own practice,” said Paul.

Paul felt it was important to introduce Shimada san, as a foreign architect, to Brisbane, albeit Paul’s version of Brisbane.  “Brisbane is a suburban place. It’s dominated by its topography and has a reliance on these timber vernacular buildings to frame its identity. We see them as cultural touchstones.”

Paul said the question of the transferability of architecture or architects working internationally is on the rise and that it would bring fresh eyes to old problems. However he believes local architects have a role to play and is an advocate for architects on the ground collaborating with their international counterparts.

“Working with Shimada san was a rare opportunity for us to challenge the traditional idea of the Queenslander in a way that would be untenable otherwise. There was a freedom and relaxed approach which I could never afford myself as a practitioner,” explained Paul.

Shimada san and Paul also described two projects which are currently under construction in Brisbane and Kobe. The models are being exhibited in the Museum of Brisbane’s Living in the City: new architecture in Brisbane and the Asia Pacific exhibition – Taringa Treehouse and House in Suwayama – until 22 May 2016.

Photo credit: Yo Shimada and Paul Hotston. Photo by Josh Maguire.
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