• The Wall Street Journal recently published an article featuring the Onjuku Surf Shack and discussing the economics that lie behind Japan’s residential architecture. In addition to featuring the house, the WSJ’s correspondent – Lucy Alexander – also interviewed our clients.

  • BAKOKO’s Alastair Townsend recently lectured at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

  • We recently lead students of Professor Borre Skodvin from the Oslo School of Architecture and Design on a timber tour around Chiba Prefecture.

  • BAKOKO’s Alastair was recently interviewed by WNYC’s Freakonomics Radio on the topic of Japan’s eccentric housing economics. Read a follow-up at his blog.

  • Following his popular ArchDaily article “Why Japan is Crazy About Housing”, Alastair Townsend was interviewed by CNN’s Paula Newton on what’s behind Japan’s avante garde housing.

  • The Onjuku Surf Shack’s proud owners are featured in this month’s edition of Japanese fashion mag ‘Eclat’.

    『オンジュク・サーフシャック』のプロジェクトが、集英社の女性誌『Eclat エクラ』の8月号に掲載されました。是非、お手に取って見て下さい!

  • Alastair Townsend contributed an article about Rethinking the Workspace to the American Chamber of Commerce Journal.

  • BAKOKO’s Alastair Townsend contributed an essay on Japan’s concrete fetish in the latest issue of Clog (US).  

    CLOG: Brutalism has been printed and is available for purchase at clog-online.com

    176 Pages, over 50 contributors
    Chipboard Cover, 2 Color Printing
    71 Illustrations

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    2013年2月9・23日に、BS朝日のリノベーションTV番組『辰巳琢郎の家物語 リモデルきらり』で、M-Mansionが紹介されました。
    Our M Mansion was recently featured on a 30-minute television about apartment renovation.
  • Cornell architecture undergrads Jimmy Chen and Jennifer Wang made this scale model of the Cutty Sark Pavilion for their structures assignment.

    We’re impressed that they so faithfully reverse engineered the building through their own parametric model.

    Nice work!

  • TV Asahi Shoot

    Japanese TV personality Takuro Tatsumi visits

    On the monitor: TV Asahi shoot of Ma Mansion

  • modern home shutters

  • 2013: Year of the snake.

  • Origami Light

    This video documents the creation of a lighting prototype we made for a night club installation at Milan Salone 2012.

    The pleated folding pattern is generated from a revolved shape using a graphical algorithm. The changing angle of each fold creates a tessellated curved origami form from one sheet of paper. Almost any profile is conceivably possible using this technique.

  • Yesterday was a rainy Monday morning in Onjuku. Not ideal weather to inspect the groundworks, but it was nonetheless exciting to see work our new beach house is already well underway.

  • We’ve been planning a response to the housing crisis left in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed many towns in Tohoku. The challenge to formulating a design for rehousing the homeless is the uncertainty that pervades the rebuilding effort. As the government unsuccessfully struggles to meet its targets for temporary housing and clears mountains of refuse, it may be years before we see much progress on the ground in terms of rebuilding permanent communities.

    Although the government has announced plans to build new eco-cities and has set aside funds for his purpose it is unlikely that Japan’s beleaguered government can undertake such an enormous task alone. Japan’s massive homebuilding corporations are salivating at the unprecedented business opportunity the disaster has presented them. But left in their hands, the results will undoubtedly be disappointing.

    It seems unrealistic that all of the residents of coastal town along Tohoku’s coast will simply move to new areas inland (no matter how attractive and green these new developments prove to be). Many of the displaced are the elderly whose lives – like those of preceding generations – were linked to the ocean. Will they simply give-up ancestral ties to land that they own? Can ports for fishing and trade be rebuilt without the communities that served them? We think it unlikely.

    The alternative is to build on higher land, but this will entail obvious complications in a country in which 74% of the land is mountainous. Is it be feasible given the additional cost of acquiring land, retaining soil, providing access and securing buildings on sloped land?

    The other option, of course, is to rebuild the destroyed communities. Is it possible to build housing that is flood (or tsunami) proof? While evacuation plans are doubtlessly crucial to saving lives in these disaster-prone areas, an alternative design solution might at least minimize property loss and stop entire livelihoods from being washed away.

    For better or worse, Japan has tended to attempt to engineer away its threats (both physical and economic). Massive unattractive sea walls built in the 1960′s were often derided as wasteful follies, but some served their purpose in the recent tsunami, saving small towns like Fudai. Civil engineering (with its strong ties to government) has been all but exhausted as a means of stimulating Japan’s endless economic recession. Whereas the US spends 2% of GDP to build and maintain civil engineering projects, Japan spends more than double this figure. However, faith in this approach was shattered when the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant (supposedly protected behind its own seawall) was inundated with catastrophic results.

    The cynical view is to predict that the government can’t or won’t change and that it will simply attempt to build these walls higher and stronger than before. Will this be enough to reassure coastal inhabitants to rebuild their homes? After all, stone monuments on the hillsides explicitly warn that deadly tsunamis have struck here before. But after time, the popular consciousness seems to forget or ignore and rebuild. Global media and the internet may make it harder to forget the images of complete devastation this time.

    1. Rebuild on higher land at higher cost in a new location?

    2. Rebuild flood-proof buildings on existing plots?

    3. Rebuild as before and put faith in higher sea walls?

    Facing uncertainty a flexible approach is required. We think it is possible to design a house for all outcomes.

  • Work is officially underway on the Onjuku Beach House.

    Our clients chose to hold a small groundbreaking ceremony according to Japanese shinto tradition in which the builders and architects also participate. The Jichinsai is a purification rite to appease the shinto earth deity – kami – with offerings. The ceremony is also intended to safeguard the workers and to ensure the project is completed without serious incident.

    On a rainy Sunday, the colorfully robed priest erected a small altar bearing offerings of raw fish, dried squid, fruits, vegetables, and sake. The land was purified by pouring sake onto the four corners of the site and waving a paper wand (a shide). The small mound of earth is demolished with a scythe to symbolize the act of breaking ground. The remnants of the ceremony are left in the center of the site to be plowed asunder once the proper groundworks are underway.

    We also appreciated that the contractor had already surveyed the building and staked-out the house’s footprint with white rope. Standing within this perimeter with our client gave us an opportunity to envisage the scale and position of the completed home and to remark on its placement on the plot.

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    “Living Room” made from live hanging moss. An exhibition at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, Tokyo.

  • Installing the “Living Room” – part of the Tokyo Diversity exhibition at 3331 Arts Chiyoda.

  • Alastair Townsend Tokyo Pecha Kucha 2010

    Pecha Kucha presentation by BAKOKO’s Alastair Townsend at Super Deluxe, Tokyo.