THE UNIVERSITY OF TOKYO: PLATFORM (utp)
Hongo, Tokyo, Japan
(while at takram design engineering)
The current generation of Japanese architects have proffered the concept of ambiguity against dialectical oppositions that ruled the 20th century architecture. Creating an infinite variability inherent in ambiguous gradations is one of the ways to undermine the stifling absolutism of duality. So it seems, or may well be the postmodernist complexity and contradiction in drag without the mascara of historicism. Nonetheless, in that respect, this lab is not a lab in its strictest scientific sense at all, but an empty, receptive vessel in which all the ambitions and serendipitous, unforeseeable events can be manifested into real life. The supplied brief was equally ambiguous and posed unique difficulties in terms of budget, construction time, location, and bureaucratic processes.
This is a lab, or rather a “scientific experiment device,” is a spatial insertion into a newly-constructed complex for an engineering faculty. What began as a simple interior design project quickly evolved into creating a experimental prototype at the architectural scale. The idea for this device was for various scientific branches to conduct researches often done in isolation but can transcend those differences to engender new universal discoveries, new values, and new territories.
At the initial stage of the operation, the spatial device will be used for motion capture, scanning, and movement data analysis for various individual-oriented research. By observing individual’s movement and behaviors, “individuated science” attempts to discover from the individual ecology multiple perspectives, themes, and solutions that will contribute to the complex and dynamic contemporary society. As such, the only clear agenda from the brief was that there would a set of hyper sensitive state-of-the-art instruments required to be mobile and placed anywhere according to any experimental scenario unfolding on the platform. Due to the imperative nature to place these instruments and sensors on any and all possible angles, the floor of the “device” necessarily had to be raised as researcher would also need to access under the platform to rearrange, install or change instruments and sensors according to whatever they were testing.
The space is composed of 30cm square components created from proprietary extruded aluminum parts. These components, originally of industrial factory use, are easily detached and attached by simple joint mechanism and structurally secured. In t=0 phase, these modules cover all surfaces of the device; from the stairs, platform, walls to the ceiling. The entire system was prefabricated off-site and assembled in the lab within a week.
Light, highly mobile, and adaptable module system can be customized to accommodate wide range of scientific research of diverse subjects. It is exciting to see how these tectonic parts will be dismantled and rearranged in unexpected ways. Perhaps new architectural conditions can be discovered here, just by observing how the configurations change over time; a novel spatial discovery of hyper-scientific nature heretofore unimaginable by architects, but by unassuming scientists.
Imagine an empty science lab, thoroughly sterile and breathtakingly immaculate. Into it, a platform was inserted, itself lacking any meaning or function; agglomerated cells of emptiness amassed within an empty lab. The device itself is a “void.” An empty receptacle capable of facilitating not only conventional methods but more so the new collaborative and cross-disciplinary experiments to take place. It was intentionally made to be “empty” without an author’s ego to block the scientific imagination.
Emptiness is just another incarnation of ambiguity.