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Swiss Architecture Travelogue by Designer Naho Okamoto and Architect Momoko Kudo

Swiss Architecture Travelogue by Designer Naho Okamoto and Architect Momoko Kudo

Don't be bound by preconceived notions and live faithfully to your own aesthetic sense. The series "Seekers of Freedom" touches upon the thoughts of such "Seekers of Freedom" and evokes the power of images that effortlessly transcend the concept of known things and time.


In May of this year, SIRI SIRI designer Naho Okamoto and architect Momoko Kudo decided to travel to Switzerland for 4 nights and 5 days. The reason was that Mr. Kudo wanted to go back to Switzerland, where he had lived for six years when he was a child.

Two people who originally got acquainted at a mutual friend's wedding and said that they had a "horse" with each other. The two met in Zurich and headed for Basel, a city in northwestern Switzerland where the borders of France and Germany cross. We asked the two of them, who have visited more than 10 places in this city with many famous buildings, to tell us about their two highlights, what they saw, and what they thought.

Photo left Naho Okamoto|NAHO OKAMOTO

SIRI SIRI representative and designer. Graduated from the Space Design Department of Kuwasawa Design Institute. In 2006, he started the jewelry brand "SIRI SIRI". Making use of her experience in architecture and interior design, she creates jewelry using materials around her, such as glass.

Photo right Momoko Kudo|MOMOKO KUDO

architect. Born in Tokyo, raised in Switzerland. Graduated from Tama Art University Environmental Design Department. Graduated from Kogakuin University Graduate School Fujimori Laboratory. Established MOMOKO KUDO ARCHITECTS in 2015 after working for Matsuda Hirata Sekkei and DAIKEI MILLS design unit. He has worked on a wide range of projects, from interior design to the design of the Mori Art Museum's "Japan in Architecture" exhibition. Currently designing a new SIRI SIRI store.

"Philosophy of Japanese architecture" learned in Switzerland

Okamoto : The Vitra Campus, which consists of a museum that houses all the products of the Swiss furniture maker Vitra, the head office, and factory facilities, houses works by world-famous architects such as Tadao Ando, ​​SANAA, and Frank Gehry. I have. I participated in a tour around the grounds, and the guide was a huge fan of Japanese architecture.

Kudo : I was impressed by the philosophy of Japanese architecture.

Okamoto : For example, in Japanese architecture, there is a tendency to not make a clear distinction between the outdoors and indoors, or to divide the outside from the inside as a form of expression. I was listening to the explanation while thinking.

Kudo : Ando-san and Gehry's building was next to each other on the site where there were many cherry trees, but Gehry cut down all the trees and cleared the land before constructing the building. On the other hand, Mr. Ando almost never cuts down trees and creates architecture while making the most of nature. In addition, the leaves of the three cut trees are pressed against the concrete wall, leaving the existence of the tree on the wall that looks like a tombstone. In the West, nature is lower in hierarchy than humans, but in Japan, nature is higher.

Okamoto : You explained how amazing Japanese people are to the point that we were embarrassed (laughs). Gary's explanation was about 5 minutes, but Tadao Ando's was 30-40 minutes. I was able to recognize Japanese philosophy again through people from other countries.

SIRI SIRI also makes jewelry that fits each person by creating a little gap in the design rather than completing it with a single item. In that sense, I thought that I was also making things with a Japanese way of thinking and process.

Trust in "Human Capabilities"

Okamoto : At the Vitra campus, I also felt the Swiss values ​​of "investing in beautiful things." In a sense, it's typical of Switzerland to commission a famous architect to build a warehouse for the company, and to invest in things that don't need to be touched.

Kudo : I think that at the same time as asserting the pride of Vitra as a design company and the spirit of continuing to make good products to the outside world, it also serves as an education within the company.

Okamoto : That's what Japan lacks. Public spaces in Switzerland are very clean. If the building that the general public sees is beautiful, it will become the foundation of people's sense of beauty. That's why Japan has long had the desire to keep public spaces clean.

Kudo : But in Japan, if you spend money on public property, you will be beaten. Instead, I think that money should be spent on public buildings. I believe that the government must take the lead in investing in things that the private sector cannot spend a lot of money on.

Okamoto : Also, there are no signs at all in Switzerland, including this campus. In Japan, a line would be drawn at the point where the container leaves the factory, and it would be written, "It's dangerous from here onwards." There is no such thing here. I think that's because we don't deny human potential. In other words, even though humans have the ability to perceive danger, when you go to a park in Japan, for example, all the signs say, "Don't do this, don't do that." I think the reason why the Swiss government does not put signs on public buildings is because they have faith in human ability.

Kudo : The same goes for train stations. In Japan, there are mountains of inconsistent signs that seem to have been created for each station.

A week after I returned from Switzerland, I had dinner with a Belgian couple, and they asked me if I had any allergies at the restaurant. Hearing that, the two of them said, "That's interesting." In other words, in Belgium, it is up to us to declare whether or not we have allergies, and if we fail to do so, it is the responsibility of the person who did not. I thought that this is a story that leads to the presence or absence of signatures. It's not a question of which is better or worse, but I think there are differences here and there between Europe and Japan, where it's common to be aware of things on your own.

Humanity = manufacturing with humanity

Kudo : From Basel, I also went to Ronchamp in France to see Le Corbusier's "Longchamp Chapel" in his later years, a master of modern architecture. Why did the person who advocated the "five principles of modern architecture" finally arrive at such a strange form? I thought it was very human that he made something like this in his later years. It was a work that I definitely wanted to see someday.

Okamoto : After the war, when many of the modernist architecture advocated by Le Corbusier were born, it was a time when everyone had to have a home. The architect's job was to create a space that was both efficient and comfortable. Still, I was moved that the last work was this. It took more than an hour to go around the outer wall (laughs).

Kudo : In the end, it feels like you've returned to "architecture as expression." I think it shows his artistry and his human side.

Okamoto : Nowadays, there are so many products and things that it is impossible to create things based on economic values. I would like to For example, I want to create something that makes people feel human in the object itself, or makes the person who uses it change their life a little, or gives them courage.

In order to do that, I have recently been thinking that I have to look at my own negative aspects as well. Basically, design can only be created with a positive mindset, but if you want to create something that gives you a sense of humanity, you must not ignore your own negative aspects. It's a very hard work, but I thought I should start by digging up my inner self first.

Kudo : We also talked about whether we could get here in the end. I saw off the train I was supposed to be on, watched it from various angles until it was time for the last train, and finally looked at it from the hill that was built to build this building. I wondered if I could reach the state of Le Corbusier after spending time and worrying about making things.

On the other hand, I believe that the role of architects has changed since Le Corbusier's time. In Le Corbusier's time, creating architecture was the job of architects, but today's architects are more involved in helping with the problem-solving process than creating buildings. I think the time has come to put more emphasis on that role.

Until now, we have solved client problems by means of architecture and design, but today, creating architecture is not necessarily the only solution. Ultimately, I think it is the role of the architect to make the decision not to create architecture. In particular, Japan created buildings that were not necessary during the period of high economic growth, so from now on, architects need to consider whether or not architecture should be created with money, time, and energy in the first place. I think.

Pursuing a "Universal Form"

Kudo : I thought that the jewelry that Ms. Okamoto was making was architectural in shape, so it was fun to see architecture in Switzerland with her. I got the impression that other jewelry designers I know are a little more romantic, or rather, create with an emotional sensibility. But when I talk to her, she's more constructive and logical in making things. I secretly believe that Mr. Okamoto can also create architecture, perhaps just because the scale of the things he makes is different.

Okamoto : I originally studied architecture. I didn't go that route, but when I make jewelry, my approach is the same as that of architecture. When you create a building, basically there is a client, and it starts from listening to the problem. And we will solve the problem with things. I'm interested in how these things affect people's lives, their minds, and the lives of those who use them. By the way, even now, when I make jewelry, I still make mockups out of materials used to make architectural models.

Kudo : I feel that Mr. Okamoto's flexibility with regard to materials also has something in common with his approach to architecture.

Okamoto : I used to like antique jewelry, but when I found out that I have a metal allergy, I started SIRI SIRI because I wanted to make things that I wanted to use without using metal. In general, jewelry often uses gold, silver, platinum, gemstones, and other materials whose value has already been determined, but architecture involves experimenting with various materials. Even if the material itself is cheap, the design can create new value. I like this method of trial and error, and I am always on the lookout for materials.

Kudo : In a sense, I thought that this Swiss architectural travelogue was a trip to understand Mr. Okamoto, who is a client, when designing SIRI SIRI stores. But after it was over, I realized that she had been interviewing me for five days (laughs). In contrast to jewelry designers who have no clients and want people to buy what they have created, architects clearly have clients and it is part of their job to find out what their problems are. That's why I thought Mr. Okamoto's love of hearing is also typical of an architect.

Okamoto : I like to ask "why?" (laughs). People think for the first time when they are asked, "Why?" Even if there are not enough words, I think that the collection of words that come out at that time expresses the personality of that person. I'm interested in what individuals think.

Kudo : However, our approach to form is the opposite. She doesn't have a client when she creates the shape, so she can decide all the conditions by herself. I believe that it is precisely in such an environment that powerful forms are born. In my case, I have a client, and I have prerequisites such as what is required and the site has been decided, so I can't create a form like her. So while talking to her, I also wanted to explore something like a "universal form." As I traveled through Switzerland, I wondered what the universal form was within me.

From now on, when creating SIRI SIRI stores, I would like to challenge myself to consider a universal form. So far, I've been working on my own, but suddenly, I wonder if there are ideas that come out of two people who see the same thing. On this trip, it was very important to see the architecture, but the conversations I had with her along the way have become food for me.


Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Kudo's Swiss architecture travelogue became a journey for them to think about their own creation through the works of masters and Swiss culture. What should architects and designers design in today's world full of things? We may be able to find hints by thinking about our own identities and society.

Written by Hiroto Miyamoto

Talk photo Go Itami


ASSEMBLAGE TALK EVENT "Switzerland Architecture Travelogue"

In commemoration of the release of WEB MAGAZINE "SIRI SIRI ASSEMBLAGE", we will hold a spin-off talk event of the first article "Switzerland Architecture Travelogue".

Naho Okamoto, Ms. Momoko Kudo, and Ms. Eriko Masumura, Contributing Editor of "SIRI SIRI ASSEMBLAGE" will join us as moderator to talk about the Swiss architecture tour. Please enjoy the moment when the unique sensibilities of the three come into contact.

Date: Friday, August 10, 19:00 – 20:30

Venue: SIRI SIRI SHOP (Kasumicho Building 2F, 2-11-10 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo)

Price: 2,000 yen with drinks and snacks (capacity 20 people)

Application: Please apply from Peatix .

Swiss Architecture Travelogue by Designer Naho Okamoto and Architect Momoko Kudo

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