Columns/Interviews

Getting to Know the Expo

#7

Architect NAGAYAMA Yuko × Designer MORINAGA Kunihiko
A “Connecting Expo,” Embodied in the Pavilion Architecture and Uniform

A “Connecting Expo,” Embodied in the Pavilion Architecture and Uniform A “Connecting Expo,” Embodied in the Pavilion Architecture and Uniform

Our latest guests are the architect NAGAYAMA Yuko, who designed the Japan Pavilion, and MORINAGA Kunihiko, who designed the official uniforms for the Japan Pavilion’s attendants. The conversation that resulted between these two creative talents, who also know each other personally, was packed with ideas about architecture and uniforms as well as hints about future expos and what Japan should tell the world.

The Expo Theme, Embedded into the Architecture and Uniforms

Nagayama

I took the overall theme for the architecture from Expo 2020 Dubai’s theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” especially the idea of “connecting.” Cultural connections, for instance, have certain patterns. Sensing similarities between traditional patterns in Japan and the Middle East, I incorporated asanoha (hemp leaf) and arabesque patterns into the architecture. Both are originally two-dimensional patterns, but more complex patterns emerge by making them three-dimensional. I could create complex geometrical patterns whereby the asanoha pattern is visible from the front and the arabesque is visible when viewing the architecture at an angle.

Morinaga

It’s wonderful, truly cutting edge.

Nagayama

Thank you. There’s a theory that Japan and the Middle East were connected by the Silk Road, so I wanted to use these two motifs in the sense of connecting the past with the present. It is a structural system and, at the same time, the environmental system is realized through the structure. For example, the United Arab Emirates is a hot country, so a thin “membrane” covers the façade to block the sun as much as possible. Membrane-style architecture has been in use since Expo ’70, Osaka, but this time I designed the layer as small, “shredded” pieces that allow the breeze to circulate and make it look like the pavilion is “fluttering,” and resulting in what I think is a very subtle take on membrane architecture. Another aspect is the water feature. Though it functions also as a reflecting pool, the water feature harnesses heat vaporization to cool the breeze. Because the membrane is “shredded” and does not cover the build completely, the cooled breeze is able to enter inside like a natural cooling system, making the pavilion an example of sustainable architecture. Japan is relatively blessed with water resources, while the UAE seems to yearn strongly to have more water. And so my design came from the idea of trying to contrast the two cultures through water.

Morinaga

The design has a geometrical edge that stands out, though the fusion with nature is also beautiful. The uniform design took its cue from the architecture, and I applied the concept of the architecture to it.

Nagayama

Because the architecture design came first for the Japan Pavilion.

Morinaga

Yes. Since the architecture explored the theme of “connecting,” I wanted through the uniform to transcend the various borders that exist in fashion, and create connections. Based on the symbiosis of the asanoha and arabesque motifs in the architecture, the uniform jacket was designed as a heart-shaped chain, formed by a combination of circles, triangles, and squares. This has the appearance of a pattern in which the Middle Eastern arabesque and Japanese motifs co-exist. Though it seems pure white at first, it actually changes color according to the angle of the light. It expresses the idea of “colorless clothes,” whose colors appear depending on the angle or environment in which you look at them. I chose to make the bottoms black, in contrast to the white of the jacket, based on the kandura (thawb, thobe) worn by men in the Middle East and the abaya worn by women. Previous Japan Pavilion uniforms had separate male and female versions, but I decided to make a single uniform this time, designed so that both men and women can wear the same thing without impediment, which is reflected in the balance of white and black.

Nagayama

I have had the chance to see your collections in the past. The concepts behind them are really easy to understand, though that isn’t to say they are rigidly conceptual per se, and I am always surprised each time by just how nice they are as clothing. When I heard that you had been selected as the uniform designer for the Japan Pavilion, I got really excited about what would appear. The resulting design was super cool and seeing it with the architecture left me speechless.

“Where ideas meet” in the Exhibits and Creative Process

Morinaga

The uniform is based on your idea and came from thinking about the people working in that space, so I think it’s more closely connected with the architecture that previous uniforms. In that sense, it’s perhaps unprecedented.

Nagayama

Though only the architecture was moving forward at first, it felt more and more like a team effort when you were chosen as the uniform designer and the content of the exhibits was decided. Looking at the Japan Pavilion, where diverse ideas from various people have come together to form something beyond my imagination, it truly seems to embody the pavilion theme of “Where ideas meet.”

Morinaga

Talking of “Where ideas meet,” I think a new kind of fashion emerges when we integrate principles and technologies completely unrelated to fashion. If we think of clothing as something that fits the shape of someone’s body, the design this time started from something really far from that principle: a sphere-like shape that doesn’t fit anyone. The coloring technology for the jacket works when hit by light, but such prints on clothing are conventionally done only in places that don’t get so much light. Sunlight causes colors to fade, so it’s fashion’s nemesis.

Nagayama

I actually wondered if I could bring out something similar to the jacket in the architecture, so I did secret tests trying to add a membrane painted with that ink. [Laughs] But because it’s built outside, there’s the issue of durability, so I ultimately gave up.

Morinaga

Nonetheless, like the jacket, the architecture looks different depending on the angle. Because I make clothing on a 1:1 scale, I can make corrections along the way. With architecture, though, you don’t get a sense of the scale until it’s finally finished, right? What does it feel like to make something while imagining the real scale?

Nagayama

You’re right, it’s really important for architects not to make an error with the scale. So we do tests using various means. For example, with the Japan Pavilion, we rented a hall and did a full-scale projection test, trying to see if the scale I was imagining fit physically. I also use virtual reality. I made a 3D version and could try walking around inside the building. The membrane on the Japan Pavilion might seem like it’s just hanging there any old how, but we actually tested the direction of the light and where the breeze enters, and then decided the specific positions of the two thousand pieces that make up the membrane.

Morinaga

Is looking at the real thing totally different from looking at it to scale?

Nagayama

When you look at it on a computer, it is put together logically, but there arises another issue when looking at the actual thing: Is it beautiful? But what really astonished me this time was that it felt almost the same when looking at it in virtual reality and in real life. People in Dubai also said it was amazing. And this is thanks to the many incredibly talented engineers involved. Even for testing, there is lots of new technology, so it’s a process of trial and error over which test is closer to the real thing. In that sense, the final pavilion as well as the encounters with new technologies during that process are both examples of “Where ideas meet.”

“New Japanese-ness”

Morinaga

I think that creativity and taking on new challenges are part of the essence of Japan. Through my involvement with the Japan Pavilion, it feels like new things are coming out of both the clothing and architecture, and I hope this can lead to a kind of “new Japanese-ness.”

Nagayama

Yes, “new Japanese-ness” is perhaps a keyword. When considering the architecture for the pavilion, instead of traditional Japanese-style technology and materials, I kept in mind whether I could use global materials to express something Japanese. Ordinarily, we do not live our lives conscious of “Japan.” When I design architecture, I also use materials from all kinds of countries for sites in countries all over the world. In that sense, there are fewer and fewer things we can do with a “made in Japan” approach. In which case, when thinking about what is “Japanese,” it’s ultimately about the aesthetic or view of nature that comes from the climate and milieu particular to Japan. These, though, are immaterial things, so by making slight adjustments in terms of how we use global materials and so on, I think we can express things subtly. The Japan Pavilion embodies the outlook on nature that Japanese people have had since long ago, such as our senses of the breeze or light. In your case, you are not simply concentrating on Japanese materials and Japan-specific technology, but rather using new technology to bring out something Japanese.

Morinaga

I am constantly exploring new materials and technology, and there are times when the moment that these seem like they might become usable in making clothes aligns with the realization that they are also right for a certain theme. This expo is held in the United Arab Emirates, a hot part of the world, so I used materials by Toray Industries that dissipate heat and which absorb sweat and dry quickly. On the other hand, designing the uniform in a way that is suitable for both men and women to wear is an idea you find in Japanese clothing and comes from the kimono. Western clothing is designed to neatly cover a three-dimensional body, so its shapes and forms are highly varied, but the kimono is flat. The body is placed inside the same shape of material, which then wraps around the body by the way it is worn, such as the position of the waist and how the sash is tightened. By then adding the idea of “wearing a sphere,” I arrived at a uniform that sits in between Western and Japanese clothing.

Nagayama

An expo is the perfect place to proactively integrate new technology and reassemble the concept of clothing from scratch. An expo is a place for both “telling” and “receiving” something. Though perhaps treated simply like a transmitter until now, an expo is fundamentally a place where many kinds of people come and many viewpoints gather together. The Japan Pavilion in Dubai will collect opinions regarding the pavilion or the theme, and so on. I think it’s so important to convey something while also collecting information, and then take that forward to the next development, be that at the Dubai Expo or Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan. My involvement with the Japan Pavilion made me newly aware that an expo isn’t a one-off event, but must lead on to the next thing, forming a cycle and creating a new chain.

Profiles

NAGAYAMA Yuko

NAGAYAMA Yuko

Director, NAGAYAMA Yuko & ASSOCIATES

Born in 1975. Completed Showa Women’s University in 1998. After working at Jun Aoki & Associates, established Yuko Nagayama & Associates in 2002. Representative works: “Louis Vuitton Kyoto Daimaru”, “a hill on a house”, “ANTEPRIMA”, “Kayaba Coffee”, “SISII”, “Kiya Ryokan”, “Teshima Yokoo House”, “SEIBU SHIBUYA A・B bld. 5th floor”, “Central Garden - Goddess of The Forest”, “Expo Dubai 2020 Japan Pavilion”. Received awards: L’Oreal Encouragement Award, JCD Design Award, AR Award 2006 “a hill on a house”, ARCHITECTURAL RECORD Award, Design Vanguard 2012, JIA Young Architect Award 2014 “Teshima Yokoo House”, Yamanashi Cultural Prize of Architecture 2017, JCD Design Award 2017 Silver Award, Tokyo Architecture Award 2018 Excellent Award “Central Garden - Goddess of The Forest”, Design Award for Light and Lighting 2021 Grand Prize “Tamagawa Takashimaya S.C. Grand Patio”etc.
Currently working on a high-rise building in Kabukicho, Shinjuku (2022), and TOKYO TORCH in Tokiwabashi.
http://www.yukonagayama.co.jp/

MORINAGA Kunihiko

MORINAGA Kunihiko

ANREALAGE

Born in 1980 in Tokyo, Waseda University School of Social Sciences graduate Morinaga Kunihiro founded ANREALAGE in 2003. After successive shows at Tokyo fashion week, he made his Paris fashion week debut in autumn 2014 with his spring/summer 2015 collection and was selected as a finalist for the 2019 LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers. In 2019, he was nominated as a finalist for the LVMH prize and was awarded the 37th Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix.

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