Table Speech

Enjoyable Cities for All

March 16, 2016

Mr. Fumihiko Maki
Representative Director
Maki and Associates Architecture and Planning

Let me share with you today how architectural space enables us to enjoy different urban lifestyles. Among many works I have designed, Hillside Terrace is the most memorable. Designed almost 50 years ago and constructed between 1967 and 1992 over six phases, I created a complex of buildings with cultural facilities such as galleries, library, music hall and a plaza where seasonal events like summer festivals and Christmas choir recitals have been held. We created a café during the sixth phase. As my office is nearby, I have often used the café. One day, I noticed an elderly gentleman who always took the same seat and enjoyed the scenery for about an hour with a little bottle of red wine, a sandwich and a coffee. He seemed to appreciate solitude amidst public space. I recalled my favorite phrase by a renowned German philosopher Nietzsche “Solitude is my home.” I realized the importance of creating a space in urban cities where you can find little enjoyments like reading a book or eating something nice.

I created a “mezzanine” at Hillside Terrace during the first phase, inspired by my childhood memory dating back to my elementary school days. I attended Keio Yochisha Elementary School, designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi, where I saw a mezzanine for the first time and was impressed. I am happy to have made my long-cherished plan come true.

I also constructed Hillside West located 500 meters from Hillside Terrace, upon request by the Asakura family who owned the land. They asked me to create a public space that allowed easy access to the streets and to construct buildings where people can gather and enjoy urban life.

I worked on the new campus of Tokyo Denki University (completed in 2012) in the vicinity of Kitasenju Station in Tokyo. As it is located in the heart of an urban district, I designed a barrier-free campus without any walls or gates so that people can walk through the campus to get to the station. To create a space open to the public was the main concept of this campus, just like Hillside West, so that people feel free to come and gather for various activities. I designed a square in the middle of the campus surrounded by classrooms and a cafeteria. Interesting enough, I found a nearby kindergarten where teachers often brought children to play. I saw many children cling to the round pillars as if they cherish the feeling of being carried by their mother. I also created sevenfold circles with white stones in the garden of a College for Buddhist Studies, where I often found children come and play. So let me give advice to those who design kindergartens and elementary schools to choose round pillars instead of square ones.

A few years ago, I designed the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto upon request by the current Imam of Ismaili Muslims and world-famous multimillionaire philanthropist His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV. While most Ismaili Muslims live in the Middle East and Africa, some were forced to flee persecution and conflict in Africa. Canada has been the most generous country to shelter Ismailis and there are various Islamic facilities in Toronto, including the Ismaili Center, the Islamic Garden and the museum I designed. H.H. Aga Khan told me the exterior of the building could look modern, but to make the interior to have a touch of Islamic culture, taking into account the movement of the sun and the effect of light. He also gave me a five-page letter with detailed information on Islamic architecture. I spent two years looking for the suitable material for the museum and found the white granite. The building centers around a courtyard where visitors can come and go freely. While the museum displays extensive works of Islamic art, I intended to create an architectural space for the Canadian citizens to serve as their local community center.

The last work I wish to share is the “4 World Trade Center (4WTC)” in New York, completed in 2013. It was constructed at Ground Zero where the former World Trade Center complex had stood until it was destroyed in the September 11 attacks. 4WTC faces the Memorial Park where over 3,000 names of the victims are inscribed on the black walls that surround the Park. I must say it was a challenging task to design a building in harmony with the Park. I decided to create a strong sculptural effect using glass to make the building serve as a huge mirror reflecting the entire Park. I also designed it to change its appearance depending upon the time of day, weather, light and the direction it is seen from. For example, seen from New Jersey, it might appear radiant but could blend and become a part of the sky depending on the light. I created a fee-charging terrace on the 46th floor open to the general public. It gives a breathtaking panoramic view of Manhattan, day and night, where you can hold parties or music recitals. Many New Yorkers have already come to make good use of this enjoyable space.