Libraries in Mexico メキシコシティーの図書館


The glass floor of the book shelves. 本棚の周りはガラスの床。


We are at a factory in Mexico city. An automation line is accommodated in this big space. You recognize the book shelves along the conveyor, a book manufacturer? Sorry it was a lie we are not in a factory. It is in fact a library which was built several years ago. This linear space continues straight for several hundred meters. The library is designed around this linear void.  The reading space is on either side between the void and the exterior windows, an ideal condition with light and views provided for the readers. The book shelves are hung in the void but never move. You go to the shelves to find your books through small staircases and come back to your seat. Mezzanine floors that contain only book shelves are sandwiched between the concrete floors of the reading spaces. Elevators stop at each floor as wheel chair users and the Librarians’ wagons need to access every floor. We realized this is not a typical library that we know very well.



Who wants to spend so much money to build a facility just for book reading? It is almost a cathedral for books. This is not the library we are used to .



It seems there is very little staff for such a large collection. Do readers return the books to the original shelf by themselves? If so, it will be big work for them and will they put them back in precisely the original location? In New York you are supposed to drop the book into a big basket or leave it on the desk not return it to the original shelf. We wrote that the ideal library has a flat single floor, but this is the other way around. What if you have many books to read in many genres? You have to go up and go down many times.






In front of the louvers is a reading area, avoiding the strong light, the garden is visible between the louvers. 読書席がルーバーの後に。強い光を避けながら、隙間から庭園が見える仕組み。



Exterior. This linear expression is more than 200m surrounded by garden. 建物の外観、これが同じ表情で200m 以上続く。庭園も一緒に並んで続く。



This looks like a high end restaurant. The surrounding garden is visible through the slot between the old building and the new. 高級レストランさながら。庭園の緑が新旧建物の隙間から。

Next day we went to a national library. Although it is different from what you imagine from “national” there is no check to go in and you traverse the building through several entrances. It was renovated from an older library which had 4 square gardens by adding large roofs.  Shelves and reading seats are laid out in the squares. Through the gap between the old building and the new roof, sun light and a view of the garden outside are visible. The only support of the roof is by a huge central columns. This structure should be quite expensive.



Small archive rooms are accessed from the corridors surrounding the big square reading areas. These archives were recently renovated with a very high quality of design. I have seen them published in magazines and books. These archives are respectfully dedicated to the original book owners and house their entire collection and it is a huge collection. This demonstrates a culture that has a huge respect to or an obsession with books. I speculate Mexicans return the books to their original location responsibly no matter if it is faraway and up many flights of stairs. That explains what it is like at the new library. I should have asked about this system.



a lot of spare time today. 暇そうな職員たち。



stacked book shelves-the floor is glass, hung from the ceiling without columns. Amazing craftsmanship of stainless steel. 書架は二階建て。床はガラスで天井から吊られている。柱無し. ステンレス細工は驚きの職人わざ


As you see, a mezzanine floor accessed through a small staircase is common in these new libraries. It seems to be the traditional way of designing a library and is an expression of their respect and affection for books, which is gone in Japan or New York where books are considered disposable or treated roughly.



The mezzanine is accessed through a stair case 階段をのぼって中二階へ


A dedicated space for Braille, audio booths are suspended from above. Yellow guide lines on the floor. 点字専用図書室。 吊られているのは音声利用の個室。床に白線。


Does it make sense to build such a beautiful library for people who can not see well? Probably the small shelves are to improve acoustics. The book collection is coming. 目の不自由な人のためにこれほどの美しい空間を作って意味があるのか?ちょっと不思議。小さい本棚のようにみえるのはおそらく反射音響の改善のためか?蔵書の充実はこれから。


There has been a debate if written language was developed in north and south America before the Spanish invasion. There has been a recent full de-coding of the 4written language in Maya civilization, but it seems that the Teotihuacan civilization did not need a written language. How come this love of books developed? It must be an interesting process.

Despite the horrible history of the Spanish invasion, it is interesting to see the many amalgams of native and Spanish cultures. Is this book culture a reflection of this amalgam?



Hunter Point new Queens library ハンターポイント図書館


A new library designed by the star architect Steven Holl opened several  months ago in our neighborhood, well, the other side of the East River. A 15 minute ferry ride brings you to the east shore and into the middle of newly developed high rise housing. The library project started over 10 years ago and has finally became a real building. The unbelievably  long term for construction did not surprise us, we are also designing a library project for the City of New York. That project started with a walk though in 2014, and we are now still in the schematic design phase.



We were excited to see the completed project as we remember the very early stage of the façade from a decade ago and have been seeing this building under construction from the other side of the river for several years. It is very powerful. Randomly shaped big windows carve holes into the platonic boxy building.  It has such an abstract form, not friendly…  no entrance on the riverside (park side), a discreet entrance at the street side.



The inside instead is quite complicated, probably intended to be a Piranesian space,  mesmerizing, with elements of dramatic skipping floors, bridges, staircases and  arches inspired by the historic visionary Italian architect, but actually also messy.  What you feel in the space is very different from what the photos give us, the photos cut many things out of the frame. The design is challenging not because of the unusual façade or Piranesian space, but by the goal of consolidating and unifying them at the same time. We can see that the architect was struggling to achieve both. We read that these elements are not very well organized and not well synchronized with the random openings on the façade. In every project you want to bring something new to the world that will be a challenge but this was super ambitious.



Probably it is just our recognition that many things may not have been intended initially. We speculate that originally some bookshelves were installed at more reasonable locations. The current  bookshelves are located in abrupt and somewhat disturbing ways, the circulation collides with them, and they steal the scene….



We heard that the 2 skipping floors along the staircase used to have book shelves, but they were not handicap accessible; no elevator or escalator so the book were removed from those floors to somewhere else in the library. Books are probably not the biggest draw for the library, when we were there almost every table was full with people using their laptops.



This library has 5  floors and maybe more depending on how to count the tiny mezzanines and each floor has a small floor area, the general reading rooms were divided into smaller branch rooms. 40 years ago, we were taught that the ideal library has one floor for librarians who return borrowed books, and organize…. they constantly move books from one shelf to another according to expanding or shrinking sections. Also you don’t want to be sent to the next floor at the end of a shelf by the sudden ending of the alphabet after feeling that the book your searching book is very near, and find no book like it when you get there and come all the way back to the original floor. Knowing this the architect chose this height to stand out among the developer high-rises that surround it. It is New York’s version of the Sydney Opera house with its prominence on the waterfront.



Probably it is too popular, which is a good thing….it is in the middle of a densely populated area. We recommend that this is the first building you visit in new York City, it is definitely one of the best public buildings in New York。



Ford Foundation Open Houseフォード財団の公開

At this years New York Open House, a yearly event to see and experience New York buildings, Sandy was volunteering at the Ford Foundation building near the United Nations. The garden and their gallery are open to the public but many people did not know and took advantage of this time to visit.  Many people came.


The volunteer’s role is to guide visitors and to explain the architecture. This opportunity to visit other areas was a courtesy provided by the Ford Foundation.  Not all areas of the building were open but we as volunteers received a quick tour through the upper levels overlooking the garden  showing us their goals and their activity. The foundation’s goal is to improve social justice and they are happy to remind the public of their mission.


My first reaction was simply “ wow!” and “ how lucky we are we can see the inside!” and “how lucky they are!”, they can work everyday in this gorgeous working environment….


Then my next reaction was a question “why is this so gorgeous?”  The construction cost would have been exceptionally high, and the use of this footprint in this expensive city is extremely generous…. There is not so much floor area, commercial buildings could never afford it unless this spaciousness and richness of finish created more business, like banks or art museums.  Banks need to show that they are safe and profitable. Art museums need to  show their art collection is authentic and a ”must see” they need to entertain art lovers with their space. Unlike banks and museums one of our clients doing research to fight a serious disease wants to spend the majority of their donations for their facilities and equipment and some money for decent spaces for their staff. How much do we value space and luxurious finishes? It is all relative.


When we left the building, I was in a strange mood, a mixture of  happiness because of the experience and our good luck and at the same time, unhappiness, why can’t everyone have this environment? Don’t we all deserve this quality of working environment? Can other not-for-profit organizations like ” Doctors Without  Borders” which have noble missions have this office as their headquarters?


I have no answer … but, yes, all office spaces ”should ” have this quality.


MOMA PS1 ニューヨーク近代美術館別館

We found that the current MOMA Young Architects installation at PS1 will end today. We gave up all our other ideas of where to go this weekend and rushed to the museum. The installation is one of the experimental architectural pavilions that is selected each summer by MOMA from among fifty applicants. The winner’s installation this year looked interesting to us, it is like a Porcupine which has spiky hair. The edge of each hair is covered with blue tape which is not very visible in the pictures but is very effective, they create a blue envelope.

ニューヨーク近代美術館の別館PS1で新人建築家のインスタレーション作品が今日までだとしって、急遽、他の計画をあきらめてPS1に駆け付けた。インスタレーションは毎年、たくさんの応募の中から選ばれた案が一作品だけ 実験的に建てられる。今年の作品はハリネズミのごとく。毛の先は青い色のテープが張り付けられていて、全体の輪郭が青く浮かび上がるという仕掛け。写真では良く見えないかもしれないけれど、実際にはとても効果的。


Many colorful hammocks are hung from the pipe scaffolding. For me, the hammocks look ad-hoc without any context, not well integrated with the porcupine…hmm, but why? Modern life is exhausting… the hammocks are all occupied…. The inside surface is covered with a mesh screen that has images of tropical plants. I thought the inward-facing spiky hair could be blue too. I speculated that probably the designers (Pedro y Juana Architects from Mexico) wanted to hide the messy structure supporting the spikes, otherwise, it loses its strength as an image, and they did not have a generous amount of money to provide more than the screen and red hammocks.



Though in fact, this design makes me comfortable …. it looks fair to me. The installations have become more and more extravagant each year. MOMA seems to give a set budget to the designer but then the designers have to provide more money if they want to do more. Of course, a bigger budget makes the result more fabulous. If you cannot provide that extra money your show would be shabby, and if you raise more money your show will be fantastic… actually, all architects know money solves “everything”. It does not sound very fair. Your ability to raise money determines the success of your show. This reminds me a little of the election of politicians in the US. The best money collector will be the winner. Although here is the dilemma —— if you have a great idea but the money provided by your supporting organization is not enough, will you give up your full presentation or use your own money? or fund-raise?

でも、このデザインの在り方は快い…フェアにみえる。この数年、作品は次第に大がかりになってきて、すぐにゴミになってしまうものに、驚くほどの金が使われている。工事を担当した業者から聞いた話では美術館は一定の資金をデザイナーに与えてらしいのだけれど、それ以上の出費はデザイナー自身が払うそうな。金が有ればあるほど、より素晴らしい展示となる次第。金は何でも解決することは良く知られている事実。しかし、追加出費になるような高額案であっても勝ちたいのは人の常。金の有無が選ばれること、そして展示の成功の成否を握っているとしたら?金に物を言わせた作品ががいつも勝つとしたら、そしてそのような大掛かりなものしか評価されなくなるとしたら…何かフェアには聞こえない。なんだか 金をたくさん集められる候補者が勝者となるこの国の選挙をおもいだす。ここにジレンマがある。もし素晴らしいアイデアがあるのに、後援する組織は十分なお金を提供できないとしたら。諦めるだろうか?それとも自腹を切るか、さらなる後援者をさがすか?


Anyway, if you don’t have an unlimited budget you will figure out what to do within the budget you do have. This is a challenge that sometimes provides us with a new solution. I now understand that these red hammocks were the solution. The short life of the installation of just 2 months for the summer program reminds me of one of the Shinto shrines in Japan. Every shrine used to be a temporary building to receive the descendant of a god (or gods) at the harvest. The shrines became more and more fabulous and costly every year, but then they started to reuse them for the next year and the next year….. After many centuries they gave up the tradition, except for Ise shrine. They keep the building for 20 years then demolish it and rebuild a new one, identical in design. The design has been handed down for more than a thousand years but the inheritance is the concept, not the building itself. The enormous expense is supported by religious faith.



The building is invisible because of the high fence that surrounds it.  The explanation for this has been  that invisibility or that fact that it is unapproachable gives us something sublime. But this idea that preserving a concept (with an object which embodies the concept) is the purpose, but not the physical object may give a better explanation. Linage in Japan means that in many art forms disciples must preserve their master’s design strictly without development. Ever young Ise shrine doesn’t fit the World Heritage’s idea— understandable.


Horseshoe crab カブトガニ

20190615_194653For the last few years, it has become an early summer ritual to go to Jamaica Bay and help count Horseshoe crabs. Late May-early June is their mating season and at high tide, a crew of volunteers organized by the Audubon Society heads out to the beaches of Jamaica Bay to count. The eggs that they lay are an important food source for migrating sea birds.

この数年間、ジャマイカ湾へ行って カブトガニの数を数えて生息状況を調査するのが初夏のしきたりになっている。五月下旬から6月初旬の高潮が繁殖の時期。カブトガニの卵は海鳥の回遊に重要な食糧となるそうな。野鳥保護を始めたオデュボーンの名にちなんだ、オデュボーン学会によって毎年ボランティアが募集される。20170611_204155_Burst01.jpgIt is always a lovely trip, from Manhattan over the Brooklyn bridge and under the Verrazano narrows bridge to Plumb Beach. This year there were more than enough volunteers so I had the task of looking for crabs that had tags on them and picking up the garbage that is constantly being washed onto the beach.

目的地の海岸までの道中も なかなかの楽しい道のり。マンハッタンからブルックリン橋やベラザノナローズ橋を渡って、市の南端にあるプラムビーチに至る。今年はボランティアが沢山集まったので、楽な仕事をもらえた。再帰してきたカニを探す役と、岸に集まるゴミを同時に集める仕事。毎年何匹かのカニが捕らえられ、標識のバッジが付けて放される。20190615_194100It was unusual this year, high tide was during daylight. In previous years we had headlamps and were searching in the dark. It was the first time for me to have the mating rituals in full view. Females do not move, they dig into the sand and the males try to attach to anything that is not moving. I have no idea what is the next step for the bewildered males when they find out the object they attached to is just a human foot.


20190615_192642.jpgThere was also a lot of surf, so the horseshoe crabs had to work that much harder and persevere. We helped flip some over that were being tossed around in the high waves. They do a very good Darth Vader impression. In fact their flipped side looks more grotesque. The Hollywood movie industry has successfully implanted an evil impression of this kind of creature on us…..They look aggressive and harmful but actually are much safer than New Yorkers. They are meekly floating on the waves, silent, almost cute.


20190615_192709It was interesting to see the sea life that has fastened onto the shells of the crabs, one was covered in seaweed, others had intricate sculptures of barnacles and shells.  It means they hardly move, I guess.


20190615_195200My fellow volunteers were New Yorkers, happily embracing these alien invaders- they are interested in the water life that surrounds the city and the families wanted their children to learn about the rich natural life that a big city like New York has. As I said good night and left the beach the sky was still bright.

今回のボランティアの仲間たちは この大都市ニューヨークに生息する水性生物に興味がある人たちや、家族の子供たちが豊かな自然を学んでほしいと思っているニューヨーカーたちだった。さよならを言って別れた。空がまだ明るい。






























Akaishi Bairin Plum Orchard 赤石梅林

20190418_041426sWe are now at a small valley near the east coast of Shikoku Island, where plums are produced for liquor and ume-boshi, pickles. We were here 5 years ago too, but this time we went to the deepest end of the valley. In the last blog I wrote it is almost equivalently beautiful to the many beautiful villages in Italy. After removing my fantasy to Italy and nostalgia to Shikoku, I still think so. This landscape is everywhere in japan but this place has something special. There are no buildings which use industrial cladding materials. There is very little traffic. These two conditions make this valley appear to be frozen in time from 100 yeas ago. There is no way to cross the mountain through the end of the valley, so no cars from outside use the valley. There are no shops, no advertising, no parking, no vending machines (which are everywhere even many in the beautiful country side of Japan). The locals go shopping at supermarkets in the next closest village. The old traditional houses are not poor, they are well maintained probably because of the plum industry.

四国の南東部、海岸からほど近いところにある梅林の渓谷に来ている。5年前にも来ていた。そこからさらに谷の奥まで来ている。前のブログで、イタリアなどの風光明媚な村々に比べても、勝るとも劣らないと書いた。イタリアへのあこがれと、四国へのノスタルジーどちらも注意深く心の中から差し引いた(つもりで)後でも やはりそう感じる。わたしだけであろうか?私がこの谷に感じる美しさは、日本のどこにでもあるのだが、それでも特別ではある。ここには特殊な条件がある。新建材で覆われた建物がまったくない。車の交通量が極端に少ない。その二つから、100年前の景色が凍り付けにされているように見える。この谷を登りつめると、行き止まりになって山を越えることが出来ない。そのため通過交通が一切ない。商店も、看板も、駐車場も自動販売機もない。谷の外へ出ればスーパーはすぐそこ。それでも梅産業のおかげだろうか、古い家々が美しく維持されている。


At a rice paddy I timidly spoke to the people working, pretending we are local from near by but just lost. We clearly looked like strangers. I rehearsed  in my brain, preparing in my local dialect making sure not to speak in Tokyo dialect… ” Excuse me but what is the fence you are putting up for, why do you need it?”



An Immediate smile returned “ against deer.”  “ what? deer here? unbelievable.” This area shouldn’t be remote enough to have deer. How quiet is this village.




After taking these photos, I realized they look as if they are from a Japanese garden. I thought Japanese gardens may be an abstraction of this landscape. Then no, no, I thought, eyes which have been seeing Japanese gardens find this landscape beautiful. Finally I thought, maybe it is both like an egg-chicken conundrum.



20190418_035327sBy the way, isn’t this bridge scarily thin? We went down under the bridge, and  found that only three “I” beams are holding it up. You hardly see this thickness unless it is someone who is pursuing the simplest proportions of modern architecture. It also looks like a Japanese sword. We left there feeling like we had received a special gift got a godsend.



FAIA 米国建築家協会フェロー


Sandy, the coauthor of this blog became a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, FAIA. The AIA New York chapter organized a celebration party for the new FAIA members. Wikipedia says FAIA is an architect who has made outstanding contributions to the profession through design excellence, contributions in the field of architectural education, or to the advancement of the profession. There are several categories, but her coverage spans design, education and community contribution, which is unusual and hopefully will be a new role model. The AIA allotted two minutes for speeches by new FAIAs at the reception. It is really hard to summarize what the achievements were in that time. 2 minutes flies past instantly. You do not have room to joke or tell a story.

(We found we were silly to believe that we needed to follow that rule, some people entertained the audience with jokes and “thank you speeches” for 5 minutes like the Oscars, they needed that special music to call them off stage. I hope people do not think all architects are like that.)

このブログの共著者であるサンディーが米国建築家協会のフェローになった。FAIAという肩書になるのだが、名誉上級会員と訳せばいいのだろうか?そのニューヨーク支部で祝賀会があった。ウィキペディア曰く、優れたデザイン、教育、職能の向上を通して、目覚ましい貢献をした建築家に与えられるのだそうな。いろんなカテゴリがあるが、彼女の場合はデザインからコミュニティーへの貢献、後進の教育にまたがっていて、これまでにないタイプで、これからのモデルになると素晴らしい。レセプションのまえに新人FAIA が手短に業績を紹介するスピーチをする。2分間という決められた時間の中で、表彰された理由を要約するのは至難のわざで、ジョークを入れたり、語り調にする余裕はない。2分なんてあっという間に経ってしまう。



A few days later we organized our own reception inviting our friends and clients. We chose to hold it at the blue origami wall of the MS imaging center that we designed a few years ago. Actually the wall will be torn down in several months for an extension of this medical facility. The reception was also meant to celebrate the short life of the blue origami wall. Many images of this wall have been published, so today’s guests would know it but experiencing the space at this scale was quite different… everybody looked curious and asked us “ How come?” noting how sad it was that it was being torn down.



In June the AIA is having another event for new FAIAs in Las Vegas. They require men to wear “ black tie” and there will be dancing. One of the coauthors is getting less excited to join it.