Lamma Island ランマ島、香港

We are now in Hong Kong. We were here 10 years ago too. It has changed so much, Kowloon castle is gone, HSBC bank designed by Sir Norman Foster was the rare tall building and looked like it was predicting the future and soon Bank of China by IM Pei joined it, but now they are settled among the 100 tall anonymous buildings. Their facades still have a unique significance but did they demonstrate a model for the next generation?  We are not sure. Last time we were here we saw, I think, more people walking on the streets but today hardly to see people on the streets, possibly it is too hot and today is weekend. One difference is many shops and restaurants moved into high rises so that you can not see them from streets. You will find them through internet but not hanging around the city. This is the same phenomena we saw in Tokyo on the way here. Shops and restaurants are so sophisticated but the city sadly lost the face of activity. Remember how cities use to be… shops and restaurants were exposed on streets and joy of hanging around the city. I guess people prefer air conditioned space to explore the city.

今香港に来ている。10以上年前にも来たけれど大きく変わっている。九龍城はなくなり、ノーマンフォスター卿のデザインしたHSBC銀行は今はさらに高い沢山のビルの中に紛れてしまった。かつては周りの高層ビルのなかでひときわ目立つ、香港の未来を先取すると思われた建物で、そのあとIMペイのデザインした中国銀行のビルがそれに加わった。これらの建物のユニークで魅力的なファサードは、次世代のモデルになるだろうか?かなり疑わしい。さて、前回ここに来た時、もっと通りに人が歩いていたと思うけれど、今日はあまり人を見ない。週末だからだろうか? そのわけはレストランや商店が高層ビルの中に入っていったからではないだろうか?インターネットで調べてくるので、もうぶらぶら歩きをしなくなったのではないか?これと同じ傾向を東京でも見た。店やレストランは上品になって、大きなビルの中に他の店や事務所と一緒に納まり、表からは隠れてしまって、町は賑わいを失いつつあるのあるではないか?たぶん人々は町を散策するよりは冷房の効いたモールを好むようになったのかもしれない。

Today we came to an island called Lamma which is a 40 minute boat ride from the center of Hong Kong, one of many islands in that make up Hong Kong. Despite its image Hong Kong has hundreds of  islands and they are attracting more tourists.


After landing on the narrow walkway of the pier we walked up the main street that goes deep into the island through restaurants, shops, cafes and beaches and lovely clean public changing rooms. It is so nice and relaxing. Why is that…? It took a while to figure it out.


Yes, no cars!! Absolutely no cars on this island. Isn’t it a privilege not to have any cars and still be part of a city? In other words, does every community have to allow cars into every street and  be continuous to every other part of the city, giving up a sense of community? Why can’t individual parts of the city be like an island? Is it really so inconvenient? …


New York is considered the most functionally designed and most exciting city (a  simple straight grid and wide streets) in the world. In a grid system, every corner is equivalent (and almost the same) and exposed to heavy car traffic. For some people exhausting means exciting….  But is it really so ?


All of the photos above were taken along the small but main street. You can click all images to enlarge… for a more spatial experience. ここに載せた写真はすべてこの島のメインストリートたる細い道から取ったもの。クリックすれば臨場感のある大写しに…。

new ORIGAMI hat design at Easter Parade 新オリガミ帽デザインイースターパレードで

The Easter Parade came again this year. We have been creating new hat forms since we joined the parade in 2013. This year we experimented with a series of hats created from a single tube of origami. They are all composed of one sheet of paper (to be precise a tube). Six papers are combined to form a long tube, otherwise one long sheet of paper is cumbersome to handle. Precisely speaking, these final forms are not mathematically “origami”. Making a tube with origami is a precise mathematical process, however when it is bent to become a torus we are using the flexibility of paper. In other words, if the material is very hard it cannot be used to make these hats.


tube before folding. thin folding lines are printed. 折る前の筒、かすかに折れ線が印刷されている

Many people were attracted to these hats and constantly asked for permission to take photos. Some wanted their picture to be taken together with our models. They were amazed with the forms but strangely they didn’t ask any questions. Simply they don’t care how the hats are made? Or they are lost for words as they have not seen this design? Only a friend of ours asked questions to satisfy his curiosity.


I answered  “We don’t use any origami generating program software. We use Computer Aided Drawing software just to draw lines more precisely than hand drawing.”


“We fold for fun and for finding practical applications but also for transcendence through mathematics without equations and formulas.  If any computer program starts generating these forms automatically, I will quit origami.”


Please check different designs posted in the past. 過去のデザインもご覧あれ。

ORIGAMI chair, Science Museum Oklahoma オリガミチェア 科学博物館にて


Do you know about corrugated plastic or coroplast ? It has the same structure as corrugated card board but is made from plastic. It is very inexpensive and used for protection at construction sites, signage and packaging.  We designed a chair using this material a few years ago and since last week it is has been in an exhibition at the Science Museum of Oklahoma. The exhibition looks at many aspects of origami, from the traditional folded animals to modern abstract objects. It is at the Science museum where they have delved into the mathematics of this art.



The mid point of the video above shows the chair as part of their origami exhibition. Please take a look. This “continuum” is made by folding one 1.2m x 3m sheet, quite different from a typical chair which is assembled from legs, a seat, a back… It is very light; you can lift it with one hand but sturdy enough to sit on. This tube-like form is combined at the edges with stitches, generating the “continuum” which has enough strength to accept your weight. You can sit directly on the soft plastic seat but a cushion will make you happier. For more information, please go to a link below.






Hudson River Greenway ハドソン川自転車専用道

Several months ago five people were killed on the Hudson river green way, by a van that intentionally ran them down. We use the green way every week to commute to a project site, it’s a separated lane for bicyclists removed from the traffic and makes a great way to travel. Right after the murders every opening to the road was protected with concrete barricades for the full 10 km to prevent cars from invading into the green way pedestrian/bike lane. They are installed along the lane but the edges are painted with a florescent color to prevent bikers from running into them. We thought they were ugly because they disturb the smooth flow of bikes and are not appropriate for a “green” way running along the adjacent Hudson River Park.


These barricades oddly enough reminded me of  the train design of the British railway. The trains are yelling “watch out! I am not going to stop! never”  and the barricade is yelling ” watch out, I will never move”. The subjects are different but they share the orange nose and liner form along the direction of movement.  Additionally the barricade looks to have something like couplers. This maybe a good example of a theory in Bio-morphology—–a similar function builds a similar form even if they are not related at all.



Well, lets come back from this derailing….. what is the advantage of  installing this barricade here in reality?  This bike lane just happened to be picked. The attack could happen anywhere in New York, any street, any side walk… any place. The city would be packed with these British trains to protect pedestrians and bikes and paralyze the traffic. The city cannot just be silent, they had to do something. Luckily they could do something on this bike lane because of it’s unusual design… there is a bank and a planted border between the motor vehicle lanes and the bike route. Norma almost every sidewalk in New York has direct access to the road to allow drop off to the side walk, access to driveways, fire hydrants, and for deliveries and loading docks, and parking which is the basic assumption of urban design. That is why you never find low plants like in the image below.


side walk

Right: the Brooklyn Central Library, our proposal for a new canopy and fore garden for the theater entrance. Left: existing condition. Low plants between cars and pedestrians would give the entrance a welcoming focal point. This does not seem to happen here even though the sidewalk has this ample width. 右図はブルックリン中央図書館の劇場入り口の提案から。キャノピーと前庭のデザインを含む。左図は現状。これほど歩道が広いのだから右図のように車道との間に植栽帯を置きたかったのだけれど、NYではできないらしい。そうすれば入り口付近が際立って、「ようこそ!」の感じが出せたのだが…。


Here the planting and permanent barricades which would never allow cars to go into the bike lane. Installing British trains just at the openings  of the lane works very well. Speculatively the main purpose is to tranquilize and ease people’s psychology. After considering I guess that may be the practical function of this British train.

A few years ago in Tokyo bombs exploded that were hidden in garbage bins in public spaces. Immediately all of the garbage bins disappeared from public spaces. When the fear that this might happen again faded they all came back. There is no guarantee this will happen again, and I ( irresponsibly) hope these British trains will return home someday when the fear is gone.



Community Board コミュニティーボード

The Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio invited all of the Community Board members ( and their spouses ) to an annual reception held at his official residence to express his appreciation for their contribution to the city and enhance the communication between members. The party was held in a temporary tent built in the garden close to the building- Gracie Mansion.

ニューヨーク市長 ビル デ ブラジオがコミュニティーボードのメンバー(とその伴侶)を彼の公邸宿舎に呼んで毎年、レセプションを開いている。メンバーをねぎらうことと、メンバー間のコミュニケーションが活発になるようにという趣旨。グレイシーマンションと呼ばれる建物の横、庭園のなかに大きなテントが建てられて、立席パーティーが催される。

Representatives of the 59 community boards from the 5 boroughs of New York City were there. Even New Yorker’s don’t know that the community boards exist… probably. The community boards are appointed advisory groups from the community districts, each board is composed of up to 50 volunteer members appointed by the local borough president with half from nominations by City Council members and they have no official authority to make or enforce laws. They advise on land use and zoning, participate in the city budget process, and address service delivery in their district. We came to last year’s party so we hung around near the kitchen; the best area for hors d’oeuvres. Tasty food carried by the waiters was quickly intercepted before reaching the other end of the tent.


We heard the mayor was somewhere in the tent and that we had the opportunity to have our picture taken with him and his wife. With 50 members on each board, public members, district managers, etc. that is over 3,000 potential photos for the mayor and the first lady…although it was split over 2 nights. We did not have a strong incentive to have a photo taken (we are not very photogenic) but we decided to see what was going on and report to this blog. We took our place in the line that extended behind a curtain. The mayor and his crew were there working hard…. this was a mass production photo shoot-conveyor belt style ….it must have been an exhausting job for them. He and the first lady ( in deep pink ) had been making instantaneous smiles for a couple of hours with not only there friendly faces, but also his kindly expression and approachable body language (but hurting his back ). We understand that this job is just one of the essential tasks for politicians that makes their position special. It must be a hard work!! Look at the entire collection from our evening’s photo shoot at the header. What a grueling part of public life- they manage to look pleasant in every photo!


It is not fair if you think the Community Board is just a hobby because they are not paid. Multiple meetings are held, 9 time a month , not like meetings among elected officials held during the daytime, these meetings are held at night. Most members have their own day job. Even if you leave work at 5, you have to rush to meet their schedule, and if your are not lucky enough to have a 9 to 5 job, you start your meeting without any evening meal. It is really hard work to debate for a few hours without food after a long day of work. What makes them volunteer for this ? Some kind of honor or power? Even though this position is not well known among the citizens of NY? Or is there some kind of benefit? It may be common among politicians, even if you don’t have any power? Does not seem reasonable. There are probably different motivations….. to preserve the existing conditions? Or on the other hand, to change the world? Simply to be involved in the process of democracy? Or they want to speak? All of these may coexist in one person or maybe one incentive is major and other may be minor.



As far as I know only New York City has this system. In New York there has been a history of having power concentrated in one authority;  a single man Robert Moses changed the urban landscape and traffic infrastructure drastically including the highway network, which could be good or bad. The creation of Community Boards may be the precious heritage from the history of democracy.  They have no power but can bring up the community opinions to the city administration. It sounds like an attempt to reconcile the advantages and disadvantages of direct democracy and the delegate system. Community Boards though are not just an organization to create wish lists. They are required to organize and conclude their opinions through exchanging ideas through debate. Some may want to hold the “microphone” forever and steal the time for others to speak. Being given only a limited time in this busy era, you may need to be patient to preserve the chance for others. You may need to have consideration to make sure that the quiet speakers also get the attention they deserve beside the violent, yelling tones. Democracy definitely demands your time and patience.



NY Open House ニューヨークオープンハウス

Today I was stationed at the new sanitation garage in the east village for Open House New York. I have volunteered for several years for this event which is held every fall. Based on a model that was developed in London 25 years ago, Open House has spread to 35 countries and is a wonderful opportunity to see monuments, hard to get into spaces, architects studios or private homes. All types of buildings are opened up to the public for one weekend.


The tours were led by the architects of the building and the sanitation department- it turns out that the sanitation department was the one who wanted to join the event. This department deals with a much misunderstood part of our city life, the services they provide are invaluable but no one wants a sanitation garage in their neighborhood. They are trying to inform the public of how important their role is. This garage happens to be a pretty wonderful building, it is certified as LEED gold (Leading in Energy and Environmental Design), has fantastic views of the Hudson River for the workers, fits into the scale of the neighborhood with an intricate dynamic facade and also happens to houses garbage trucks.


Many people came to hear about the garbage; what happens to it and how do we deal with it.  But architects also came to check out the design of the building….. Why louvers? The building is mainly a huge truck garage but in fact looks like a museum.


A huge monument building made of concrete houses the salt storage. It is one of the most interesting parts- the salt is stored at just the right angle to have it tumble into the trucks, this wonderful mountain is very corrosive and many special precautions were needed.


There was a real fascination with the trucks and never before had the garbage men been the stars of an event.


Dag’s Cafe @Hammarskjold ハマーショルド公園のカフェ

P1060737c.jpgWe posted about the green market at Dag Hammarskjold Park  which is held every Wednesday. The park has many events and is the go to place for such activities as learning how to ride a bicycle, playing catch, enjoying a park bench or relaxing at the cafe. The Japan Society faces the park as shown in a photo below and one year they organized a Noh performance in the park. Quite often  protests are organized here because it is located close to the United Nations, it was the starting point of the New York City Women’s march.

前にダグハマーショルド公園で毎水曜に開かれる 青空市  の事をここに取り上げた。公園では自転車講習、子供たちの鬼ごっこ、カフェでのんびりなどなど、いろんなことに使われる。写真で分かるようにジャパンソサイアティーが面しているので、何年か前に創立を祝って、薪能の公演があった。前に載せた 反トランプのマーチもここが出発点だった。国連の斜向かいにあるので、抗議集会が頻繁に行われる。


Typically, though, the park is a lovely quiet oasis in midtown Manhattan. At the UN side a cafe provides a seating place for tourists and neighbors. The south side of the park is a garden dedicated  to Catherine Hepburn who lived in the neighborhood commemorating her commitment to the park.



The park is part of the city system but this garden is maintained by volunteers, Friends of Dag Hammarskjold (FDHP) . They do planting, weeding, maintaining the fences and anything else required. Today, chef Kenneth who manages the cafe “Dag’s Patio Cafe” generously cooked up an impromptu buffet of delicious green market dishes and the FDHP board members and garden volunteers were invited.  The summer feast was made entirely from fresh produce from the market. With white table cloth, and chilled wine our table was set under the trees and our chef brought out dish after dish of summer fare.

公園は市に維持管理されているけれど、庭園はボランティア、 「ダグ・ハマーショルドのフレンド達」によってメンテされている。彼らは植物の植え込み、草抜き、フェンスのメンテ、何でもする。今日、このカフェのシェフが気前よく即席のブッフェを企画して、青空市で売られる有機野菜を使った料理を「フレンド達」にふるまうことになった。涼しい木陰にテーブルが置かれ、白いテーブルクロスの上には冷えたワイン…。


The volunteers are a diverse group of neighbors who share a love of the park and are happy to have a bit of dirt that they can work with in New York City. They  became members because they love gardens and plants or want to meet people or are exited to do something for the public… but for sure no one expected this fiesta will be offered. Today’s guests are just a small portion of the Friends, but the chief had no idea how many would come, so served many, many dishes. Fantastic, delicious- we ate too much…

「フレンド」はこの近所に住むいろいろな人からなっている。メンバーになった動機は、土いじりが好き、植物が好き、いろんな人に会える、公共のために何かしたい…などなど。でもこのような御馳走でねぎらわれることは誰にも予想できなかった。今日ここにいる人々は「フレンド」の一部に過ぎず、シェフは何人来るか見当がつかなかったので、何十皿もの料理が用意されていた。素晴らしくおいしいのだが…何とも量が… 食べ過ぎた。