Growtecture S

Growtecture S in Osaka, Japan by Shuhei Endo, 2002

Japanese architect Shuhei Endo's work falls into two broad, self-described categories, Springtecture and Rooftecture. Projects in the former utilize corrugated metal that is bent into ribbon shapes, much like unrolled cardboard tubes. Suitable for parks and other environments where inside and outside can be loosely defined, Endo envisions his Springtecture for museums and even cities. His Rooftecture focuses, naturally, on a building's roof, often extending it to become wall. In each type, the projects are given categorical names like Springtecture H and Rooftecture A, making them seem more like personal experiments than designs for a specific client and place.

If both the Springtecture and Rooftecture are experiments, they are experiments in surface, and the possibility of defining space through surface. Corrugated metal, and other materials are bent, stretched and twisted - among other formal maneuvers - to define spaces through the manipulation of minimal two-dimensional surfaces. It is paper architecture super-sized to life-size structures via the appropriate materials. Although not a new idea, Endo's technique is unique and exhibits the stamp of his authorship, enough that he even coined his own terms for his designs.

While the spring and roof designs are clear in their focus and outcome, a new strain in Endo's work, termed Growtecture, is more vague, and possibly richer in its lack of formal constraints. The first built example, an office building in the Chuou-ku area of Osaka, does not give any clear indication to its moniker, Growtecture S. A concrete and steel structure with an abundance of glass, the strongest parts of its design are first, the continuous wall/floor of concrete that snakes up and down and over the entire structure, evident on the facade, and second, the thin supports on the main facade that lean at different angles, except when they help to support the frames set within the mullion-free wall of glass.

Do these elements add up to a Growtecture? What does the design grow from? In an urban environment like Osaka, it is the program and site constraints that help to dictate a project. So possibly the building is a response to these issues, utilizing the lessons learned from his previous and ongoing experiments. While the thin columns on the facade may symbolize a tree and its growth upwards, it is the concrete wall/floor that symbolizes Endo's growth as an architect. This next experiment in his career will have less predictable results than the first two and require clients confident in his abilities, which he aptly displays in his first Growtecture.