Book Review: Two Atelier Bow-Wow Guides

Made in Tokyo by Junzo Kuroda and Momoya Kaijima, published by Kajima Institute Publishing Co., 2001. Paperback, 192 pages. (Amazon)

Pet Architecture Guide Book by Atelier Bow-Wow and others, published by World Photo Press, 2002. Paperback, 176 pages. (Amazon)

These two books present alternative guides to the built form of Tokyo, different than the typical architecture guides that survey single buildings by known architects. Respectively Made in Tokyo and Pet Architecture look at the non-designed yet functional hybrids of the city's current situation and the tiny structures that fill the gaps in the city's fabric. A good example of the former is the highway department store, two floors of retail stretching 500 meters below the expressway in the Ginza district; while a good example of the latter is Coffee Saloon Kimoto, a triangular structure with a capacity of four customers. Each book exhibits a fondness for Tokyo's seemingly chaotic urban fabric, though the authors resist the label of chaos for the city they love. Instead they see these types of buildings as unique to Tokyo, a product of its economics, village fabric and people, perhaps chaotic as a whole, but not when viewed in the framework of these two books. While not your typical guidebooks, they give the reader a new understanding of Tokyo that helps enrich the experience of the city.