Book Review: Bow-Wow from Post Bubble City

Bow-Wow from Post Bubble City by Atelier Bow-Wow, published by Inax, 2006. (Amazon)

While the prolific duo of Momoyo Kajima and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, may not be household names like many other Japanese architects, their oeuvre deserves as much attention as their more popular contemporaries. As Atelier Bow-Wow, the two have built a tremendous amount of (albeit mainly small) commissions in their minus-20-year existence, as well as seven books, including this monograph that collects almost 70 of their buildings, unbuilt projects, furniture, exhibitions, and publications.
The bilingual book is broken down into twelve chapters, as a means to organize the various projects by overriding thematic and exploratory tendencies, with a conversation by the duo introducing each chapter. The Gap Space chapter, for example, features three projects that take into consideration the space between buildings in dense urban areas. These typically leftover spaces are the product of independent buildings and the lack of shared walls cities like Tokyo, and the spaces are used to their advantage in the case of the three projects in that chapter.
Each project includes explanatory text, photographs, and the studio's axonometric drawings that will be familiar to those who have seen Bow-Wow's popular Made in Tokyo and Pet Architecture books. At the back of the book are a thorough index and bibliography, the former including statistics like floor-area ratio (F.A.R.) that reinforces a tendency of the duo to be highly skilled categorizers and organizers. What comes across in this book, as well as their previous non-monograph ones is an attempt to document the urban environment in various ways (via photographs, architectural drawings, descriptions, and statistics) in a manner that seems to be at odds with the apparently chaotic context of Tokyo. Perhaps that duo uses their organizational skills to find the underlying order in the chaos, a chaos that is the result of bureaucratic instruments like building codes and zoning ordinances, of which the F.A.R. is but one factor. Bow-Wow's designs exploit the potential in these limiting factors, in effect creating unique yet rooted buildings that develop from their idiosyncratic take on their architecture and their surroundings.