Confessions of an Architectural Journalist
by C.B. Liddell
Hiroshi Nakamura is an affable, easygoing guy — so much so that he even lay down on the carpet to help me and a colleague to get the right picture for a previous article.
Also, I think it's fair to say that he's going places as an architect. He certainly has the right background: five years with Kengo Kuma & Associates, a number of awards, and still only 35 years old. Plus, his architectural oeuvre seems to be cannily in step with the present-day ecological zeitgeist.
Having said that, the project that has — by accident or design — become his banner in the architectural world is not all that it's cracked up to be. Or to put it another way: the project's perceived worth is vulnerable to cultural misunderstandings that might backfire on its designer.
I am referring to Bird Park, an intriguing apartment building, unveiled in 2007, that many have been able to see on the internet through the excellent photos of cameraman Daici Ano, but which very few people have been able to see with their own eyes.
In this sense, Bird Park represents one of the dilemmas of international architectural journalism — the dependence on carefully selected images sent by architects, in exchange for which writers often feel an obligation to be positive.
This was certainly my experience when I wrote a general overview of architecture in Tokyo. While Nakamura was happy to be photographed himself, he was reluctant to allow a visit to Bird Park, citing the inconvenience that this would create for the residents — foreign executives posted to Japan. But with Ano's excellent photos in hand and a deadline pressing, I didn't think there was a major problem, and I was more than happy to write about Bird Park in glowing terms.
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