Twzuka Architects’ giant inverted bird’s nest of interlocked timber beams. Photography by Katsuhisa Kida/Fototeca
Takaharu and Yui Tezuka dress in a very precise manner. He wears blue, she wears red; a habit perhaps picked up from the stylishly rouge Mike Davies, partner at the former Richard Rogers Partnership, where Takaharu worked between 1990 and 1994. Their buildings, however, are less predictable. They always produce highly spirited responses in relation to place, as seen in their wonderful snake-like Matsunoyama Natural Science Museum (AR December 2004), and in relation to brief, as seen at the Fuji Kindergarten (AR August 2007).
Their latest project, built for an art museum, maintains both of these aspects: the spirit and the science of innovative architecture.
Dedicated to a single work - a climbing net for children created by artist Toshiko Horiuchi Macadam - this 350m² pavilion (named the Forest of Net) is situated in the Hakone Open-Air Museum. Built to provide shelter from rain and harsh sunlight, Tezuka’s aim was to maintain a sense that children were playing outdoors. Large sections of Douglas fir were stacked to produce equally large gaps, in what amounts to an inverted bird’s nest of interlocking mega-twigs.
No steel reinforcement has been used, apart from that required in the structure’s concrete base. Instead, a mixture of cutting-edge and historic techniques were adopted, with CNC machines and timber pegs used to create fixings between each of the 580 planks.
Takaharu likens the structure to a forest clearing, which would have been the ideal setting for the art work. ‘We wanted to create an ambiguous boundary, like a forest or the notional space created by a campfire at night. We also wanted to create a structure that would not compete with the tensile qualities of the installation.’ Unable to resist the comparison of scale, he concludes by saying: ‘The client was surprised by its size. At 26 x 25m in plan, our dome is a similar order to that of [Istanbul’s] Hagia Sophia!’