Vinoly - Tokyo to Battersea / 5 September 2013
Today we stroll into Tokyo Station area, its not quite so hot - 36C that somehow feels a little easier than yesterday's 37C.
The idea is to take a roundabout route to Tokyo International Forum - an impressive piece of architecture that I have passed many times but not ventured in to. There are exhibitions here, but today I want just to explore the creation of Raphael Vinoly (the architect whose design for the long awaited redevelopment of Battersea Power Station is predicted to be completed 2016/17).
'With 11 stories above ground and 3 below, Tokyo's first (1996) convention and art center is a magnificent venue embracing a glass atrium and four buildings each housing a unique hall' the blurb tells me. In fact there are 8 conference halls (one seating 5,000), besides the exhibition hall in the basement, restaurants and shops.
Having had such good access experiences with Japanese architecture and public spaces I have high expectations.
Shaped rather like a straight banana, along one wall the glass atrium has vertical wooden slats reaching down into the basement well and up to fourth floor level. Escalators at each pointed end of the building swoop people up and down in the generous space
Wheelchair and buggy access to the well is via an elevator which is reached halfway along a corridor hidden behind the slat-wall. The ramped walkways linking spaces are labelled as too steep for wheelchairs and buggies and there are notices reminding their users that there is only this one point of entry and exit. Access to the corridor is from one end of the building only.
For the ambulant visitor this building is a lot more fun.
I do get to enjoy the magnificent flat glass roof that is underpinned by great curved steel beams which look like the underneath of a boat. But I feel snubbed by the nature and level of access afforded wheelborne visitors. Stunning as Tokyo International Forum is, sadly the Uruguay-born/Argentinian educated/American Vinoly gets a thumbs down from me.
Vinoly's dialogue with the forces of life;
his major social intervention,
is beautiful, but, is this enough
to fulfil his stated responsibility
to elevate the public realm? Does he
truly have a sense of public space?
In valuing form over function
does he comprehend, have
any plans for spatial justice?
Why do we use public money
to create inequality of access
in buildings and public spaces