New Model
Wallpaper|April 2018

From cloud houses to concrete caves, Junya Ishigami’s architecture aims high and digs deep, as a new show in Paris reveals.

Jens H Jensen

The Tokyo studio of Japanese architect Junya Ishigami is in a state of controlled chaos. A number of large project models are scattered across the white workspace, with even more packed in cardboard boxes and stacked on one side. A corner has been partly cordoned off as an impromptu paint booth with a thin plastic curtain hanging from the ceiling. Here, a couple of the studio’s 20 or so staff are working on finalising a large styrofoam mould of one of Ishigami’s most recent projects, a poured concrete house and restaurant scheme in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan.

Rather unexpectedly, Ishigami’s studio is located underneath a large pet supply store. Both the walls (a mix of cement blocks and bricks) and the exposed ceiling are painted white. There are no windows, but neat rows of fluorescent tubes flood the space with a remarkably pleasant light. Right in the middle, a rough opening has been drilled through the floor, and a steel staircase leads down to a storage room packed with discarded bits of models and cardboard boxes. There is also access to a large roof terrace (with the Tokyo Tower as a beautiful backdrop), where 1:1 plans of several projects are plotted on the floor using masking tape. ‘As everything we do is always completely new, it’s very helpful to make these plans to get an understanding of a given space,’ explains Ishigami, who worked at SANAA before founding his practice in 2004. 

A couple of work desks with computers are squeezed together at one end of the studio, but it is the many large models that take up the bulk of the space. They are being given a careful clean-up before being shipped to France for a big exhibition of Ishigami’s work at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, opening this spring. It’s the first time the foundation has devoted a full exhibition to an architect. This also places Ishigami, the winner of the Golden Lion award at the 2010 Venice Biennale of Architecture, in the company of fellow countrymen such as Takashi Murakami, Isamu Noguchi and Hiroshi Sugimoto, who have all had their work shown there in the past.

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