nic the intern presents white out - natural elipse
By ro / lu in white out
Published: Friday, 20 February 09 - 07:46 AM (GMT -06:00)
Last Updated: Monday, 23 March 09 - 08:25 PM (GMT -06:00)
white out's an ongoing series of posts drawn from a presentation that our winter intern nicolas allinder gave about his research into recent modern residential japanese architecture.
it's hard not to do a double take at first glimpse of the apartment building lovingly titled natural ellipse. for a moment I was torn somewhere between "seriously?" and "that is amazing." i'll avoid making too many allusions to what exactly natural ellipse looks like. let's just call it an alien space egg, or maybe an upended whale carcass in the middle of tokyo's shibuya ward. shibuya is renowned for being the 'tech' capital of japan in the 90's and for its abundance of love hotels.
love hotels? yes. which brings me to my next point: the more i learned about natural ellipse, the more it made sense. yes, this bloated whale carcass somehow fits right into shibuya - technological, fantastical, and provocative.
so what are love hotels? basically they are pay-by-the-hour hotels with rotating beds, mirrored ceilings, themed rooms and other fetishist accoutrements. that being said, without getting too involved into the goings-on of a love hotel (if you'd like to learn more about these controversial hotels i'd suggest starting here, here and here) i'd like to focus on the architecture of love hotels.
for those willing and persistent enough to find natural ellipse on google maps, you will quickly learn via street view that there are at least three such love hotels on the same street as natural ellipse. their neighbor two doors down is hotel aine resort, a hotel shaped like a present - even wrapped with a big red bow. up the street is a caribbean-themed love hotel. just across from natural ellipse and slightly to the south is apparently the "best 1" in town, or so its name says. the entrance to hotel best 1 is a giant cylindrical shape.
and the interiors? i would say they are rather diverse in concept but universally inventive.
so, back to the reason I'm writing about these oddities - natural ellipse, that bloated white beluga whale of a building. how do you build an apartment in this setting? masaki endoh and masahiro ikeda understood the challenge pretty clearly; knowing a more ordinary building would "most likely be swallowed up sooner or later," they decided to build something that could survive in shibuya's tawdry love hotels, high tech atmosphere and hyper-dense urbanscape (roughly 13,500 people per square kilometer or 35,000 per square mile).
natural ellipse has all the qualities of a white out house: minimal, modern and white inside and out. though the interior is striking, what makes this place a true treasure is the structure and facade; like a whale skin stretched taut across the bones, the facade of virtually seamless fiber-reinforced polymer sheet stretches over the steel frame. it's really quite a technological marvel; polymer sheets had up until this point never been used as a building's skin. i'll skip the nitty gritty about why fiber-reinforced polymer sheets are so cool, but for those interested go here.
so then what is natural ellipse? well, it is either a sanctuary of sterility in a dense sea of grime and computer chips or it's a futuristic time capsule masquerading as that bloated whale belly plopped down in a bastion of fantasy, technology, and sex. whatever it was supposed to represent, it is captivating.
have a great weekend.
posted by nicolas allinder