Technology and architecture: We talked to Barcelona Toyo Ito studio
by Francesc Salla | Apr 14, 2014 | General
Toyo Ito in Spain: Hotel Porta Fira and Torre Realia. Author: Jordiferrer
Great architects are always alive through their work and their presence is permanent among us. If, in addition, they are contemporary to us, they attract our attention with each new building they create. In some exceptional cases, their work makes them worthy of distinctions that place them in the media headlines.
In March 2014, Toyo Ito name hit the headlines again: just a year after winning the Pritzker Prize
, this architect was awarded the Medal in Architecture by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation
and the University of Virginia.
Of course, these weren’t the first awards he received throughout his long career, which began in 1971, when Toyo Ito opened his own studio
. Specifically, the Thomas Jefferson Medal honors the uniqueness in some of the fields in which the versatile third President of the United States stood out: Architecture, Law and Leadership.
This year, the Foundation has highlighted the “commitment to the public good”, something familiar to Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture
, which not only exhibits the work of the architect, but also houses workshops for young architects.
We at VisualARQ find the title of one of Toyo Ito essays particularly significant: Algorithms Are Nothing More Than an Opportunity to Create Architecture that Respires
VisualARQ world is the world of architectural design software
. How could we not mention this? For this reason, we contacted the “TOYO ITO ARQUITECTOS ASOCIADOS EN ESPAÑA, S.L.” Barcelona studio to talk about technology and architecture.
Is the use of technology distorting architects’ creativity? Does it help you or does it limit you?
For what purposes do you usually work with virtual 3D models?
- “Technology is a tool. Thanks to technology, you can now build things that you couldn’t build before. I would say that it helps, rather than limiting.”
- “3D virtual modeling programs are just another tool in our studio. Obviously, each project is developed according to different intentions. 3D models help us rationalize and make organic forms constructible, and we try to be able to industrialize the construction. We also use them to create renderings and presentations.”
What do you value most in the CAD tools that you use?
Tower of Winds in Yokohama (Japan).
During the night, the lighting changes its colour according to the surrounding sounds and wind. Author: wiiii
Which are the main difficulties you encounter when translating a conceptual idea into a virtual model?
- “Basically, what we usually look for in CAD programs is the ease of use for all the team members. New programs which may be suitable for specific functions come out periodically, but it is also important to consider the time needed to adapt to the new software. There is a resistance to change, especially if a new program doesn’t allow you to do everything that the program you are using allows you to do. In a program, we also value its ability to translate our design in the most efficient way and its compatibility with the programs used by our collaborators, such as steel constructors, engineers and industrialists.”
In which stage of a project do you devote more time in generating documentation?
Are you used to having several people working separately on the same document?
- “Since most of the time we work with physical models, the difficulty lies in translating something physical into a virtual model.”
Do you find it essential to work with BIM tools today?
- “We usually work on a shared basis only in 2D drawings. Instead of working on the same drawing, we try to have external references.”
- “We at Toyo Ito studio have never used BIM tools. First, because we usually don’t take the measurements ourselves and then because working with parametric tools doesn’t pay. Many times we have special elements, we use special materials and the standards change depending on the country. I personally believe that BIM tools work particularly well if you are building housing but, for us, having to define all the parameters each time would be a burden.”
Do you think that 3D architectural objects and parametric models suffer from the limitations of their parameters, or do you think they mean an advantage for modeling projects in 2D and 3D?
Sendai Mediatheque (Japan). Multiple awards winner, including the Grand Prix JIDPO (Organization for Industrial Design Promotion), the Prize of the Architectural Institute of Japan and the Best Public Building Award. Author: scarletgreen
Do you use any energy optimization program during the project design?
- “3D objects help us scale models. In the physical models, we also tend to include people and furniture to get an idea of the human scale factor. As for parametric models, as I said before, we do not use them because they limit us.”
What are the main aspects you take into account in this regard?
- “No, we don’t. When we want to make an energy analysis, we ask the experts.”
- “As a design studio, we don’t usually carry out these studies ourselves, but we have a number of specialists collaborating with us in the areas of solar study, energy efficiency, acoustics, structures, etc. Each project is different and, depending on the approach given to it, we emphasize one aspect or another.”
We understand that Mr. Toyo Ito works with physical models. Is this something common in your team?
Tama Art University Library (Japan). Inspired by nature, which never creates identical works, each arch is different. Author: wiiii
In a changing environment, architects are developing tasks of urban design, object design, theatrical scenery. Which other roles can an architect play with their expertise and their creative side?
- “The problem of computer generated images is that they sometimes can be misleading. You choose the best camera viewpoint, they are not dynamic. Physical tangible models allow a level of materiality that a computer program can’t give you. And, yes, it is something common in our team. Besides, when studying with physical models, you don’t need to detail the proposal. On the contrary, when we study a project with a 3D model, we have to define at least the basic dimensions and materials of the proposal elements.”
- “I think that the fact of understanding design in different scales, from the creation of large spaces to the smallest constructive detail, opens up many paths to explore. Collaboration with specialists from other fields also makes the experience enriching. The roles depend on each architect intellectual curiosity, but I personally believe that there are no limits.”
The Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture, in the Japanese island of Omishima, collects the work of the author. Author: Rfyuya
No limits except oneself. No walls. The same walls as those mentioned by Toyo Ito in his Pritzker Prize speech of acceptance: “My work has always been about tearing down this wall that separates modern architecture from nature and the local community, in order to create architecture that is open to both
(Article by M.A. Núñez)