Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Swatch Building

The Nicolas G. Hayek Center is the new headquarters for the Swatch Group located in the Ginza shopping district of Tokyo, Japan.  Architect Shigeru Ban was challenged to design a building that incorporated retail space for seven different high end watch brands on the confined, dense urban site and the interesting solution is the portion of the building in which I chose to focus my study.  The ground floor of the fourteen story building displays each of the seven brands individually in a glass encased kiosk.  The kiosk serves double purpose as both a mini window display and transforms into a personal elevator to take shoppers to the main showroom on another level of the building.  My investigation of these means of vertical movers progressed into an axonometric drawing of the retail floors in the building to help visualize and distinguish the animated quality at work.  The first four floors above ground are dedicated to retail and have the ability to be open air via large sliding glass doors on both front and rear facades.  This allows the building to blur a boundary between interior and exterior.  Another element of interior and exterior blur is a large garden is built onto one wall, extending vertical four floors in the main atrium space. 

The axonometric drawing below illustrates the seven individual different elevators moving through multiple floors.  The distribution of people and vehicles through the building occurs at varying scales.  Everything, either people or cars, enter on the ground floor.  The first subfloor is retail, and the second subfloor is a parking garage.  The three floors above are also retail and atrium/garden space.  The elevators are in constant flux, animating and adjusting to the users as they interact with it.  The building  has also adapted to the urban fabric environment of the city.

My investigations into this building have helped me to clarify some of my interests about the programmatic elements I want to pursue with my degree project, such as a concentration of vertical circulation, and dense urban fabric environments.

* photographs taken from *

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What's the key?

Understanding how a key and lock mechanism works via detailed sectional drawings, a concept derived from the probe.  Drafting the Pin Tumbler lock, a common lock used in most door applications, enabled me to understand how the mechanism operates in a much more detailed manner.  The difference between comprehending an object and how it functions or operates via a personal discovery of hand versus observation of the information already portrayed is a valuable learning experience for me.  Inside the lock mechanism are a series of cylinders, each having a specific length, and each having their own chamber in which they slide vertically when a key is inserted.  If the incorrect key is inserted, they do not align, thus keeping part of the lock from rotating and "unlocking".  When the correct key is inserted, the cylinders align and allow the rotating motion to occur, and "unlocking" successfully.  
The movement of the cylinders in conjunction with the correct key forces the alignment to happen, despite the varying length of each cylinder.  In an effort to progress into a study of an architectural project, I began searching for precedents to research.  My search lead me to find the Nicolas G. Hayek Building, in the Ginza shopping district of Tokyo, Japan, designed by architect Shigeru Ban. ( )


To describe in model form a direction in which to pursue my degree project, I created a series of boards, roughly 12" square, that were organized in a vertical orientation with a few inches of separation between each board. Each of the boards had a pattern cut through them, and all were variations of one another. The easiest way to describe the patterns would be to visualize a gear pattern of a manual transmission vehicle. If all layers were stacked on top of each other without the few inches of separation, a definite path was distinguished. However, with the few inches of separation, the path was not clearly defined. A plexiglass dowel rod was incorporated into the project to allow for interaction of people and the installation. The rod was inserted into the top board and thus began the process and discovery of the path through the patterns and boards to the bottom.

The intent of the probe was to describe how a series of variations vertically organized along with the interaction of a continuous element attempting to find a connection between them is discovered or resolved.

Discovering ways in which to continue after the installation was completed involved conversations with fellow students as well as members of the faculty.

The image below is of the completed installation with plexiglass rod inserted.

The image below depicts the patterns of each board stacked on top of each other, showing the variations of each pattern. The round plexiglass rod is in the center.