Atelier Bow-Wow — Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Pet Architecture


“Pet Architecture” is a term Atelier Bow-Wow uses for the buildings that have been squeezed into left over urban spaces. Buildings with curious shapes and inventive solutions for windows, drainage, and air-conditioning often arise in these urban situation. One example of this is the Coffee Saloon Kimoto in Tokyo, a triangular structure with a capacity of four customers.

Most of those buildings are cheaply built, and therefore are not spectacular in design and they use not the forefront of technology. However we are attracted by them. It’s maybe because their presence produces a relaxed atmosphere and make us feel relieved. Pets, companion animals of the people, are usually small, humorous and charming. We find what we call “pet architecture”, architecture having pet like characteristics, existing in the most unexpected places within the Tokyo city limits.

Atelier Bow-Wow documented these micro buildings in detail through photographs, elevations, maps, 3D sketches, and brief descriptions in their publications “Pet Architecture Guide Book” and “Made in Tokyo.”




Behaviorology is the study of functional relationships between ‘behaviour’ and its many independent variables in the determining environment. Behaviorological accounts are influences and based on the current social and physical environment in which the behaviour occurs, the personal history of the behaving organism, and the behavioural capacity of the given species. It is also a clever means of integrating the ‘built’ environment across different scales; furniture, architecture, structures of civil engineering and urban planning. “It positions projects within an ecosystem of behaviours as elements which participate in spatial production.”

The behaviorologist discovers the natural laws which govern and dictate behaviour. Through this knowledge they then develop behaviour engineering technologies relevant to behaviour in many fields including architecture, education, and entertainment. It can be applied to natural elements as well as buildings (not only humans).

Architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow is famous for its interpretation and use of the concept of behaviorology in its design work. According to founders Tsukamoto and Kaijima, behaviorology defines architectural expression through the understanding of the complex relationship between people (the inhabitants of a space), the built environment, and urban space. Bow-Wow’s Behaviorology goes further than ‘form follows function’: it bases form on the behaviour of both the building and natural elements. The study of a building’s articulation, inherent properties of elements such as heat, wind, light, water and the understanding of individual and common human behaviour leads to a stronger localized architecture.

Micro Public Space

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BMW Guggenheim Lab, Mumbai. Photo: Deepshikha Jain

Micro Public Spaces are devices proposed by Atelier Bow-Wow which create social platforms. Micro Public Space shows Atelier Bow-Wow’s way of thinking about the space, space, a concept influenced by Henri Lefebvre that discusses ‘a space is produced neither by architects nor by city planners, nor by the users who live in space: space is not consumer-generated but space-generated’, therefore, ‘it is not people who creates space, but social spaces that use people to bring themselves into being’.

Atelier Bow-Wow creates Micro Public Spaces using the framework of an art-exhibition. In the projects on Micro Public Spaces, such as Manga Pod (2002)Furnicycle (2002) and White Limousine Yatai (2003), Atelier Bow-Wow tries to create the new behaviours of the city and people through small furniture or non-enclosed public spaces that encourage active user participation and support individual body experience and behaviour. So their projects construct situation rather than objects that they adjust ‘the posture of people and their layout in a space’.

Therefore, Micro Public Space, as the term micro indicates, is an attempt to take even the smallest space or object that is officially public and to add individual layer to it as making use of the space.

Da-me Architecture

“Da-me Architecture” (no-good architecture) is a term coined by Atelier Bow Wow, to describe the buildings in Tokyo which prioritizes a “stubbornly honest” response to specific site conditions and program requirements, without insisting on architectural aesthetic and form. Hence, these tend to disregard the need to express “good taste” or to “work with nostalgia” (pre-conditioned meanings, categories or looks), resulting in a “hybrid, junky architecture” that is regarded by some critics and practitioners as “disgusting” or “shameless”. However, according to Atelier Bow Wow, “Shamelessness can become useful”, as these buildings intricately report of the urban condition of the city. These, in fact, “epitomize a creative new, adaptive aesthetic that can be said to be the quintessence of Tokyo.”

“Da-me Architecture” represents the most cost-effective and efficient solutions requiring minimum effort, which is expected in a place like Tokyo. Constructed in the most practical manner with the possible elements on site, “Da-me” often utilizes “spatial by-products” or whatever is at hand, like under concrete engineering structures, rooftops or gaps between buildings etc. “Da-me architecture also becomes about the juxtaposition of types, resulting in “cross-categorical hybrids” which are varied, completely unrelated but interdependent. An example would be the highway departmental store as mentioned in “Made in Tokyo” (a guidebook by Atelier Bow-Wow, further described below) which both belong in different categories, and have no relation in use, but exist in the same location because the traffic above and the shopping below share the same structure.

Such an existence seems an antithesis of aesthetics, history, classification and planning, but it is interesting and refreshing as the architecture is simply a physical functional construct that has arrived at this point through a desperation in attempts to respond to the here and now and not anything else.


Generational Typology

Generational Typology (also ‘Machiya Metabolism’) is based on research into the building type known as machiya (traditional townhouses/merchant houses constructed in the Edo period), specifically in the Kanazawa area of Japan. This area is optimal for the investigation into the transformation of these building types over time as the area was spared destruction from the earthquakes and effects of war during the last century. The machiya chosen for this research were not necessarily those designated for comprehensive historic preservation, but were “nameless machiya” – those that may have transformed due to more humble influences.

These examinations were undertaken to further develop the umbrella concept of ‘Behaviorology’ and stems from the understanding of the existence of different “timescales” and that these must be taken into consideration when observing the behaviour of various systems; a human being’s psychological behaviour could be observed in a period of one day. A society group’s routines could become apparent in a week, or a community’s in a year. For buildings, its behaviour may only become apparent after documenting its transformations over decades or centuries.

From the investigations into these machiya, several generational typologies are described based on the behaviour and evolution of the machiya over time by being exposed to the “pressures of modernization, from its original formula”.

Void Metabolism

Void metabolism is an urban formula which focuses on void spaces which develop between buildings when they are rebuilt. In Tokyo small houses cover the land with greenery inserted in the gaps between. This is a highly sustainable urban form which regenerates itself; with privately owned properties. It can be considered a type of metabolism, though quite different in content than the 1960s architectural thought. At that time concepts focussed on the composition of the vertical core. We can see that architects believed that the construction of the city would be carried out effectively through a concentration of power and capital. However, the regeneration of houses revolve not around a core, but a void- the gap space between buildings. This would be determined by the initiatives of individual families, rather than the accumulation of central capital.

If the urban formula of void metabolism begins with Tokyo’s first developments in the 1920s, then the oldest parts are already 90 years old. With the 26 year lifespan of houses, those in the original areas have, in theory, regenerated twice over. There are differences in lifespan, so today’s situation can be said to include a mixture of first, second and third generation buildings. With this we witness a variety of building behaviours, reflecting the generational differences. Houses which are produced now are a part of the fourth generation, determined by the realities of void metabolism. Atelier Bow-Wow ask: “what therefore, should a fourth generation house be?”

1. Interior spaces be inviting for those who are not family members. 2. The quasi-exterior spaces be introduced in a positive manner. 3. The gap between neighbouring buildings be redefined.

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