Forget I said that, but stay on the same wavelength for a moment.
Tokyo might be my favorite city in the world (thus far), and part of the reason is due to the randomness that can be found on just about every block. It could be a sampling of dyed tapestries in the middle of an unlit alley (can’t recall where exactly, but it was near Nihombashi), a Statue of Liberty near Odaiba, a bowl of coffee-flavored ramen, or that Balinese-themed love hotel in Kabukicho.
Yes, that last one is a Japanese mainstay, and although the Tokyo area has plenty to choose from, I might have to give Osaka the point for its collection of zanier architectural styles. Come to think of it, “love hotelism” should be a neologism in an architect’s vocabulary.
However, today’s emphasis is not on the exterior of the hotel. We’re going to have a brief look at the meaning of the word on the sign; Warning– this language lesson might be slightly off-color.
The two characters that make up 醍醐 (だいご “dye-go”) refer to cream in its purest form. Thank you, you’ve been a great audience.
If you’ve heard of the Indian staple food ghee, – which may also be known as the greatest flavor of all – that’s one definition. Staying in the same region of the world, 醍醐 has adopted another, more transcendent meaning- nirvana.
Never thought Buddhism would pay a visit to LearningFeelsGood, but here we are. Though, if nirvana is supposed to be the point where one’s sufferings and desires are extinguished, what kind of name is that for an Osaka love hotel?
Then again, if the owner was going for the unattainable goal definition, perhaps it’s surrounded by a moat?
In the simplest terms, façadism – also known as facadism – refers to when the front-facing exterior (façade) of a building is preserved, regardless of what happens to the remaining part of the structure. For an example, let’s take this façade, located relatively near the sweets market in La Merced, Mexico City:
Mexico City might be a more nuanced place for facadism, if only because it is very prone to earthquakes. Indeed, there could be any number of occurrences as to why a façade would be salvaged; among those, historical preservation, unique beauty, and and a state beyond repair for the rest of the building are some of the more common reasons.
The concept of facadism has been controversial for years, though has become much more so due to the skyrocketing real estate prices in such cities as New York, London, and Sydney. Often availing of historic facades as a scapegoat for skyscraper projects that completely ignore the original building’s raison d’être, property developers are generally the last ones standing in a court battle with city officials and/or defiant communities. To clarify, some of those facades might be on national lists of historic preservation, therefore cannot be bulldozed save for being in dangerous condition; that developers can do what they wish behind-the-scenes, so to speak, is just a facet of capitalism.
Façadism isn’t always done distastefully; though highly subjective, I tend to think the Greek Revival example serving as the entrance to the American wing in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is a standout. But, if you tend to think it’s all an eyesore, you might be interested to know that there used to be a tongue-in-cheek award – the Carbuncle Cup -given out annually to the worst offender in the United Kingdom.
Now that we’ve learned a bit about facadism, I hypothesize that there are other aspects of architectural grievances that are overlooked, particularly in the face of tourism. Namely, I am referring to Shiro Syndrome, a phrase that I originally concocted while traveling to Osaka, Japan in 2005.
Shiro Syndrome – in Japanese, shiro 城 means “castle” – refers to the reconstruction of castles (and temples, shrines, historic sites, etc.), frequently with contemporary materials. This is not specific to Japan, but being that it’s one of my most-visited countries, I can’t help but think about it, and that one moment in Osaka that started it all:
Which brings me to the question…do you think the present-day Osaka Castle should still be considered historic?
The same could be asked of many of the pagodas in Bagan, Myanmar:
Bagan, which was the seat of an eponymous kingdom between the 9th and 13th centuries, saw the construction of hundreds of pagodas during that time. However, subsequent to a catastrophic earthquake in 1975, many pagodas were hastily renovated with modern technology; another earthquake in 2016 damaged many more extant pagodas, worrying historians and archeologists alike about how the repairs would be carried out.
Then, we have the truly unusual Kawasaki Warehouse, in Kawasaki, Japan, which closed late last year.
In order to tackle the issue of water distribution and storage, in 1965 the Ministry of Electricity and Water tasked Swedish architect Sune Lindström and his engineering firm VBB to design and construct a series of 31 water towers through Kuwait, centering on Kuwait City.
However, in order to celebrate Kuwait’s burgeoning economic clout thanks to its petroleum industry and thus, rising prominence in region, the contract for the last water towers – to be built overlooking the Arabian Gulf, as the pièces de résistance of the Kuwaiti capital – was offered to Danish architect Malene Bjørn, wife of Sune Lindström.
Inaugurated on February 26th, 1977 and consisting mainly of reinforced concrete, the most prominent features of the pair of water towers are the three spheres, evoking historical Islamic aesthetics in their blue, green, and grey mosaics.
In total, there are three towers. The smallest at 100 meters (~328 feet) stores a floodlight system for the complex. The second, at 145. 8 meters (~478 feet), holds water inside its sole sphere.
Finally, the tallest tower, at 185 meters (~607 feet), comprises of a lower sphere that stores water, and a higher sphere which contains an observation deck and a restaurant. I briefly visited Kuwait City in 2008, and owing to my enthusiasm for observation towers, took in a view of the sprawling desert capital:
A couple of interesting tidbits about the Kuwait Towers–
In 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait for its vast oil supply, even the observation deck wasn’t spared (there was a photo series covering the invasion at the deck):
On a lighter note, between 2012 and 2016, the tallest tower, being the only one open to the public, underwent an extensive renovation. It reopened in March 2016, and just three years later, hosted a Tedx event focusing on Kuwaiti technologists and young coders.
In the 1920s, Robert Ilg, owner of the Ilg Hot Air Electric Ventilating Company of Chicago, opened a park – Ilgair Park – in Niles. Soon after the park opened, he added two swimming pools for his employees; however, he didn’t want to completely ruin the area’s natural beauty.
So as to disguise the water towers, he decided to build a half-sized replica – in other words, 94 feet high, 28 feet in diameter, and leaning 7.4. feet – of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. Bronze bells were even imported from 17th and 18th century churches in Italy. Construction began in 1931, and finished three years later.
In 1960, part of Ilgair Park was donated for the construction of the Leaning Tower YMCA, with the understanding that the YMCA would pay a small amount annually for the upkeep of the tower.
In 1991, Niles formed a sister city relationship with Pisa, Italy, and in 1997, the Leaning Tower Plaza was dedicated in the park, replete with four fountains and a reflecting pool. Notably, the Leaning Tower of Niles was designated a National Historic Landmark earlier this year, a first for Niles.
But, how does it compare with the Italian original, which was started in 1173 and completed in 1370?
For starters, a lot less tourists. But I’ve gotta give Italy the edge for pizza;)
Recently, I came across an article from two months ago that mentioned how Chinese Leader Jinping Xi issued a decree limiting the construction of buildings >250 meters (~821 feet) tall, disallowing buildings > 500 meters (~1641 feet), and prohibiting copycat behavior – in architecture.
Founded in Shenzhen in 1989, the Neptunus Group is a dominant player in the Chinese health and pharmaceutical industries; if you have visited China, you may have seen their Nepstar drugstore, the largest pharmacy chain in the country. They have other skyscrapers throughout the city, but only this one merited a report.
You also might be wondering, what’s with the names? The Chinese characters 海王 can be translated as Neptune, the Roman “god of fresh water,” and analogous to the Greek Poseidon. Wouldn’t the name work better for a shipping company? Also, isn’t China officially atheist? Hmmm.