Writing & Editorial

  • On the Spline

    On the Spline

    I recently published an academic paper answering the question: where do curves come from? I started this research well over a decade ago when I was working everyday with 3D design software at Grimshaw architects in London. The research began when I gave an internal presentation to overcome the architects’ reticence about using 3D software…


  • Why Japan is Crazy About Housing

    Why Japan is Crazy About Housing

    The following article about Japanese housing economics and how they motivate Japan’s penchant for experimental architecture first appeared on ArchDaily, where it quickly became one of their most popular articles. Unfortunately, copyright restrictions prevent me from including here the photography that accompanied the original article. In architectural magazines and websites, like ArchDaily, we see a steady stream…


  • Precut – Modern Japanese Timber Construction

    Precut – Modern Japanese Timber Construction

    Industrially precut timber framing has become the predominant house construction method throughout Japan. In this first short documentary, produced by BAKOKO, we explain the process from factory floor to building site. Like so much of its traditional culture, Japan has developed a highly efficient technological adaptation of an age-old building technique. This video was originally…


  • AA Diploma Project (2002)

    AA Diploma Project (2002)

    The seeds of my current work in building communities were sown during my final year at the Architectural Association (AA) School of Architecture in London. My Diploma project addressed the issue of trailer homes in the US, which often trap owners in a cycle of poverty due to high-interest loans and depreciating value.


  • Featured in The Wall Street Journal

    Featured in The Wall Street Journal

    The Wall Street Journal recently published an article summarizing my observations about the economics that stimulate Japan’s eccentric residential architecture. In addition to featuring my work, the correspondent – Lucy Alexander – also interviewed our clients. The Onjuku Surf Shack certainly isn’t as unconventional as S-House, a curious see-thru split level home designed by Yuusuke…


  • Testing Buildings to Destruction

    Testing Buildings to Destruction

    Japan has engineered the world’s largest earthquake simulator, the nation’s first line of defense in a geophysical war. Many older homes in Japan don’t meet modern earthquake code and have proven a major liability in deadly earthquakes like Kobe suffered in 1995. Full-scale testing to destruction at E-Defense gauges their widespread risk to society and…


  • A+U Magazine: Data-Driven Cities

    A+U Magazine: Data-Driven Cities

    I edited the November 2014 issue of a+u (Architecture & Urbanism) magazine. The issue’s theme – Data-Driven Cities – is broad, designed to encompass a range of technological drivers reforming urbanity. It’s also a provocative title which elicited many contributors to implore that human agency, not big data, should sit firmly in the driver’s seat…


  • Follow-up to Freakonomics: What about Financing?

    Follow-up to Freakonomics: What about Financing?

    I listen to a lot of podcasts. They keep me in touch with what’s happening in the US and UK. I recently suggested to the team at WNYC’s Freakonomics Radio that they look into Japan’s weird housing economics. They liked the idea and did some research. You can listen to the episode below. I’m impressed by…


  • On the Passing of Kathryn Findlay (1953-2014)

    On the Passing of Kathryn Findlay (1953-2014)

    I recently learned with sadness that Kathryn Findlay has passed away from a brain tumour at the age of 60. She leaves an important architectural legacy for a number of reasons. Firstly, the works that Ushida Findlay built in Japan during the early-to-mid ’90s were truly groundbreaking. Since the Modernist era of the 1950’s and 60s,…


  • CNN Interview on Japanese Residential Architecture

    The CNN interview I gave last week has aired as a part of a piece on Japanese residential architecture (I show up around 1:00 in). The crew got in touch after reading the ArchDaily article and they contacted the owners of some of the homes pictured to arrange access and interviews. Sou Fujimoto was also…


  • Map of Tokyo Residential Architecture

    I was contacted by a number of news outlets after I published my recent article explaining Japan’s crazy housing economics and how I think they facilitate experimental residential architecture. Since many people seem keen to see or photograph these in-person (or via streetview), I have assembled a map that catalogs some interesting examples of Tokyo…


  • Rethinking the Workspace

    Rethinking the Workspace

    Seeking to reach out to those in charge of making office design decisions – senior management of multinationals – I recently contributed an article to the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Journal spelling out recent evolution in the workplace…


  • Understanding Japanese Building Law

    Understanding Japanese Building Law

    When buying property in Japan, navigating the Japanese Building Standards Law can be complex, even for natives. For foreigners, the added complication of Japan’s unique restrictions and terminology – like kenperitsu and yousekiritsu – can make it all the more difficult. When searching through property listings, you will a set of numbers listed on the…


  • Concreteness (from Clog: Brutalism)

    Concreteness (from Clog: Brutalism)

    I recently contributed an article to Clog magazine’s Brutalism issue, about Japan’s long love affair with concrete. The debate surrounding Brutalism hinged upon whether the 20th-century movement was an architectural ethic or merely an aesthetic. Japan’s obsession with concrete (or what I call ‘concreteness’) might be loosely termed ‘brutalist’, but the country has shown how the…


  • 100 Works from Japan Architect 1990-2011

    100 Works from Japan Architect 1990-2011

    Last year I had the honor of editing a digital collection of 100 Japanese architectural works which I selected from the previous 21 editions of the JA (Japan Architect) Yearbook. Read on for a short extract from my introductory essay.


  • Sudare Screens and Blinds

    Sudare Screens and Blinds

    It’s been some time since I posted about the differences between Japanese and Western housing and how they could constructively borrow these traits from one another. To revie the series (and this blog), I’ve written a short appreciation of an easily overlooked, yet ever present, feature of Japanese townscapes… In his 1933 essay In Praise of Shadows Jun’ichirō Tanizaki…


  • Cookie Cutter or Order Made?

    Cookie Cutter or Order Made?

    This week the Japan Times ran an article comparing the house we are building in Onjuku, Chiba to he process of building the typical Japanese corporate homebuilder’s home. I had a bit of correspondance with the article’s author, Philip Brasor, making the case why I think that hiring an architect to design your home is…


  • Should Foreign Builders be Allowed into Tohoku?

    Recently, a discussion on Linkedin came to my attention between foreign business people concerning bids to provide temporary housing for Tohoku. All shared similar frustrations that the process was far from transparent and it seemed clear to them that the Government of Japan never intended to source from any foreign bidders. The demands seem to have…


  • Rebuilding Under Uncertainty

    Rebuilding Under Uncertainty

    [slideshow id=5 h=421 w=585] At BAKOKO, we’ve been planning a response to the housing crisis left in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed many towns in Tohoku. The challenge to formulating a design for rehousing the homeless is the uncertainty that pervades the rebuilding effort. As the government unsuccessfully struggles…


  • Japan Will Rebuild

    (Reuters/Kyodo) British ‘Architects Journal‘ (AJ) asked me to comment on the recent earthquake and tsunami. I took the opportunity to write the following reaction to the events of March 11, 2011…