Art Gene, Bath Street, Barrow-in-Furness,
Cumbria, LA14 5TY England, UK
In 2006, Art Gene was awarded an opportunity to host a 3 month Arts Council International Fellowship during 2007. This opportunity was in part recognition of our thriving (inter)national residency programme with artists from around the world which began in 2002 with a Japanese artist Tamotsu Murakami.
The offer encouraged Art Gene’s Artist Founders: Maddi Nicholson and Stuart Bastik to undertake an extensive Curatorial visit to China and Japan, consolidating our existing links and extending them. In China they visited; Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Shanghai and Beijing before flying to Japan to see associates in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kyoto.
They had an existing invitation from curator Emiko Kato, co-Director of Art Autonomy Network, who had recently won a curatorial residency at Art Gene, to make a presentation at an independent artist run organisations conference in Yokohama entitled Show Case.
Following this presentation they were introduced to Mikan by Osamu Ikeda the Director of BankArt1929 who excitedly walked us across town to their offices. Ikeda has a long history of working with Mikan on a variety of Art /Architecture projects.
BankArt, like Art Gene, are proactively engaged in developing the role of artists and architects in shaping the future of our cities and they have twice invited Art Gene’s Directors on all expenses paid trips to be panelists at their conferences, most recently at BankArt Life 3: Future Cities Conference 2011 during the Yokohama Triennial where we were again fortunate to meet Mikan and many other artists and architects from around the world including some of those attending UIA TOKYO the 24th World Congress of Architecture – some of whom we are still hoping to collaborate with.
MIKAN is a partnership of 4 architects, three Japanese and one French based in Tokyo/Yokohama. They began working together in 1995 on a competition to design a new building for NHK: a broadcasting company which they subsequently won (pictured bottom of page). They solve problems jointly through extensive discussion and develop them to completion by leading project-dedicated teams comprised of young architects and support staff.
They create commissioned artworks in a similar way. For example their piece for the International Triennale of Contemporary Art YOKOHAMA 2005: FM Yokotori (pictured below), design furniture and interiors (most recently for the French Embassy in Tokyo and explore their practice through, publications and model-making.
“What should we do as architects working in a foreign city, how do we understand its social environment, its physical constraints and possibilities? Be a Sherlock, act like a sponge that retains any information without selecting, be the mad-man that questions, the child with his fresh eyes that are open to anything new, the nice neighbour that do not know where to buy the bread, the socially conscious architect. Set up a catalogue, and an agenda of possible futures.”
Each of the four directors of Mikan came to Art Gene separately over a six month period for different lengths of time undertaking extensive research around Barrow and its buildings in collaboration with Maddi Nicholson and Stuart Bastik.
“There are many terraced houses in Barrow – around 70% of the housing stock. They have defined and formed our initial impression of the town.
They are ageing properties and in some cases poorly maintained. Overall they lack variety, not just in external appearance but internally in terms of who they can provide suitable homes for. Yet they define the housing market in the centre of Barrow and consequently the people who are able to live there.
We would like to help to improve these properties, create variety and make them more suitable for 21st century lifestyles by adapting the existing buildings in simple ways.
We have all spent time in Barrow over the past months and are going to develop some proposals for new ways of looking at and using this housing. We will develop our ideas in collaboration with Art Gene and publish them on Art Gene’s website.
We have previously employed this method to suggest ideas applied to social housing in Japan in our Danchi Renovation Catalogue.”
Following their time in Barrow each of the four Directors shared their research with their team and produced a series of ideas for Barrow’s terraced housing. This involved an analysis of the town and concept designs requiring different levels of intervention and budgets. The Colours of Barrow Powerpoint presentation, presented at Art Gene’s later Re-Visioning Utopia Charrette by Manuel Tardits can be found in the slide show at the bottom of this page.
Following on from the Residency and Charrette we have a very active partnership with Mikan as associates which has been consolidated though several trips to Japan and further trip by Manuel Tardits to the UK to undertake teaching at the University of Newcastle with two of our other associate architects Daniel Mallo and Armelle Tardiveau who teach on the architecture course there.
Danchi is the name given to a common Japanese social housing type (council housing) built in the 1940s. This best selling book produced by Mikan explores many unique and witty ideas for refurbishing these and other ageing buildings.
The ideas trigger homeowners to develop real world projects, some simple others more complex reflecting different budgets.
The book is now available in an English Language version through Amazon and other retailers: Save the Danchi: Mass Estates, a Project of the Future [Paperback]
Cumbria, LA14 5TY England, UK
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