Atelier Bow-Wow, the Tokyo-based architecture firm founded by Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kaijima in 1992, is well-known for its urban research and theories that explore micro and ad-hoc architecture in cities through drawing and typological study. Kaijima names Bow-Wow's approach as "Architectural Ethnography", which employs fieldwork and observation to grasp qualities of spaces and ways people use them. “Architectural Ethnography” explores the potential of architectural drawing as a tool to study people and society based on their regional and cultural differences.
贝岛将犬吠的研究方法称为 “建筑民族志”（Architectural Ethnography），意在将实地考察和观测摆在城市研究的重要位置，从而通过当地人，而非建筑师和规划者的视角，去了解人们的生活环境，最终用建筑绘图的方式，将具有地域特色的研究表现出来。
According to Kaijima, the methodology entails “observing and drawing architecture and urban space from the viewpoint of the people who use it, rather than the architects and planners who are involved in its construction.”
访谈中，贝岛提及她长期以来对生活和建筑间关联的巨大兴趣。她想知道，“建筑究竟如何影响生活在其中的人和他们的生活方式？”。基于这一兴趣，她和冢本才开始对东京进行调研。而后诞生的《东京制造》（Made in Tokyo）和《宠物建筑》（Pet Architecture）等研究、出版及展览成果, 使得犬吠在建筑学界和行业内形成了很大影响。他们的线描制图方式，以及类型学研究方法，亦由此成为各大建筑院校学生效仿的对象。
During the interview, Kaijima acknowledged her longtime interests in the relationship between life and architecture. "How architecture affects the lives lived around it" has been a central question which led to her founding of the research group with Tsukamoto and their investigation of urban space in Tokyo. The research turned into publications and exhibitions, such as Made in Tokyo, Pet Architecture, and had a great influence on the architectural academia and profession.
As followers who are also passionate about this relationship between architectural form and human occupation, while we are exploring urban environments and ways of their representation, we are curious about the thinking process and concerns behind Bow-Wow's representation rather representation itself.
During our conversation, Kaijima mentioned about her concerns for the architectural and urban crisis brought by digital tools like computer.
Easy copy and paste seemly increase efficiency of design; 3D modeling seemly creates infinite possibilities in building form; yet the well-thought process and the humanistic concern existing in hand drawing has gradually disappeared.
"Why do you draw this line? Why is it important? What are the limitations? What are the missing elements? Why?"
These questions raised by Kaijima for her students are also important for architectural practitioners like us to answer. She addressed that architects should draw less and think more, as an in-depth exploration of one design surpasses one hundred arbitrary ideas.
As Kaijima noted, faced with the unprecedented speed and anxiety of the architectural profession, as well as the worsening urban environment in China and around the world, architect might need to slow down to observe and to think about questions like "why do we design? Who are we design for?"
The kind of thinking is probably the first step for changes to happen.
Jingqiu: Architectural Ethnography / behaviorology, those critical concepts relate to sociology and anthropology, how does Bow-Wow usually formulate research or concepts that are not limited to architecture but cross-disciplinary? What are the intentions behind?
Kaijima 我是一个建筑师，建筑是我理解社会和世界的重要方式。举个例子，《东京制造》（Made in Tokyo）反映了东京的生活，东京经济的增长方式，以及密度对于建筑的影响。我们发现建筑是其所处社会的映射，空间和建筑是观看社会的重要角度，这便是建筑、民族志以及社会学之间相似的地方。
Kaijima: One simple answer is that I am an architect. Architecture is an important method to understand the condition of society and world. Made in Tokyo is the representation of Tokyo's life that relates to how the economic grows in Tokyo and how density affects architecture. We then found out that architecture could reflect a society and its contexts. That is why ethnography and sociology are similar to architecture.
Spaces and buildings are both important lenses to look at society. Methodologically, the disciplines are different: sociology uses data; ethnography normally uses lots of texts instead of drawings; some of them do both and cooperate with architects to integrate architectural parts.
We overlap with those disciplines from time to time. For example, in Architectural Ethnography, I also mention important ethnographers who worked in Japan during the modernization or the recoveries after the disasters, such as the wars, the earthquakes, and the tsunamis. Some of them were also interested in how to express and explain their observations in architecture.
Jingqiu: We read your 2014 book Commonalities, the book responds to capitalism, the production of building industry, and the erase of characteristics in the modern cities. Could you explain more about what is the ultimate goal or intention behind the discussion? How do you imagine the roles of architects and individuals play in this conversation pertaining to the re-designing the industry?
Kaijima: Commonalities has several topics, the simpler one is on culture and behavior. Each country has different attitude and behaves differently.
For example, in Japan, people always bow, whereas in European countries, people cheek kiss and shake hands. These kinds of behaviors are very different, and relate to the distance, sometimes physical distance, between human beings. When we visited several cities and their public spaces, we could then understand how they behave and how they share some spaces amongst different groups.
I think that the autonomous behavior of a physical body and culture could also be integrated into a design process. If we could activate their behavior to be expressed as a livelier condition in some public or communal spaces, it might also be very helpful to the people or the culture to be more fun and interesting in urban or village contexts.
Design can be like 'pushing a button' to start a behavior. In Commonalities, we tried to collect different examples that illustrate what kind of elements or experience can be the 'button' to activate behavior, which includes climate, people's behavior itself, and architecture typologies as well as spatial composition.
In the book, we didn't describe the details, but the idea was that through drawings we could understand how people behave, why people behave like that, what effects the connections between behavior and spaces. If we could understand this kind of relational condition and bring them into our design even a bit, we can activate more and more the inhabitants' attitude and behavior.
For example, we could put long benches with nice materials, or introduce very beautiful sunlight into a space.
Jingqiu: Bow-Wow has designed urban spaces in different cities such as Canal Swimmer's Club (Bruges, Belgium, 2015), Miyashita Park (Tokyo, 2011), Kitamoto Station (Kitamoto, 2008 - 2012) and Guggenheim Lab (New York, 2011.8-10). How do you deal with different sites with different culture and landscape environment? What is the usual design process? Is there any entry point to the process?
Kaijima: I trust power of the observation. The method is that we understood what the contexts behind the space and the condition are. And then we try to maximize some elements of the condition, the 'seeds of the behavior', in nature and building, through design.
In the case of the Canal Swimmer's Club, swimming was in the historical context. We first found out that the behavior of swimming was there 50 years ago. Unfortunately, the canal was polluted in the last 50 years, and the government limited the swimming activities. But we got some good news that recently the water becomes better and better, and people can start to swim, or the government expects swimming activities to return to the canal. And then, this kind of condition is realized by our project.
In the Kitamoto case, there are several 'seeds' have already existed: the element of the forest was around the station; some young people wanted to visit the station square; some local people want to show their activities by performing in front of the station or they want to have a market. We heard these kinds of voices or observed these kinds of conditions as the 'seeds' of the place and then we maximize them, or we prepare for them, like making a 'button'.
Jingqiu 除了这些城市空间项目，犬吠还做了很多小型住宅项目，例如：Kus House （2003）、House & Atelier Bow-Wow （2005）、House Tower （2005）等等。它们通常是小尺度的，位于日本本土，并且设计都基于犬吠对“行为”、当地环境因素和居住于其中的人们的生活的充分了解。请问犬吠在设计小住宅和公共空间时，都有着哪些不同或共通之处？它们是相互独立的研究项目吗？又或是，这些项目都遵循某种共同的思考和探索路径呢？
Jingqiu: You also have house projects, such as Kus House (2003), House & Atelier Bow-Wow (2005), and House Tower (2005). Those projects are small scale, mostly in local Japan, and based on a fully understanding of "behavior" of local environmental factors and life of people who live inside. What are the commons and differences when you design the house projects and the urban projects? Are these researches independent from each other or are there any overarching thoughts or questions behind them?
Kaijima: Basically, it's a continuous process from the small houses to the large public buildings. Our attitude is the same. Like Made in Tokyo, we found very interesting mix-use or hybrid-use buildings in Tokyo. We also have very nice clients who want to express, create some lifestyle that express their philosophy. Each individual and their narratives are very related to our design of the house.
Some people want to have very nice study room and they have a lot of books. They want to keep the study room with books and the design will be based on this. In another case, the wife is very good at cooking. The family members really want to share the house but don't always want to see each other. Then we design a space that has three layers, so they can feel each other's presence without seeing each other. We always hear people's intentions and then bring the kinds of special sensibilities of living conditions into buildings and spaces around them.
Of course, as architects, we have many ideas about space to realize what they want. But words and intentions we heard from them, "we would like to spend time at home together, but we do not want to see each other always" something like that, become the ideas of the space.
Amongst the fifty or so small houses that Bow-Wow has designed, each of them has a special wish or intention by the client. During the process, we received many ideas how people could live, how people want to live. This kind of dynamism in living conditions also provides us the freedom to reimagine how people could be more active in public domain. We also test the kinds of ideas that we got from single house projects in public spaces.
We're very open to hear from many people who participate in the public space. We're also optimistic about bringing these new intentions to the public space for users.
For example, when the government or municipality has an idea of making a square, but unfortunately, they do not have any idea or methodology of how the square or the plaza should work. That's why we need to hear the voices on how the square will be operated from the local people. These voices create hybridized functions that the municipality is unable to imagine sometimes. But the municipality is good at gathering people. Besides the kind of gathering, there are many other different gatherings too.
Jingqiu: Can you tell us a bit more your methods of gathering opinions from the people or how you test them in various Bow-Wow projects?
Kaijima 这往往取决于不同的语境。通常情况下，我们会尽量直接跟人们交流，有时市政部门也会通过调研收集人们的想法。不管如何，我都认为，在地跟人们直接见面、交谈、观察是相当重要的。在现场的时候，我们通常会发现一些已经存在的活动、新活动和“行为的种子”。Kaijima: It depends on the context. Basically, we prefer the chance to hear voices directly. Sometimes, municipalities collect opinions from surveys for us. But I feel that it is important to visit, meet, talk to people, and observe. In this way, we could find several examples of similar conditions, maybe there could be some 'seeds' for creating new activities or enhancing existing activities.
Sometimes, we open workshop and invite people to gather information. These workshops are good ways to open the municipalities' minds. Currently, the problem with the municipality and the parliament is that that some of the politicians are a bit old-thinking and sometimes very conservative. For these politicians to change their minds, they need some inputs from citizens. These workshops have significances to make the changes happen.
Maybe now, Japanese society has a certain level of established conditions, and some of the politicians just want to keep them the same. However, if these stable conditions remain unchanged, the situation will get worse and worse because of a lack of fresh ideas and an exchange with the outside. Sometimes architecture makes a good platform for the stability of the society, but they also need new activities to sustain our society.
Jingqiu: We also wonder how you usually select your research sites. How do you usually find the spots for your projects, especially your transition from the urban to the rural contexts. Do you find it more difficult to create these kinds of conversation in the city than in the countryside?
Kaijima: I would say these two conditions are very different. In the rural area there are more resources around and more spaces that are very cheap. Therefore, it is easy to make new things. In Tokyo, there are very limited spaces and we must pay every time. In rural areas we do not have to worry about the payments because the land is abundant and there is forest, trees and so many resources that are easy to obtain without any payment. This is really good.
Maybe after learning from the rural area, the ideas can be put into the urban contexts in the future. For example, we might ask the municipality for permission to create a 'forest club' in Tokyo that allow people to cut trees in parks by themselves based on membership for creating buildings and furniture. It could create more enjoyments and conversations between people within and beyond the neighborhoods, between people and their living environments.
采访临近结束，我们聊起贝岛在城市或乡村语境中，对人与人，以及人与其居住的环境的思考。她批评道，全球化、设计产业化和建筑教育使我们被困在了某种固定思维中——建筑师们认为“只有一种生活方式，即一种与标准化的尺寸相联系的生活方式”——而对贝岛还有犬吠工作室来说，建筑的视野应当被放在更宽广的语境里，引发建筑师思考建筑背后和之外的东西，去发现“建筑背后的原因，整个历史和建筑工业，改变中的材料和技术，以及气候与环境” ，去思考 “人们生活的方式、文化和行为。”
Close to the end of the interview, my coworker and I contemplated Kaijima's words and thoughts related to people and their living environments, urban or rural. She criticized that globalization, building industry and education have "made us think that there is only one way of living—with standardized dimension." For Kaijima, as well as Atelier Bow-Wow, architects should try to think about what is behind and beyond buildings, to "discover why the building looks like this, also the history, the industry, the changing materials and the technology, the climate" as well as "the lifestyle, culture and behavior of people."
This is the way to consider design and architecture.
采访者注：这些民族志学家包括柳田国男（Kunio Yanagita）、宫本常一 （Tsuneichi Miyamoto）、今和次郎（Wajiro Kon）等。