Perpetually Unfinished for the Ever Inquisitive

Daisuke Motogi (DDAA Inc.)
Interview & transcription: Hinako Izuhara
Translation: Gen Machida

19 OCT 2019

──Can you begin by introducing yourself?

Daisuke Motogi:   I’m Daisuke Motogi of DDAAthe architects designing Mistletoe of Tokyo (MoT). We specialize in architectural, spatial, and product design. Having said that, I don’t really think about what genre each of our projects fall under, and we simply design whatever is necessary by operating across the disciplinary boundaries. This means that sometimes we’ll develop a design based on preplanned concepts that are given to us at the start, and sometimes we’ll work on formulating the concepts together with the client. Something we’re careful about when developing projects is to always make sure that the design details match the concept. Doing so helps elevate the rigor of both. There are also times when we’ll propose revisions to the concept if we feel that the concept isn’t right while we’re working out the details.

──How does working with MoT compare to your usual work?

It’s unlike anything I’ve personally done before. The closest comparison might be managing my own firm. Here, we’re dealing with everything from making furniture to recruiting.

──How did it all begin?

At first, we were asked to come up with ideas for remodeling the former office at Gaienmae. So actually, our involvement goes back to the concept development phase. It wasn’t just any office renovation though, because Taizo Son, Mistletoe’s founder, was having second thoughts around that time about how the company was set up, and as we got talking, it turned into a project to create a space with new functions different from those of an “office”.

──But strictly speaking, you were still only designing the space as the company’s new office at that point?

That’s right. It was October of 2017 when they reached out to us and asked us to develop a renovation plan for the Mistletoe Base Camp Tokyo, which was an office of 400 tsubo [roughly 1,320 square meters] in Tokyo’s Gaienmae district. But already at that point, I knew that we weren’t being asked to design a normal office, as they said, “An office isn’t a place for working!” (laughing) We were told that what an office really needs to be is “a place that induces serendipity (*1)”.

*1. Fortunate chance encounters.

──So, the idea of the “serendipity generator” that is now part of MoT’s concept was conceived very early on.

The documents from back then show that it’s been there right from the start. What I pictured when I heard the idea of a place where people can gather and where serendipity happens was the Fábrica de Arte Cubano in Cuba. It’s an old oil mill that’s been converted into an art complex, and it houses all sorts of functions, including galleries, gig spaces, restaurants, and a cinema. There are even hair dressers there. Another place that I thought could be a precedent was the SESC Pompéia in Brazil. The complex was realized in 1982 by the renowned Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, and though it was planned as a community sports center, it includes various cultural facilities such as a library and theater, and there are also everyday establishments such as a dental clinic and grocery store. It was made with the aim of improving the living standards of the local community, and people still love the place today, more than three decades after it was built.

──It really sounds like they’ve managed to bring together a great mix of people.

What’s special about those two places is that they’re not only attracting people interested in the arts and sports; they’re also actively conducting activities that engage the community and society. That’s where I thought a connection could be made to Mistletoe, which is also bringing together many people with diverse interests. While Mistletoe has a diverse set of goals and agendas, I believe that the underlying principle is lifelong learningthe idea of expanding your horizons in all directions. I think this is captured nicely by the Nine Agendas (*2), which can be arranged into a timetable.

──A timetable?

Yes, a timetable. Just as you study subjects like language, math, science, or social studies in school, here you can keep learning about all the different topics that make up the Nine Agendas. Anyway, that’s why I felt like we needed to make a space that kindles curiosity and an excitement for learning. To do this, we thought the space should be designed to be fluidly adapted to the situation without ever becoming rigid. What we imagined creating, in other words, was an uber-dynamic architecture.

──What exactly do you mean by that?

I’m talking about floors like festival floats that can be shifted around at different times of the day.

──You literally imagined things to move!

People will often put in moveable furniture to allow for more freedom, but once they start using it, they never actually move anything around. It just becomes too much of a hassle. (laughing) Knowing that, we wondered if we could make big island-like units that move in dramatic ways so that you only have to shift things around slightly to drastically change the impression of the space. Specifically, we tried to do this by making big things that people move together, such as a large table, a stepped theater, and a forest of artificially cultivated plants; little things to be used freely by individuals, such as capsule hotel-like one-person spaces and playground equipment-like furniture; and nothing else—by which I mean we didn’t design furniture specifically dedicated to any of the company’s teams (fig. 1, 2). By doing so, we thought we could create a condition of constant change, where the changes taking place are only big and not small.

*2. Mistletoe’s core values, which consist of “Knowledge Economy (rethinking work for the knowledge society)”, “Lifelong Learning (adopting a lifestyle of lifelong inquiry)”, “Permaculture (embracing healthy and sustainable food and agricultural practices)”, “Diversity (living together in a diverse society)”, “Human Autonomy (upholding freedom and human agency)”, “Localism (building communities that engage local contexts)”, “The Commons (exploring new ways of sharing collective goods)”, “Wellness (maintaining personal and social health)”, and “Sustainability (shaping a sustainable planet and society)”.

──It seems like there weren’t many prescribed requirements, but were there any functions that you intended to include from the outset?

The art space and kitchen. There’s a strong affinity between art and startups. I believe that artists and entrepreneurs share the same goal of creating a richer future, but where the artist aspires to radicalize, the entrepreneur aspires to democratize. Interesting things happen when people who are looking in the same direction, but who think differently, are able to share a common space.

As for the kitchen, I personally know how cooking and eating meals together can help deepen relationships, so I wanted to include one from the start. We also regularly invite people over to our own office, HAPPA, for dinner parties, which not only are a trove of ideas but also can lead to actual projects.

──But then the decision was made to get rid of the company office altogether.

That changed the premise that there would be many people present at all times, so the idea of having moveable units became a bit difficult. However, as we learned more about the Mistletoe community and came to understand that there are all sorts of startups and people doing interesting things, we realized that we might still be able to make a serendipity generator by designing the space as a place for the members to show their work in a fluid, changeable way. In a coworking space, you may get to know people but never see what they actually do. For example, you might never see the technologies and products that they’re developing. We thought, if that’s the case, there needs to be a place for people to exhibit their actual work and show how it’s being implemented.

──It does seem that many of the startups at Mistletoe have a strong physical component and require an actual location.

That’s true. So, we’re hoping to get involved with more and more startups around here in the same way that we’ve been exploring how to create communication hubs around plants and actually made a garden together with Plantio, who are developing “smart planters” with the aim of realizing a society where anyone can make vegetables using controlled growing systems, or how we’ve been doing our live streams and sharing our schedules at MoT using prototypes developed by Flower Robotics, who are researching free-standing robots.

We’re also planning a project to design a mobile shower and a kitchen, separate from the built-in one we already have, together with WOTA, who are researching ways to make water available in places without infrastructure. So far, they’ve only been developing individual products like showers and kitchens work off grid, so we’re now also working on a project with them to design bigger visions and future plans through thinking, for example, about the future of transportable architecture and the city in a world where self-driving vehicles will be the norm.

The idea is that MoT will continually be updated through such collaborations with Mistletoe members. As I said earlier, I think the biggest difference between MoT and other coworking spaces is that the prototypes invented by the members will actually be implemented in the space.

──Basically, where at first you were trying to create fluidity through the physical architecture, you made a shift to allow even that to be fluidly reshaped by the projects developed in the community.

What led us to that idea was a comment Taizo made about making it “a place that’s like a stage or a theater, and a gallery, and a museum, and an expo, and a laboratory”. It hit us then that what he was looking for was a place like an open field where you can do anything you want. Then we thought we should make it to be an “open field version beta” and have the space be updated by the Mistletoe community’s inquisitive spirit. A beta version, of course, is something that’s built on the premise that it’ll be updated.

──So, “beta version” and “inquisitive spirit” became your keywords for the project.

And with good reason, because in order to maintain an inquisitive spirit, it’s important to remain perpetually “unfinished”. Keeping things in beta mode will invite everyone to keep conducting various trials. Also, this isn’t a place for producing solutions, like a normal office. That being so, we felt that the design of the place itself shouldn’t be presented as a solution but should instead be left in a beta state. Once we arrived at that decision, the nature of our involvement with the project changed completely.

──Usually, when you’re involved in a project as the designer, you would have to leave everything up to the users after completion.

We wanted to change things, starting with that premise. A normal building will go through the steps of “design”, “construction”, “completion”, and “use”. There’s a clear moment of completion in that process, in which the designers are typically only involved from design to completion. However, when you decide to make something that’s perpetually in beta like with this project, you cycle through the steps of “design”, “construction”, “use”, “evaluation”, “design”, “construction”—there’s no longer a point where it’s “finished” (fig. 3). We then proposed that DDAA should maintain its involvement in this continuous cycle of renewal. We had realized that even if we developed various moveable schemes, it probably would become difficult to move things around forever. But if you think about it, if you just keep the architects involved, the space is going to keep changing.

──So, while you were interested in fluidity from the beginning, you changed your thinking from making a system that can operate without the architects to having the architects be active participants.

We went a step further and proposed that we also be able to make things based on our own interests, even without being requested to do. And now, new projects are being born from the convergence of MoT’s latent needs, our personal creative interests, and the Mistletoe community’s technology. Working under the name “DDAA.Lab”, we’re developing projects that address things beyond the design of the MoT space itself. For example, in order for various events to be held here, there need to be stools. Instead of just using store-bought mass-produced stools, we’ve been making stools that provide functions useful for talk events. But we’re not rejecting the idea of mass production itself; we’re thinking of ways of hacking into the system. For instance, we’ve made cup stands that can be attached to the readymade stools, and we’ve also adjusted the seat height of the same stools so that kids can sit on them. We’re now brainstorming functions that might be needed here together with MoT’s management team as part of a project to make a total of 100 different stool hacks.

──It appears that you yourself are demonstrating the idea of independent, self-directed participation that Mistletoe upholds.

Now that I think about it, you’re right. We’re involved in the operation of the space in ways that go beyond our professional duties as architects, and we’re applying things that emerged from the design of the MoT to new projects. This all feels natural to me though, because I think it’s a characteristic of architects to look at issues from a meta perspective. The members of the Mistletoe community are also good with conceptualizing things, so we have a good chemistry.

The way things will be happening at MoT will be by people initiating independent projects, and the way we’re shaping MoT is also as an independent project that we’re undertaking through the act of design, so they both share the same basic structure. We’ll also soon be seeing collaborations form among projects being developed in the community. The structures forming at the small scale match the structure of the larger concept, kind of like in a fractal (*3) or Eames’ Powers of Ten (*4) (fig. 4).

*4. A geometric term that describes a shape whose parts are similar to the whole.

*5. A film by Charles and Ray Eames (1977) that gradually zooms out and in on two people lying in a field to show how the world at the cosmic scale and microscopic scale look similar.

──Hearing that makes me even more excited to see how MoT will develop from here.

Being an architect, I’ve been wired to think only in terms of things such as society and the city, so it’s personally been very stimulating for me to hear about new technologies from the Mistletoe community members. I intend to continue engaging the MoT community as a hub so that I can feed that stimulation I get from them back into the space. I encourage anyone who’s become curious about what’s happening here at MoT to come over for a visit.


元木大輔(DDAA inc.)

15 OCT 2019

Mistletoeの新しいスペース、Mistletoe of Tokyoでは、日々いろいろな機能が加わり、アップデートが起きている。しかし、どうしてアップデートが続けられることになったのだろうか? どうやっていまの形態にたどりついたのか? この場所を設計し、Mistletoeメンバーのひとりである建築家の元木大輔さんに話してもらった。


元木大輔 Mistletoe of Tokyo(MoT)を設計しているDDAAの元木大輔といいます。建築と空間、プロダクトのデザインが専門です。とはいえ、それぞれの仕事がどのジャンルに属するのか?っていうことは意識せず、必要に応じたものを領域を横断してデザインしているという感覚です。







そうです。声をかけてもらったのは2017年10月のことで、東京の外苑前にあった400坪のオフィス、Mistletoe Base Camp Tokyoの改装案をお願いされました。でも、そのころからすでに普通のオフィスを設計することは求められていなくて、「オフィスは働く場所ではない!」と言われたんですよね(笑)。じゃあ何のための場所かというと、「セレンディピティ(*1)を生む場所だ」と。

*1 偶然の幸福な出会い


当時の資料を見返してみると、一番はじめからありますね。人が集まれる場所、かつそこでセレンディピティが起きている場所ということで思い浮かんだのは、キューバにあるFabrica de Arte de Cubanoのことです。古い精油工場をアート・コンプレックスにコンバージョンした施設で、ギャラリー、ライブハウス、レストラン、映画館などさまざまな機能が入っています。美容師が髪を切ってたりもします。 もうひとつ、ブラジルにあるSESC Pompeiaも参考になりそうだと思いました。ブラジルを代表する建築家、リナ・ボ・バルディが1984年に完成させた複合施設で地域のスポーツセンターとして構想されましたが、それだけでなく図書館や劇場、ありとあらゆる文化施設、歯医者やスーパーなどの生活にまつわる店舗が入っています。地域の人々の生活水準を向上させるという目的のもとつくられ、完成から30年以上たったいまも人々に愛され続けています。





*2 [智識社会へのワーク・シフト(Knowledge Echonomy)]、[生涯にわたり探求するライフスタイル(Lifelong Learning)][健康でサステイナブルな美しい食と農(Permaculture)][多様な人々の社会での共存(Diversity)][制約のない人間らしい自由な暮らし(Human Autonomy)][ローカルの文脈をふまえたコミュニティ(Localism)][新しい公共財のあり方(The Commons)][健康な心身と社会生活(Wellness)][持続可能な地球・社会(Sustainability)]からなるMistletoeの核となる考え方




よく自由度を高めるために可動の家具を導入することがあるんですけど、使いはじめるとみんな案外動かさないですよね。めんどうだし(笑)。それだったらちょっと動かすだけでも、がらっと印象が変わるようにしようと、大きな島のようなユニットがダイナミックに動くことを考えました。これは具体的には、みんなで一斉に動かす大きなもの──大きなテーブルや階段状のシアター、人工栽培の森など──と個人が自由に使える小さなもの──カプセルホテルのような個人用のスペースや遊具のような家具──「だけ」があって、チームのための家具をつくらないことで実現しようとしていました[fig. 1, 2]。そうすると、小さな変化ではなくて、大きな変化がつねに起きている状況をつくれるんじゃないかと。





たくさんの人が常にいるという条件はなくなってしまったので、可動式の仕組みはちょっと難しくなりました。でも、Mistletoeというコミュニティを知るうちに、周辺にさまざまなスタートアップがあり、面白いことをやっている人たちがいることがわかってきたので、彼らの活動を見せられる空間でそれらが流動的に変化していけば、やはりセレンディピティの発生装置になるんじゃないかというふうに考えました。 コワーキング・スペースの場合、その人自身を知ることになっても、実際にやっていること、たとえば開発しているテクノロジーやプロダクトが見えづらいところがあります。であれば、実物を展示したり、活用している状況を見せられる場所が必要なんじゃないかなと。


そうですね。スマートプランターを開発し人工栽培システムでみんなが野菜をつくる社会を目指すPlantio, inc.と実際に庭をつくり、植物をHUBにしたコミュニケーションを考えたり、自立式ロボットの研究をしているFlower Roboticsのプロトタイプを使ってMoTのライブ配信やスケジュール共有ツールにしたりといった具合にこれからも周辺のスタートアップをどんどん巻き込んでいきたいです。

インフラ設備のないところで水を使えるような研究を行なっているWOTA CORP.とも、今後いま付いているキッチン以外にモバイルキッチンやシャワーをデザインしていくプロジェクトを進める予定です。今はまだインフラに依存しないシャワーやキッチンといった単体のプロダクトですが、例えば自動運転が本格化したあとの移動可能な建築と都市について考えたり、より大きなビジョンや未来予想図をデザインするプロジェクトも進めています。







その前提から変えたいと思いました。ふつうの建物には、デザイン→工事→完成→使用と明確な完成の瞬間があります。設計者が関わるのはデザインから完成までです。ところが、今回のようにβ版にすると決めた場合、デザイン→工事→使用→検証→デザイン→工事……と完成がなくなります[fig. 3]。そして、ぼくらDDAAが場所の新陳代謝に関わっていきたいと申し出ました。








MoTでこれから起きていくのも「それぞれが自律してプロジェクトを起こしていく」ことだし、とぼくらのMoTのつくりかたも「設計という行為から自律したプロジェクトとして関わっていく」ので、基本にある構造は同じです。コミュニティ内のプロジェクトと一緒に、コラボレーションを起こしていく流れもできつつあります。 フラクタル構造(*4)、あるいはイームズ夫妻の「Powers of Ten」(*5 )みたいに、細かなところで起きている構造と大きな考え方の構造が一致している[fig. 4]。

*4 ある図形の部分と細部が相似形になっていることを言う幾何学の用語

*5 チャールズ&レイ・イームズによる映像作品(1977年)。原っぱで寝転ぶ二人の人間を徐々に縮小・拡大したもので、宇宙空間と人間の細胞は同じような光景であることが示されている。