Okinawa 2018

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In 2018 Tropicality made a series of films, drawings and models in Okinawa over a period of 2 weeks in collaboration with Okinawa Institute of Technology, Waseda University and Takeshi Yamamura, and Tokyo University’s Kengo Kuma Lab and Rafael Balboa. 

Every individual, story and series of spaces and objects entangled with them that we encounter during the course of the workshop is of course completely unique and irreducible. However, one seemingly common thread that runs through all of the stories and spaces we have encountered over our 4 years seems to be a striving, through material and immaterial practices, for what we might call forms of existential security and meaning. These strivings or struggles have become a kind of blacklight which illuminates otherwise invisible ‘liquefying’ affects and consequences of forms or stages of ‘modenisation’ ; a term that for us also refers to what is often described as postmodernity but we would argue is in keeping with the processes of the technological and capitalist economic rationalisation and abstraction that have characterised modernity.

Some of the work done by the students can be viewed below, followed by the abstract brief for the workshop. As was mentioned in previous years, in collaboration with architects and filmmakers students produced a series of films and drawings which sought to construct alternative historical ‘space’ through story, voice, image, and experience. The projects are the result of wandering around, in this case the island of Okinawa, with different groups of students visiting towns, cities and neighborhoods of different economic status, engaging in conversations and then interviews with people who then invited us in to their neighborhoods, spaces of work and  homes to film the space of their everyday lives. The interviews, film and drawing were edited and constructed in parallel, pushing back and forth on one another, to create a consideration as a kind of material-existential inquiry into the realities, strategies and meaning practices of the subjects.

further updates to come

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Heshkiya

Gavin Feng, Kana Murakami Tuncay, Ania Vang Anh Trang

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Henoko

Danna Rasyad Priyatna, Koichi Hirabayashi, Stan Turcon, Weiquin Liang

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Hamahiga

Ao Tan, Chloe Tam, Sarah Wellesley, Shun Saito

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Okinawa City

Freda Chan, Nutt Boonyaratgonon, Yijia Wang, Luis Viyella

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1) 1971 untitled, Iriomote Island, Okinawa by Tomatsu Shomei 2) The islands of Okinawa by Kohayakawa Wataru

“Happy Immortals” was the name given to the inhabitants of the Ryukyu Islands by the scribes of 3rd century BCE Chinese emperor missions. The missions, which named the islands Liuqiu, meaning ‘Lapiz Lazuli Gems,’ were tasked with uncovering the secrets of immortality. The islands, two-thirds of which now are administered as Okinawa prefecture, Japan, have been like a seam in a fabric torn at by distant powers ever since. Attacked and colonized since the 7th century by China then Japan, and later by the United States – the latter two still occupy the islands today.

A history of the physical traces, the urban landscape and houses of the Ryukyu and Okinawa paint a vivid portrait of this society: its experience and struggle with adaptation, autonomy, colonization and domestication. ‘Traditional’ is a word often used to describe the Nuchijaa house of the islands but this house only occupies – and in changing forms – 400 years of a history which as we now know stretches back at least 32,000 years there. On these islands, people have dwelled and worshiped in so many forms: in caves, earth-pit dwellings, palm and grass thatched huts, elevated wooden houses, and now, they live in clustered expanses of reinforced concrete boxes not entirely unique from those of Japanese cities to the north.

Tradition, in the proper sense, has long disappeared here – over the past 2000 years change has swept the foundations out from beneath the inhabitants of Ryukyu in “tsunamis” of bronze, iron, steel, silicon and symbols – change is perpetual and always accelerating. We might however, consider this destruction in a positive way, for destruction also ‘opens up’ a possibility here for a bare encounter with total urbanization, with the networked boxes of concrete, pulsing with flows of energy and information whose rythym starkly contrasts against a backdrop of the flows of wind, sand and the lapiz lazuli sea.

This year Tropicality will, in our 4th year, continue our interrogation of Tropical housing, identity and aesthetics in tropical, post-colonial, urban contexts. The Ryukyu Islands, is markedly different from the other places we have visited (San Jose, Costa Rica; Saigon, Vietnam; Colombo, Sri Lanka) but exposes that which is obscured by the use of the prefix ‘post’ in those cities: namely the continued imposition of sovereign power; of economy over the political (in the proper sense), Nature and life. Yet, we come to the tropics because we always encounter modes of life which simply reject (and sometimes extrapolate) many of the desires of the post-fordist metropolis and therefor open up possibilities for architecture. This year we will explore – through form, contents, film, and drawing –  how the physical, representational and symbolic features of the Okinawan domestic setting, from the scale of the domestic object, to that of the urban, are entangled in the forming and definition of the ‘self’ as a relationship to others and the landscape – domesticated, urban and ‘natural’.  We aspire to build architectural inquiries that are of the most fundamental importance to seeing as a form of, and prerequisite to projecting.

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