Design meanderings : Ryūe Nishizawa and Richard Leplastrier

Ryue Nishizawa smiles in Tokyo Ride

One of my favorite film festivals is the Architecture and Design Film Festival (ADFF), held annually in New York City. I was thrilled it still happened online this year and today's meandering thoughts are on two of the films I watched: Beka and Lemoine's film Tokyo Ride on Japanese architect Ryūe Nishizawa and Framing The View on Australian architect Richard Leplastrier. 

Last night I watched Beka & Lemoine's Tokyo Ride and it truly touched me in an unexpected way. Something about Beka & Lemoine's films really excites me because it brings me on the trip I want to be on. I felt like I was there; I was the filmmaker sitting in the passenger seat. Their brilliance at storytelling comes from the way they can make a storyline out of seemingly nothing. At the start of the film, captions say, "The month before April 25, 2019 was incredibly clear, warm and sunny". Then: "The month after was even better". Then... this is the day we visited. Shot in black and white, pouring rain, and just like that, a scene is set. The water pouring into the car. The character of "Giulia" the car. The sounds,  the froggy-squooshing sound of the windshield wipers. Feeling the interior and exterior space at the same time is, to me, a distinctly Japanese quality that I can see in Japanese architecture and clothing. And that "Japanese-ness" was directly demonstrated through the actual process of filmmaking. It didn't need to be filmed from afar, demonstrative, because the viewer themselves actually gets to experience it. One of the most charming moments for me in the beginning is when Ryūe - almost as if unaware or unheeding of his guests' comfort - asks for more windows to be open so that the windows aren't fogged up. More rain pours into the car.

Kazuyo Seshima's house designed by Ryue Nishizawa

Ryūe is so fascinated by houses because it's about living. It's part of our question and our play with the question: "How to live?" And that's the play of designing something for someone - it's so, so personal. How do we live within our bodies, within this world? How do we live within our clothes, within our homes, and within our cities? How can we, or do we, experience them all, at the same time, fluidly - or do we separate them - hard stop - control and isolate? 

Richard Leplastrier is an Australian architect who also spent 2 years studying in Japan - I was so drawn to Leplastrier's buildings as well because of the openness they have to the outdoors, no barriers. He calls it "permanent camping". And comfort is somehow balanced with effort - the effort of cleaning up because one floor space is used for all functions, of maybe being cold while cooking outside... effort is consciousness.  Both Ryūe and Richard's architecture address the balance of human need for enclosure, privacy, warmth, safety - with transparency, connection to the outdoors, and open space.

Richard Leplastrier's office with round open windows

In both films, the architect goes back to visit some of the inhabitants and homes they've designed, and there is something that was so powerful to me in this one-to-one relationship - the builder and the inhabitant. One creates a space for the other to live. The other fulfills the space by actually living. It felt like nothing could be closer between two people. 

I've always been incredibly drawn to architecture and, in some ways, I see my own work as a clothing designer to be apart of that same conversation. It's incredibly intimate, personal, and is your second house (if your body is your first). The questions Ryūe asks in the film are the questions I think about, what does it mean to live within these clothes and experience the world around us, to feel the sensations of our clothes, to be seen in these clothes, and how do these clothes influence how we live? Are they an extension of how we feel or think? Are our homes an extension of our openness or closed-ness? 

At a Q&A after Tokyo Ride, Ryūe says he had worn this beautiful colorful print shirt for the day with the filmmakers, only to find out that they would shoot in black and white. But, the shirt came out even more beautifully in the film. There's something so beautiful about that little statement, it seemed to say to me there is more than one way to experience beauty and it involves more senses, or maybe the sense we don't imagine. 


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