Naturally Artificial . Fredrik Hellberg CFVH
The New Japanese Embassy in London. 新在英国日本国大使館
AA Diploma Unit 13 2009/2010. Th e Reformed Grammar of Ornament
Oliver Domeisen & Tristan Simmonds
Architectural Association School of Architecture. 2010
The new Japanese Embassy in London celebrates the tension between the natural and the artificial, the novelty in transformation and our unavoidable place in nature. The process of manipulation of the natural object and event is the foundation for everything human kind has achieved and the ornamentation of the new embassy explores and displays a hyper artificial natural aesthetic based on the art and ornamentation of Japan. For few countries in the world have such a rich tradition of manipulating nature for their own purpose as Japan and the ornamentation of the new embassy is based on these traditions. Such as the cultivation of the chrysanthemum flower and the pruning of the bonsai tree as well as the breeding of the koi carp and the seemingly endless amounts of variation that these examples produce.
The kimono is worn by the Guardian of the Tower of the Folding Stones as he performs his morning ritual. The motifs on the kimono show the embassy from all its aspects - as the plan of the embassy and its ornamentation unravels across the folds of the silk. The plan seen on the rear of the kimono is drawn from the principles of Japanese manga art and the designs of imperial villas, such as Katsura in Kyoto - the various buildings work together to form a narrative of spaces. The background motif on the kimono depicts Regent’s Park, where the new embassy is located. The lining of the garment opens up to reveal the Tower of the Folding Stones - the office of the Japanese Ambassador, which is again revealed in plan on the back of the kimono. Processional pathways weave across the silk, binding buildings with manga cells and patterns with details, pulling us ever more lucidly into new ornamental narratives.The site plan of the Japanese Embassy printed on the back of the Guardians KimonoView of the Japanese Embassy in Regents Parks north west corner Th e Embassy complex is trough the plans described as a functional set of buildings that together form a complex network of the very diff erent programs required for a embassy and a residency for an ambassador. The plan also describes the Embassy’s urban context and its relationship to the park which resembles the situation regarding Winfield House, situated south of the Embassy. Winfield House was part of John Nash’s development scheme for Regents Park but has been heavily modifi ed since then and is
as of 1955 the residence for the Ambassador of the United States of America. The Building is completely fenced off from the park for security reasons by a thick
barrier of trees, bunches and fences. The New Japanese Embassy is only party controlled
by physical barriers as the entire north east corner of the complex blends with the landscape as the roof tiles of the exhibition hall and the other public areas becomes fl oor tiles and further away, landscape and garden ornamentation in the public areas of the park.
The narrative of the Embassy is trough the plan told in two ways. On one hand, explained as a set of buildings forming a complex. On another, a set of frames, outlining the story of the Embassy trough images and illustrations. The Japanese Manga is a highly develop art that was rigorously studied throughout the project and used both abstractly in the design of the plan and in the image based narrative told on the Kimono. The buildings that make up the embassy become frames for an internal description of the project. In some frames one will find views from within the buildings. In others, the ornamentation that can be found in the interiors. The architectural plan is blurred and becomes a visual narrative.
Blue Print Magazine
Issue 294 September 2010
Winner of the AA’s Nicholas Pozner Prize for
Best Single Drawing of the year, Hellberg’s
design for a Japanese Embassy is printed on
a manga-graphic kimono, which shows the
building from all its aspects. Th e lining of
the garment open up to reveal the Tower of
the Folding Stones - the offi ce of the Japanese
Ambassador - which, like the Embassy building,
is revealed in plan on the back of the kimono.
Th e project was displayed in Unit 13’s
small funeral marble-like space, which had
the theme of Th e Reformed Grammar of Ornament.
While one never quite gets a sense
of spatial organisation between the gorgeous
surfaces, nonetheless it was the best display
of intellectual and technical trajectory at the
The Tower of the Folding Stones, early morning.
The Tower of the Folding Stones, at sunrise.
View of the garden approaching the public part of the embassy, expressing what is undoubtedly the most characteristic feature of Japanese ornament which is the presentation of certain natural subjects and geometric patterns in almost endless variation. Here trough the framing of variations of vegetation in ceramic panels in the shape of Seigaiha (wave) ornaments with Manga elements.
The tower of the folding stones. Western arboreal structural metaphors are synthesized with origami-shoji walls. Manga colours are fed into Owen Jones’s polychromatic principles.
The tower of the folding stones. The Japanese embassy’s rusticated base dissolves into a kinetic Asanoha pattern that opens with the rising sun.
Diploma Unit 13’s agenda deals with modern use of ornaments in
architecture and my project, being an embassy for Japan uses advanced
ceramics as a link to Japan’s strong history in pottery.
The Column Base
The Ceramic Tree Stump
The main part of the building complex that makes up the embassy is the
ambassadors office which is a five floor tower with formal links to the
eighteenth century castles of Japan. The main structure is made out of
steel with fairly standard sections and details. The base of the three
main structural columns (also supported by core and exterior mullions)
are highly ornamental and are symbolizing the tree as the ultimate
structural metaphor. But here it is made of advanced structural ceramics
that actually supports the five floors above.
The tower has a double facade with a standard glass curtain wall on the
inner layer and a thin layer of porcelain tiles in the shape of the most
well know Japanese pattern, the Asanoha pattern. The tiles also carry
another layer of ornamentation as rustication, being a symbol of
fortification is applied on the lower part of the tower. This is where
the speculative part of the project comes in. The tiles are 2.5meters
across and they fold up into stars. Both letting light in and allowing
the occupants to get views of the park. This mechanism plays the role of
climatic control, flexible security but most of all, it’s ornamental
and has a cultural relevance to the client, Japan.