Kobo Abe, a Japanese writer, was known for his super-messy room, and he was said to have scattered cigarette ashes all over the floor when his ashtray got full. Actually, I am not good at tidying up, although not as bad as the writer himself. I often tell my staff and students to “organize thoughts”, but when it comes to myself, I am not good at “organizing” things nor swiftly putting away things after using them.
On the other hand, when browsing through an architecture magazine, you only see perfectly neat and tidy rooms. Of course, it would be better and ideal to keep rooms tidy, but one may feel a bit suffocated in perfectly controlled and “staged” situations.
It is so constrained and looks as if you take as a premise that a room is always tidy and all the things that spill out of daily life would be things that would disturb surroundings which I would call “noises”. Chairs or a table are not supposed to be there and dirty dishes or unfolded laundry would be out of the question. One may say that Modernism has retained its quality by clearing everything out of the space.
It is impossible and also meaningless to try to control other people’s daily life or actions. Still, I wanted to think about how to deal with the “noises” in daily life from a designer’s point of view. After daily life starts, it is the resident who takes control of everyday life and not the designer after all – but maybe the resident and the designer can find a point of compromise where they accept each other’s viewpoints. My idea for this was to allow these “noises” to exist from the beginning. Usually, an ideal wall is perfectly clear of any attachments. Sometimes a painting or a photograph may be hung, but the position is carefully calculated in advance. I wanted to think about how we can counter such perfectionism and help creating more tolerant living environments.
Due to the very tight budget restriction, I gave up on changing the locations of kitchen and bathroom at an early stage. Typically, kitchens and bathroom sections are often located on the north side facing the common corridor in Japanese apartment buildings. In this case, however, the kitchen and bathroom section was located in the middle section of the apartment, with the living room on the south and the bedroom on the north. Since the existing storages had been dispersed throughout the house, my idea was to reorganize and gather them around the kitchen and bathroom section and wrap them in a fabric wall and eventually came up with an idea of attaching ‘pockets’ on the fabric wall.
Pockets on clothes and bags are a rather ambiguous existence; we find them highly useful when they are there, but we can do without them if they are not there. We don’t keep coins, pens or a handkerchief in our pockets forever, but only ‘stuff’ these things into them temporarily when not in use. For some reason, I associated them with moles on the face – small disturbance or “noises” that also add some charm – and decided to attach them on the wall. Pockets are not completely functional as storages, but such incompleteness may allow for co-existence of various things or any situations – it is perfectly acceptable if things are randomly stuffed into the pockets or if they are sticking out of them. The pocket wall becomes a versatile receptacle where miscellaneous things from everyday life are accepted as they are and not as disturbing “noises”.
Clearing all the things completely is not the only way to make the table look tidy. One can rearrange miscellaneous existing things on the grid layout to make it look beautiful. It is also possible to design a background that embraces co-existence of miscellaneous daily things.
I would like to explore a way to design more generously, other than just clearing out unnecessary things or restricting uncontrollable things.