A pile of stones, beauty, architecture

What makes architecture beautiful? Beauty according to Philip Johnson (note to self: Cortelyou would be a great name for an architect’s dog) is not defined as one of his notorious Seven Crutches of Architecture because, as Philip cheekily pointed out, what is ugly for one can be good-looking for another. Beauty is disputable, de gustiness non est disputandum.

Architects who lean too much on either of these seven crutches (history, pretty drawings, utility, comfort, cheapness, serving the client or structure) are not strong enough to face the fact that to create something is “the sum of inescapable artistic decisions by the architect”. These artistic decisions are what Gaston Bachelard meant when he wrote that “even in art like painting which bears witness to a skill, the important successes take part independently of skill”. In the end he believes these decisions led to an architecture which provides ongoing generations with the same thrill as Philip had seeing Chartres Cathedral or the Parthenon.

According to Corb buildings such as the Parthenon make such a strong statement that they move something inside us, emotions of beauty and of an universal feeling, felt by whoever visits the Parthenon, the Hagia Sophia, the Acropolis or Hadrian’s villa. For Corb materials can be more than merely construction materials to build houses and palaces. At some point those pile of stones touch our hearts, make us happy. The walls tell a story, they tell the intention of its creator, of the architect.

“A thought which reveals itself without a word or sound”


A’ Design Silver Award

Our Orandajima House has been awarded the A’ Design Silver award. According to the A’ Design Award website this means: ” The A’ Design Award is not just an award, it is the indicator of quality and perfection in design, the award is recognized worldwide and takes the attention of design oriented companies, professionals and interest groups. Winning the A’ Award is a certificate of excellence for designers, a proof of quality for companies. Having the A’ Award attracts the eyes of design oriented audiences worldwide, winners will be able to find better and higher profile jobs and sales leads.” We’re honoured! OJH_winner

Giving Back to Japan 3: Road to Reconstruction

Giving Back to Japan

A few days after the disastrous events of March 11th, I sent out an email to the members of the board of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce urging them we do something, something to help the people of Tohoku. As a NCCJ board member and long-term resident of Japan I felt that this voluntary network organisation would be the best way to find ways of helping. A few board members, including Hans van der Tang, the future NCCJ president and Leon Halders from DSM president of the NCCJ at the time, we met less than a week later in a cafe in Shibuya. Regularly shaken by aftershocks, we quickly decided that we should divide our ideas into short term and long term plans. Our longterm goals would slowly materialise into the Orandajima House, but at that time in that Shibuya cafe, we thought we should also focus on what we as a chamber are best at: bringing people together. We decided we would organise an event, we called it: Giving Back to Japan. The main purpose for the first event was to provide NGO’s and other organisations that are contributing to the relief efforts following the earthquake and tsunami with a platform to explain their various relief efforts in the region.The event was sponsored by the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo Hotel and Unilever. We collaborated with various national chambers of commerce in Japan. The event was a succes, over 200 people participated and apart from a better awareness about the NGO’s activities, ¥675,000 was raised for charity.


Giving Back to Japan 2: Community Leaders Report

About a year later the NCCJ organised another Giving Back to Japan event: Community Leaders report. This time the focus was to provide a public forum for the mayors of cities and towns across the region of Tohoku whose community are facing different reconstruction issues. We invited five mayors from the towns of Aizu, Iwanuma, Ofunato, Onagawa and Yamada machi to talk to an audience of over 400 members from 16 national chambers of commerce. Tv and radio presenter Peter Barakan led the discussion about the struggles and effort these small communities are facing and how individuals and organisations can help toward their goals.

Here’s video of Peter Barakan and me, talking after the event.

Giving Back to Japan 3: The Road to Reconstruction

On March 11th 2015 there will be a third Giving Back to Japan event: The Road Towards Reconstruction. For this event the NCCJ is collaborating with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and again many other foreign chambers. The focus, as described in the subtitle, will be on realised projects. I will talk about our Orandajima House. You can read more about this project which I designed pro-bono down here on this site. During the presentation I want to focus on the process of design as well as construction. It will also be a good time to thank all the companies that have sponsored the many products that were used in the building such as the lighting, finish materials and furniture. The event will be held at the Tokyo American Club, you can find more details and also register here: http://www.nccj.jp/events/upcoming-events/details/182-gbtj3

Please join, it’s for a good cause, for each paying guest ¥1,000 will be donated to support Tohoku Reconstruction Projects.



Orandajima House Opening Reception

A more extensive post of our now completed Orandajima House and the Opening Ceremony and Party of Saturday 24th May 2014. I try to tell the story in pictures:

The beautiful harbour of Yamadamachi, with a Orandajima or Holland island. The island was renamed to commemorate the historical event of the Dutch ship De Breskens landing in Yamada in 1643. This historical story was later picked-up by Jonathan Swift and used as the basis for his book Gulliver’s Travels. Wiki entry about De Breskens and her crew here (in Dutch)

(Not De Breskens) in the harbour of Yamada machi

A view towards the site from the other side of the bay. The building is on high ground, behind the cluster of buildings in the centre of the picture.

Bird eye view from a surrounding hill looking down towards the building. Ceremonial tent in front.

Details for use at the opening ceremony later: shovels and watering cans for the ceremonial tree planting.

And here worn at work by Nienke Trooster of the Dutch Embassy and Jos van Ruyven, chairman of the Orandajima Foundation The foundation that initiated the building of the Orandajima House.

White gloves are cutting ribbons this time (with brand new scissors). Left to right: Shinitsu Sato, the Mayor of Yamadamchi, Nienke Trooster and Jos van Ruyven.

The logo for the Orandajima Foundation was designed by the world famous Dutch artist Dick Bruna In this picture you can see the contractor installing the sign a few hours before the opening.

Selfie during the opening ceremony.

And here are the end-users! Without a thought the children are playing with the patterns on the artificial grass. Some are jumping over the white stripes, some are rolling around and others are sumo wrestling.

The field is an immediate success!

I’m being interviewed by NHK. They’ll make a short documentary about the process of the project.


Picture of the main contractor and I. Smiles all around.


The children helping the staff of Rational, who donated of the kitchen and supplied the food for the day.


As anticipated, once inside, the little reading room at the back of the building is very popular. Here are the children playing a game of Ganzebord.

TV space

Here are some images of the interiors used in the tv series Girls
The set design is not particularly interesting except for maybe the space of the room of the character Charlie. In the series he complains to his girlfriend (forgot her name, just Google it yourself) that she never has shown any interest in where he lives. It seems that until the second season she has not even been to his room (probably due to production costs most of the characters are kept in one room). But then we see Charlie’s room, and what a man cave it is!

Floor plan of Charlie’s rather spacious room

Sketch of the space designed by the series’ production designer Laura Ballinger Garnder

View of the actual set

Detail of the bed