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Reflections and transparency intertwined

SANAA Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa

Reflections and transparency intertwined
By Yehuda Safran -

This is the name of the recent project by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa in New Canaan, Connecticut, USA. From the name, the reader will already understand that the initiative has the flavor of a community center, somewhat Christian in spirit, and with enough economic clout to acquire 80 acres in one of the wealthiest communities on Earth. Programmed in the most general terms to meet almost minimal requirements, the large landscaping project included shaping the earth, containing a body of water, and planting trees and vegetation. In comparison with earlier SANAA projects in North America such as the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion in Toledo, Ohio, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, this one is far more accomplished.

Unlike some of their teachers and mentors such as Shinohara and Toyo Ito, the SANAA architecture firm has developed a vocabulary far closer to Western sensibilities and the dominant tastes of Western countries. The conversion seems subliminal. To what extent they are aware of their accommodation is hard to tell. When asked about East and West, Sejima used her two hands to demonstrate the differences in the thickness of the walls. Yet, as a rule, her projects have no walls as such. It was Alberti who drew the distinction between architecture of walls and architecture of columns; this office is certainly in the realm of columns, not walls. “The River” is a glass pavilion that meanders from the top of a modest hill to the bottom. On its way it provides a sports hall - under grade at the lower part - passing through a tea-serving kiosk, a very large dining hall and a kitchen (hidden by a wall), a library/bookshop, to end in a beautiful assembly place, a cavity in the upper most level. Curtains provide protection from the daylight when needed.   

Of course the etymology of the word pavilion is papillon (French for butterfly).

A pavilion thus requires lightness,...

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