Today was a public holiday (Health and Sports Day), so I wandered off to check out an architectural show called the 9tubohouse Exhibition. Essentially, it was showcasing a simple house design -- almost a cube -- constructed of joined timbers. The house is two stories high and 9 tsubo in area (hence the name), each tsubo being two standard tatami (or about 36 square feet), tsubo (坪) being an old and still widely used measurement for land and houses in Japan.
All the stuff I like in house design: aesthetically simple, compact, and airy.
What was intriguing for me was the setting for the exhibition: an old school building (in the Akihabara district, away from the all the electronics stores) being used as a temporary exhibition space for a variety of art shows. The 9tubohouse Exhibition fit into one of its ground-floor classrooms. And it was not a particularly attractive school building, being one of those Stalinesque stained-concrete hulks that seem to make up the main school design aesthetic here. The fact that the weather was rainy and gloomly overcast certainly didn't help the overall atmosphere matters.
There were actually a couple of shows going on in the building, tucked away in different classrooms, making it look like a REALLY ambitious Parent's Night at North Berkeley Middle School. I checked out one called "Small & Beautiful: Swiss Design Today", which, as the title suggests, was about the work of Swiss designers. This one took up about four classrooms, with little signs pointing you down the appropriate gloomy corridors to reach the various temporary galleries. This exhibit (which is moving on to Sagamihara in December), displayed Swiss Army knives (ooh, a exploded display of a knife) and Swatch watches, of course, but also toys, fashion, graphic design, etc.
The most distinctive gallery was the one set aside for a company called Freitag, which makes heavy vinyl backpacks and courier bags. What makes the bags distinctive is that the bags are made from used truck tarpaulins, making each colorful and unique -- and in the gallery at this show, you could buy a custom-made bag by cutting the pattern yourself, using their templates, a boxcutter, and heavy-duty workgloves. Naturally, you had to sign waivers that absolved the company if you mishandled the boxcutters and noted that once you start cutting, you can't change your mind. You slice it, it's yours, I guess. Once you cut up the pieces, the Freitag company will assemble them into your finished bag and deliver it to you in a few weeks.
What I found amusing was their slogan for this little do-it-yourself promotion, which probably lost something in the translation: "It's Your Fault!"