Intermediating Patterns

Integration and tradition


Intermediating Patterns, an architectural exhibition curated by Kengo Kuma, Matteo Belfiore, and Salvator-John A. Liotta, is part of two exhibitions and a series of symposia organized by The Italian Cultural Center of Tokyo in concomitance with the UIA International Congress of Architecture. The exhibition, which shows innovative examples of the research and experiments on architecture and design conducted at the Kengo Kuma Laboratory and the Yusuke Obuchi Laboratory of the University of Tokyo, included a large site-specific installation, digitally fabricated models, pattern research and their projections, and vivid images all composed into one installation project taking advantage of unique exhibition venues.

While Intermediating Patterns shows works about contemporary architecture, the adjacent exhibition, Uffizi of Giorgio Vasari, curated by Olimpia Niglio celebrated the 500th year anniversary of Vasari’s birth. As the two exhibitions present different topics, they share the same timeless spirit regarding the discovery of new ideas. Consequently, the curators of Intermediating Patterns activated two spaces that are not usually used as spaces for exhibitions in the facility: the main entrance square of the building designed by Gae Aulenti and the grand stairwell to the basement concert hall.

The entrance area hosts the installation work named Paper Garden. It explores the potentialities of transitional spaces and offers an unexpected way of entering the Italian Cultural Center. A festive but calm hanging strips of recycled paper collected from the University of Tokyo welcomes the visitors. The conventional axial approach to the entrance is recomposed into a diagonal path by the specific disposition of light and paper partitions. This non-axial path is, according to one of the curators, inspired by the concept of Oku, a traditional Japanese spatial sensitivity to define a sense of gradual depth. The work also investigates the concept of Kyokai, another traditional Japanese concept of articulating space through filters, apertures, and transparencies.

The location of each body of shredded paper screen is designed to control the sight of the viewer—whether one could see through or not see through the space in-between them. As the viewer enters the work and adapts an oblique point of view, one is then surprised with various stands showing experimental works conceived by the students of the Digital Fabrication Lab, the PHD candidates at the Kengo Kuma Laboratory, and a proposal for the Tsunami Museum.

The digital Fabrication Lab works are particularly innovative in their approach as they test various fabrication methods, an unchartered territory of contemporary architecture. Overall space is filled with even light filtered by screens and carpet of shredded paper—there exists a unique neutrality of space of contemporary life, whereas mysterious mixture of traditional sensitivity of Japanese, or maybe even Italian gardens.

The second area of the exhibition is a ten-meter-high staircase. The installation named Patterns Room utilizes the walls of limestone that wrap the large U-shaped stair by installing a group of interior-lit exhibition panels. Viewers are invited to enjoy architectural drawings and models. The bold characteristics of the large stone blocks punctuating the staircase of the Italian Cultural Institute is dematerialized with projections of pattern in shadow. An advanced LED system provided by Stanley Corp projects unique patterns imbedded in the panels onto the wall and floor. These laser-cut pattern motifs are based on the understanding of traditional Japanese pattern creation as a long and gradual purification process. They are also a part of an on-going research on the relation between traditional patterns and the generative design techniques of our time.

In its entirety, Intermediating Patternsis inspirational in the way it unveils studies and experiments in architecture which integrates new technology with traditional culture. The exhibition offers a glimpse in the reinterpretation of transparency, texture, and dimension and a fresh perspective of forward-thinking architecture, which largely relies on devoted exploration in new technology.

(Text by Keisuke Toyoda, published on Domus)





  • 2011.9.25 - 2011.10.12


  • 250 sqm


  • Italian Institute of Culture Tokyo


  • Kengo Kuma, Matteo Belfiore, and Salvator-John A. Liotta


  • Contributions from: Kuma Lab, coordinated by Ko Nakamura, and Yusuke Obuchi Lab, Digital Fabrication Lab, G30, University of Tokyo, Department of Architecture
  • Design and concept: Matteo Belfiore, Salvator-John A. Liotta
  • Fabrication team: V. Cannava (supervisor), C. Hurtado, S. Joichi, C. Vitorino
  • Theoretical contributions: R. Balboa, F. Scaroni
  • Technical support: Y. Ito, K. Yamaoka, J. Shimada, T. Kuma, B. Konkarevic
  • Visual production: M. Angileri, S. Mezzapelle Light design: G. Crotti
  • Deskrama System: Jun Oishi
  • PhD candidates' contributions: R. Baum, Y. Chen, K. Ko, C. Lippa, C. Vitorino, L. Zhang
  • Digital Fab Lab: A. Hamada, Y. Ito, T. Kuma, C. Xuhao Lin, J. Narongthanarath, D. Zaho
  • Tsunami Museum: M. Koike, K. Nakamura, R. Ishida, S. Murai, S. Tanaka, H. Tomoeda, M. Yoshisato, R. Ishihara, T. Sakane, C. Vitorino, A. Braverman
  • Sponsors: Takenaka Corporation, Stanley Corporation, Stair Link, Z Corporation
  • Endorsed by: The Italian Embassy in Japan, The Japan Society for Promotion of Science, The University of Tokyo