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Creators of an Unprecedented World # 4 Bringing the design office and artisans together—exterior renovations

Bringing the design office and artisans together—exterior renovations

One day in May of 2021, we once again visited Ken’ichi Tanno, the construction manager for WIHL. It had been two months since we last met with Tanno, who is from KUMAGAI GUMI, a top-flight construction company. That was when the completed building was being handed over to Waseda. The spread of Covid-19 made it necessary to complete the construction work in less time than originally planned.
We, the staff of the library, wanted to express our gratitude to him once again for his warm reception. Every time we visited him during the construction, he was waiting for us with hard hats for all the members of our team. Today, we came here to hear some insider stories about the renovation of Building 4.

Building 4 was re-envisioned in pure white. An undulating wooden tunnel winds along the side of the building toward the main entrance. “Constructing this wooden tunnel required the most painstaking consideration,” Tanno said. “The tunnel is made of elongated louvers, but they are not all the same width.”
[If you look closely, you will find that some of the louvers are wider than the rest, just as he said.]
“Actually, during the design verification using a full-scale mock-up, Kengo Kuma & Associates pointed out that the wooden parts gave a weak impression, whereas the supporting steel frame was visually dominant. We realized that since we had used louvers of the same width and lined them up systematically, it looked orderly, but not natural. In order to give the wooden parts a stronger presence, we decided to use wider louvers in some spots, giving the design a natural feeling. We randomized the width somewhat, taking the risk of eliminating complete uniformity.”

Tanno stood at the point where the tunnel curves around the building at nearly a right angle.“Please look carefully at the louvers here. Unlike the louvers in other parts, these are not straight pieces. They were cut in curves and then bent to form the arch.”
[The detailed work involved in the tunnel’s construction was indeed amazing.]

Ken’ichi Tanno (KUMAGAI GUMI Co.,LTD.)

We asked him, “If you suddenly revise the mockup, how do you communicate the changes to the construction site?”“If possible, that day we immediately redraft the working drawing that we created at the original design stage. We also redraw the structure in 3D to show the joinery. Based on those new drafts, we create a revised image of the finished product in coordination with the artisans on site.”
[It seems that these sudden changes are mostly made on site. We asked about the secret that allows the team—the makeup of which may differ from day to day—to immediately respond at the construction site with flexibility.]
Tanno replied, “It’s entirely a matter of communication with the artisans. I can’t actually make anything myself, so I give my full attention to communication about creation, so that the people who are doing the construction can apply their skills with confidence.” His precise responses show that he has a long history of putting trust at the work site as a top priority.

Rows of spotless helmets are lined up at the entrance of the construction site. Clearly this was not a special preparation for a staff visit. It’s an ongoing expression of Tanno’s respect for and gratitude to the artisans.(Next: Interior renovations

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