Interview with designer Masato SEKIYA (MS), regarding views on design, and for the award-winning design Cliff House Weekend Residence.

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Interview with Masato SEKIYA at Tuesday 21st of May 2019: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
MS : This design began with the situation of the clients who had purchased a piece of land that had nearly no flat areas, but which they wished to use as a place to enjoy fishing and other outdoor pursuits. The piece of land is bordered by the truly beautiful Tenkawa River (Heavenly River) and the flat area was no more than six meters by six meters. The husband, who is a medical doctor, and his wife requested me to build ‘a tiny fishing cabin with parking space for their two cars’ and I undertook the project. My first thought was, how can this be accomplished? From the roadway above the cliff, there is a gorgeous view of the forest. I wanted to find some way other than making a two-story structure with parking for the cars on the ground floor. I saw the beautiful forest and river, and the cliff facing them. My chief design challenge was to come up with an idea that would maximize harmony with the surrounding nature. The only way to find parking space for two cars was to put the living space below the parking area. The cliff itself is made of bedrock, so it is extremely stable. This was the key to my inspiration. My research showed that once every several years the river floods and the surface level rises, so to support a unit built below road-level with posts extending down would put it in danger of the posts being swept away or damaged and the unit collapsing. This spurred me to become inventive with the design. I believed that I could fulfill the clients’ challenging request and create the space they required by constructing a simple concrete tube and setting it into the cliff face. It was my opinion that such a design would negatively impact the environment least.

DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
MS : Not only with this construction, but in general, my focus is to achieve harmony with the environment as much as possible. I believe that even in the center of a city, such as the ancient city of Kyoto, new construction should be in harmony with the surrounding atmosphere of the area, and its deep-rooted culture. In a natural environment where there are trees and water, the important key to making this a good design is that it should enable the users to enjoy the natural elements, and that as little damage as possible should be done to the surrounding nature.

DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
MS : This design of a visible construction protruding from a cliff face is based on the system of a cantilever. At the center is a fulcrum and to balance the extension is a heavy concrete weight extending deep into the cliff below. I believe there is possibility for this design to be used on cliff faces or seashores for hotels or cottages, with multiple concrete units extending at different angles, buried half in the cliff and extending half into the air, with hallways connecting them. I believe that with application of this design in this way, new construction is possible in harmony with the environs and without blocking views or damaging the environment.

DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
MS : Actually, it took me less than a week to come up with the basic concept for this design. However, it took about a month to create a system to make the reality possible. I sought advice from a construction design expert as to how to achieve the base structure of a steel frame box, suspended like a bridge.

DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
MS : The concept of this work is harmony with and enjoyment of nature. I wanted this to be a truly and extremely simple design, and not a stereotypical one.

DI: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?
MS : At present I am not considering this.

DI: What made you design this particular type of work?
MS : It was my love and respect for the environment that made me design this work. I believed that to create a construction that simply loaded human needs and desires onto the environment would not be harmonious. This construction has its existence within the earth and in the air.

DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
MS : There are so many, such as the artists Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch, Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali, Edouard Vuillard, and more. Among architects, I would name Louis Kahn, Tange Kenzo and Glenn Murcutt.

DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
MS : This work was created for a doctor and his wife who want to

DI: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?
MS : This work appears to challenge gravity. It has no support pillars and is a concrete tube trust into the cliffside. it is an extremely simple design. Instead of standing on the surface of the land, it is buried inside it and sticks out into the air.

DI: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?
MS : I simply named it Cliff House because it is a house that protrudes from a cliff face. It has a frisson of danger about it that I think leaves an impression.

DI: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?
MS : I used mainly a sketchbook, a PC. pencils, marker pens and tracing paper.

DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
MS : I do not begin immediately with a design. I first consider what kind of system is ideal for the project, and fit a structure to the system. I incorporate it so that the system itself becomes the design.

DI: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?
MS : In my case, the main collaborators are the technical construction specialists, Takamizawa Takashi and Nakata Katsuo. In the design of the system, they provided valuable advice. Once the construction of a building is completed, I call on the skills of the photographer Kita Akira to help me present the completed work to the world.

DI: What is the role of technology in this particular design?
MS : This work of architecture is extended into the air without the support of pillars, and the construction design that made this possible is a vital piece of technology. Superior skill in construction techniques was also vital in order to make this construction possible. The techniques utilized are the same as those used in bridge and elevated motorway construction.

DI: Is your design influenced by data or analytical research in any way? What kind of research did you conduct for making this design?
MS : I asked the area residents about the height of the water during flood times, and the kind of damage such natural disasters had done to their property. I had a boring done on the cliff to test the stability.

DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
MS : I needed to find ways to create the interior as a simple cubic space. I worked hard to make sure that the glass doors separating the bedroom, living room and deck could be opened and concealed. I also did not want any superfluous protrusions on the exterior, so I worked out how the AC, gas and other external apparatus could be made inobtrusive.

DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
MS : I had a desire to show my works to the people of the world and I wished them to understand them.

DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
MS : I learned a lot about trees, wind, light, the sound of a running stream and how to feature these in the best possible way to benefit the people using the residence.

DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
MS : I do not think that there is anything that has not been covered.