Of Iron, Concrete and Muscle: Architecture of Tekkon Kinkreet
September 10, 2009
If you liked Michael Arias’ fantastic Tekkon Kinkreet, then you may want to read this excellent article on various artistic influences on the movie. There are few things in this article that proved highly relevant to my interest (and hopefully yours as well), which I would like to take a more detailed look in this post.
The first thing I want to talk about is that according to the article, Lebbeus Woods (one of my favourite architects) was apparently the inspiration for the design of Snake’s (villain’s) surreal headquarters, which you can see below for comparison. It should be noted that Snake is a character who wants to demolish the old streets, drive out the poor, and construct new theme park to generate revenue by attracting richer populations around the town.
What intrigues me here is that the Woods’ intentions are exactly the opposite of everything symbolically embodied by Snake’s building, despite the fact that the look and feel of both structures are quite similar. “You can’t bring your old habits here, if you want to participate you will have to reinvent yourself”. While Woods intentionally designed aggressive machinelike steel exteriors and cramped interiors to screen out the bourgeois and provide for the common people (such as his Berlin sketches), Snake’s building evokes that coldy technological sensation to represent Snake’s intention to drive out the poor and make an expensive theme park for the bourgeois. Rather than accepting the scars as it is and expressing it, Snake sees old streets of Takaramachi as ‘broken parts’ and has no qualm about removing it and replacing it with something new. While Woods rejects trendy commissions to chase his imaginative ideals much like Shiro, Snake has absolutely no intentions other than making money with his futuristic theme park.
But just because Snake’s building was inspired by Woods, that doesn’t mean it must imitate or emulate Woods’ ideals. The creative designers of Tekkon Kinkreet has taken the look and feel of Woods’ buildings and turned it into something original, something more coldly against the poor rather than providing for the poor. Wonderful.
The previously mentioned article also said something interesting about the fusion between historical Showa Era buildings styles with speculative architecture, mixing of the old and new. There’s a confusing mix of various traditional elements from different parts of the globe here (including Indian and Korean and I’m sure there’s more), but it’s shrouded in a mist of urbanisation. Ugly sign boards pop up everywhere, electrical wires over the buildings like sticky web, pieces of planks and frameworks here and there as unpleasant signs of continuous development. There doesn’t seem to be much, if any, codes to regulate heights, colours or those bizarre objects protruding out from top of the buildings. I can imagine the past town to be more of quiet place, with just enough local working community to support each other. What we see now has lost its sense of place or identity.
Tekkon Kinkreet (Tek-kin/Concrete) is apparently a play of the words “iron”, “concrete” and “muscle”. Steel and concrete rises, forcefully transforming the traditional identity and living conditions. And as if to reflect this state of change, the characters of Tekkon Kinkreet are thrown into a war against themselves. A war against the self that wants to change in order to survive, and the self that cherish their values, beliefs and identity over everything else. The battle will be tough, and it may be much easier to succumb to Snake’s power, or the darkness inside you. But perhaps you have something to fight for, something that shouldn’t be taken away. Because even if you survive and feel more at ease, if it’s taken away, then what are you?
Architecture is war. War is architecture. I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms. I am one of millions who do not fit in, who have no home, no family, no doctrine, no firm place to call my own, no known beginning or end, no “sacred and primordial site.” I declare war on all icons and finalities, on all histories that would chain me with my own falseness, my own pitiful fears. I know only moments, and lifetimes that are as moments, and forms that appear with infinite strength, then “melt into air.”
– Lebbeus Woods