So flat, so cute! Robots, superflatness and asian architectural futures
conference contributionposted on 2008-01-01, 00:00 authored by D Beynon
Many depictions of urban futures have a distinctly Asian flavour. There have been numerous visions of highly technological futures whose environments extrapolate present societies into futures technically, culturally and politically dominated by China or Japan, Such futures are portrayed as both exciting and threatening, to the point that the Japanese academic and cultural critic Toshiya Ueno used the term ‘Techno-Orientalism’ to describe the phenomenon. Nevertheless, whether Western interest is Orientalist or not, Asian architects are also increasingly looking to their own contemporary and future cultures for inspiration. This paper will discuss two manifestations of this. The first is Thai architect Sumet Jumsai’s Bank of Asia. Unlike contemporaneous English hightech buildings, with their coldly mechanistic representation of ducts and struts, Jumsai’s Bank of Asia, takes on the anthropomorphic character of Japanese scifi robots. It is endearing, friendly, even cute. The second example is what might be termed superflat architecture, from the term coined by the artist Takashi Murakami to describe an aesthetic of intrinsic flatness, eliminating depth in favour of skin and surface. The emergence of Techno-Cute and Superflat architecture suggest contemporary Asian architectural sensibilities that neither derive their aesthetic qualities solely from tradition nor from Western Modernism or Postmodernism.