One day in October 2008, I got a phone call from a lady.
I happened to know her a year ago and she had a good memory of what I had talked about. It was about a speech on my own musical experiences. I had practiced piano for 14 years, and because of that, had chances to get involved with designing a church opera stage.
She said she found a rental storage near the Osaka railway station where she wished to run a 'salon.' She loves music so that she wanted to share a happy moment together with her friends there.
When I heard about her business plan for the first time, I could not make a linkage with 'abandoned storage' and 'music salon,' since the two sounded quite different. Then my imagination went even further to an underground space where people addicted to music come and go every night. However, the space she took me looked more healthy: the space had enough ceiling height, but not too overwhelming.
It was good enough to take a deep breath.
Again she talked about her ideas on the space. She wished a multi-purpose space like 'home.' It should be used as a small concert hall, or an art gallery for paintings and pottery. She aspired to a space where anyone can express whatever they like, to celebrate their own lives. From her story, I came up with an image of space under the trees, or a church.
There is a number of public institutions existing in Japan, however, they are all very similar although each region has different cultural climate.
When someone asks you for whom those local institutions serve, no one could have a clear answer for it. Accordingly the manifesto 'open to the public' almost means 'taking least risks,' therefore, whoever designs, public buildings always ended up with 'greatest common measure.' I never knew the fact until I myself worked on public design at the former studio.
On the other hand, moving to Kyoto, I was surprised to see how local religious places work well. 'Alive temples' are crowded with people for night-cherry-viewing concerts or calligraphy exhibitions, and 'Alive churches' are packed with people for choirs or seasonal parties. Through encounter with these small but unique places connected to art, I sensed the origin of Japanese public institutions there.
Maybe it is not found only in religious institutions. For example, in Japanese villages in old days we used to have a big house of the town leader, where people got together to taste someone' s specialties. As the party went by, people started presentations of their own talents so that everyone could truly enjoy the time and space.
I thought the essence of the places which someone of the community had taken care of should be common to her salon. Again it made me think of the riverside of the Kamo River, where people play musical instruments, read books under the trees, or enjoy jogging. Everyone seems happy to do whatever they want under the same blue sky, where I found a match to the space.
Of course, these stories about 'church' and 'the Kamo River' had never been known to guests for this salon. Yet when someone said to me that when he listens to the music there he felt like he sat at a church, I felt that the last piece of the puzzle finally found its destination.
When I came across an improvisation of 'Amazing Grace' at the salon, I sensed the sound embracing my body. I wanted the geometry of walls to reflect the sound acoustically and this worked well indeed. Also warmness of the pine bench and lightness from indirect ceiling light was orchestrated into a piece of music. It was like a happy spring moment three dimensionally realized before my eyes.
The name of the salon was derived from an ancient market hundreds of years ago, which worked as a gate to guide pilgrims to the Hase temple. I am looking forward to seeing how this 'art' salon would be changed as time goes by. It really was an unforgettable spring for me too.
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