“There are enough architects that follow the rules and produce boxes,” says Koichi Takada. “We try to think outside the box.” It’s a neat summation of a practice that in the space of a decade has produced a portfolio of projects which consistently explore the organic, amorphous forms found in nature. There’s the swooping loop of the Infinity building, intended to mimic the topography of Sydney, where Takada is based. And a Brisbane skyscraper which doubles as a waterfall. A proposed 70-storey residential tower in Los Angeles is inspired by the majestic California redwood forest—but also by the billowing white skirt of Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, a Hollywood classic.
Being inspired by nature doesn’t mean being dour. For Takada, 47, even the most functional of buildings benefit from a soupçon of exuberance. “I see infinite architectural possibilities in nature and evolution,” he says. “Natural formations, ecology, adaptation, transformation, movement, colours, textures, geometry and so forth. But I also turn to fashion these days to learn emotional connection and sensation. Fashion is essential to how we express ourselves and fundamental to learning about human scale and emotion.”
There’s a joyousness, even glamour, to much that Takada touches. Each project begins with felt tip pen on paper; he uses loose, expressionistic black lines to explore emotional responses to a brief. For the recently-opened, 25-storey Arc residential and retail tower in downtown Sydney, he began by considering the historical context at ground level—the landmark, Art Deco Hoffnung & Co building of 1939 to one side, the Federation style Andrew Brothers warehouse off to another; both robust brick structures anchoring the city’s past. These he’s reflected in the six and eight storeys of tiered arches at podium level, created from some 300,000 hand-crafted, rich ochre bricks. Literally grounding the building, earthy. The deep cantilever of the elegant casements creates dramatic light play across the façade, making the whole building feel bevelled, as if manually sculpted.