5th Issue July 2018
Celebrated for fusing nature-inspired designs with luxury style. Sydney-based architect Koichi Takada tells Beth Anderson about his plans to revolutionise urban living, one city at a time.
“As an architect, I try to work with nature – not against it – and to bring it back into city living.”
Nobody walks in Los Angeles. It’s a universally acknowledged (and often satirised) truth: in a city that’s full of highways but bereft of public transport, residents must own vehicles to survive. But for award-winning architect Koichi Takada, the car-centric town is due for major change — something he hopes to implement with his latest residential project for Crown Group.
“Our vision is to transform the driving culture in Los Angeles, where people drive from door to door,” Takada explains of his plan to build a 60-to-70-storey architectural tower, which will soar high like California’s iconic redwoods — some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world.
Symbolic of community, of active and health-conscious living, the design celebrates street culture and human experience, allowing residents to walk, shop and socialise under a breathtaking architectural feature inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s legendary billowing skirts. “We want to create a new neighbourhood, an urban oasis that will change the face of Los Angeles and transform it into a walkable city,” Takada says.
Bringing nature back to cities
Los Angeles isn’t the only city experiencing the ‘Takada touch’. With his building designs already transforming urban skylines in Australia, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, Japanese-born Takada is making his mark on the global stage. Melbourne is the next city in his sights, with a mixed-use luxury resort-style development — Cirrus by Crown Group — soon to set a new benchmark for apartment living in an iconic Melbournian arts precinct.
Meanwhile, in Indonesia, another resort style hotel and residential development is in its early planning stages: a natural rainforest-like environment for more than 4,000 residences, promoting the ideals of healthy, active living. Takada is also doing ongoing work on the interiors of the National Museum of Qatar, which was designed by much-lauded French firm The Ateliers Jean Nouvel.
To each new city, Takada brings a signature style that melds the traditions of his homeland with an appreciation of nature. “I see architecture as similar to nature and draw a lot of inspiration from the environment,” he says. “Growing up in Japan, nature is something that’s very beautiful but can be quite a strong force; you learn to respect and live in harmony with it. As an architect, I try to work with nature, not against it and to bring it back into city living.”
Understanding how nature works is central to Takada’s design process. “A lot of people describe my work as organic,” he says. “It’s not about imitating nature, but learning from how it performs — the feeling of a soft breeze or the ambience of natural light through a tree, for example — then re-creating that environment.”
Light, in particular, is a feature of Takada’s work. “I’m very sensitive to light,” he says. “Nice daylight can make you happy when you wake up, while a beautiful sunset can create a romantic mood and give an emotional quality to the way you live. It’s something I try to incorporate in my design concepts.”
A global perspective
Takada’s passion for nature belies his urban upbringing. Having spent his childhood in Tokyo, he chose to study architecture at the City University of New York before completing his education at the Architectural Association, London, educated under the influence of star architects Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid.
After graduation, Takada was invited to take part in an international architectural competition staged by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. He fell in love with the city and decided to make it home, establishing his own boutique practice, Koichi Takada Architects, in 2008.
“I think Sydney is one of the best cities to live in the world,” Takada says of his adopted home. “The nature and the city are so in balance, with a perfect ratio of greenery to urban development.”
The city’s landscape is a constant source of inspiration, he adds. “I do a lot of cycling and walking through the parks and by the beach, and am often inspired by something as simple as the light reflecting on the waves or the sensation of riding through a forest. It helps me to understand how the human body appreciates nature.”
As much as Takada loves Sydney, the city has not been immune to his transformative ambitions. In addition to luxury residences, he has completed an array of commercial and cultural projects, including the exhibition design for the new John Kaldor Family Gallery at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
His practice has won several notable awards, receiving accolades from the likes of the Urban Development Institute of Australia and netting a prestigious International Property Award.
Just one component of Takada’s work that endears him to such establishments is his readiness to improve spaces for the ‘greater good’. When conceptualising Infinity by Crown Group at Green Square, for example, Takada added a large void to his design to allow natural light to penetrate the public plaza on the ground level.
“There was a lot of public benefit in doing something so simple,” he explains. “I’m always trying to put more emphasis on ground-level activation, which is where a lot of human experiences — like interactions and conversations — take place. I want to humanise high-rises at the ground level and create more liveable neighbourhoods.”
Despite a growing list of awards and achievements, Takada is not a man to rest on his laurels. His sights are set firmly on his former stomping grounds, New York and London, where he hopes his designs will one day achieve landmark status.
“I’m always looking towards the next big idea,” he says. “My ultimate goal, which I share with Crown Group, is to create memorable buildings that captivate and capture the imagination, so people cannot think about the city without thinking of them.”