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In Conversation With… Koichi Takada

The architect of the Infinity building at Sydney’s controversial Green Square development, Koichi Takada is fascinated by forms found in nature.

Koichi, when I last visited your studio three years ago, you were six or seven people. Today your studio is forty-strong, even more. How has this rapid growth affected you?

We kept winning design competitions and so I had to grow the practice in order to deliver to the standard we strive to attain. We’d been doing a lot of interior architecture and becoming quite well known for it, but we had always wanted to move into architecture in the fullest sense. So the growth was anticipated. We always saw a lot of potential in our hospitality interiors, imagined expanding and elaborating them into architecture. That’s where we hit our stride, and now in adapting those ideas to a larger architectural scale we retain that sense of freedom, of experimentation.

What do you miss about being a small practice?

The fundamental difference between a small and larger practice for me is the speed. As a small practice, we used to take time to design and I dedicated time for one-on-one dialogue, talking to my clients or my staff. I felt a great sense of freedom when I started my practice with small projects. I love and miss talking to people all the time because it often generates good ideas out of conversation. In the larger practice, everything simply goes fast. I am time poor today and much more aware of time management and the need for good collaboration. I suppose that it is vital to keep the spirit of a smaller practice alive. While we are all capable of going fast or even faster, we are consciously reminding ourselves to slow down and allowing time to breathe.

You are charged with some of the most significant new builds in Sydney – how do you manage that responsibility?

Perhaps the nature of competitions pushed us and resulted in so-called signatory and bold design outcomes as most of our current projects were won through competitions. The idea of a competition is crude as we are often under massive pressure to come up with a winning design concept within 1-2 weeks max, and take a leap of faith to commit to it and deliver. Whether you agree or disagree with the notion of competitions, if you imagine that the winning concept will one day turn into architecture that potentially outlasts our lives, you can probably understand that sort of responsibility and pressure that architects manage today with no time. That’s simply what I do every day.

What can you tell me about Infinity by Crown Group in Green Square? Do you conceive of this building as part of urban development in a broad sense, or as unique stand-alone structures?

While our projects respect or mesh into a site-specific urban fabric, they also relate more to the landscape inspired by nature and appeal to a human scale by creating more breathing space in the city. The result of our design is recognized as organic, curvilinear and free flowing architecture. Sydney is a great city where nature and city are in balance, and we like to let the elements of nature express themselves in architecture. Infinity by Crown Group in Green Square is, for instance, considered as a stand-alone structure and is highly controversial, but why not? Infinity as a new gateway is being built on a new blank canvas of new town centre, and we created what we call a landscape tower. The design is fluid and aerodynamic. It lets the air flow and facilitates natural ventilation. The loop brings sunlight into the heart of the architecture, and the landscaped terrace allows more daylight to the public plaza and softens the experience of the height – this is what we call humanizing the high-rise tower. Many are speaking of Infinity as an example of brave design, but I believe that true courage is inspiring.

Koichi Takada was In Conversation With… Stephen Todd