Kotaro Anzai


Kotaro Anzai (Architect/Architecture Team/ADX Representative)

With the philosophy of "living with the forest," he operates from two bases, one at the foot of Mt. Adatara in Fukushima, and one in Tokyo. He places top priority on architecture that coexists with nature, use only materials that can easily be returned to nature, design traceability of building materials, and develop regenerative environmental regeneration businesses where the more buildings they build, the richer the forest becomes. aim. His hobby is mountain climbing.


ADX is an architectural team that creates environmentally friendly wooden buildings throughout Japan, with the philosophy of “living with the forest.” The representative, Mr. Kotaro Anzai, is an architect as well as a creator who explores new possibilities of wood. In THE DIALOGUE 0005, we spoke to him about his background, his thoughts on architecture, and his dreams.

At the foot of Fuji. "Narusawa Village" is a cold region located at an altitude of approximately 1,000 meters. In a quiet forest, there was a man walking with his feet firmly planted on the ground. This time we will focus on architect Kotaro Anzai. At this location is ``SANU 2nd Home Kawaguchiko 1st,'' which ADX, led by Mr. Anzai, was involved in as an architectural and construction partner. After checking the surroundings, he slowly began to tell us about his background.

Wood is uncool.

"I was born in Fukushima as the eldest son of a construction worker, following my grandfather and father. My grandfather was the one who built the mountain hut "Kurogane Koya" on Mt. Adatara, which is counted as one of the 100 famous mountains, and my passion was wooden construction for generations. When I was young Since then, I have lived surrounded by trees.I was often in the corner of the workshop, and I was given chunks of wood and powder and told to use what was here instead of toys.I played with them like building blocks. By the time I was in elementary school, I was able to name all the lumber products in the company lol.There was a forest behind the workshop, and my father would often take me out to cut down trees and cut wood pieces. He showed us the process of sawing a large tree into lumber.By learning about the process of how that big tree changes, I think that even as a young child, I felt close to the existence of trees and forests. ”

Mr. Anzai grew up watching the backs of his grandfather and father. Looking at his background, taking over his family's construction business seems like a natural progression. However, when he graduated from university and began his career as an architect, he did not have any hesitation in deciding to continue his career.

"SANU 2nd Home" is a membership-based second home service that proposes a lifestyle where you can easily move between the city and nature. ADX is designing SANU CABIN, which has nine locations across Japan (as of the end of January 2024).

Mr. Anzai grew up watching the backs of his grandfather and father. Looking at his background, taking over his family's construction business seems like a natural progression. However, when he graduated from university and began his career as an architect, he did not have any hesitation in deciding to continue his career.

“I had decided to pursue architecture as a career, but to be honest, I was reluctant to take over the family business.Rather than respecting trees, I had an old-fashioned image of them. I was thinking, "Wood is not cool. Wouldn't it be cool to use steel or concrete?"

Wooden architecture is a genre that is now attracting attention due to its use of wood, but back then it was still a genre that was not in the spotlight. Industrial design centered on steel and concrete was the mainstream of the architecture industry at the time, and I think it was the basic line of design for architects and students aiming to become architects. So, what was the turning point for returning to wooden architecture? Mr. Anzai continues.

“I wanted to see the architecture of Snøhetta (*1), so I went to Norway in 2013. He built a reindeer observatory (※2), and the architecture was so shocking.Normally, when we think of wooden construction, carpenters use planes and hammers, but they built ships. Applying the technology used in manufacturing, I used a computer to carve out a three-dimensional curved surface.To be honest, I felt like the existing rules had been overturned, and I thought, ``It's okay to do that.''Detailed work is important, but it was an experience that made me realize the dynamism of wooden architecture, as if by swinging a machete you could create something like this. ”

*1 Snøhetta: An international architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design firm based in Oslo, Norway, and New York, USA

*2 Reindeer Observatory: 2011 A pavilion for observing wild reindeer in Norway's Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park, opened in 2017. The design takes into account the landscape, which gives the impression of a continuation of the mountain topography, so as not to disturb the ecosystem. A magnificent panoramic view of the Snøhetta Mountains can be seen from the glass-enclosed observation space.

What should we do in the world of wooden architecture?

Mr. Anzai's sense of values ​​was greatly shaken by witnessing Snøhetta's architecture, which was created with a wide perspective. It is said that there was a decisive difference in thinking from Japanese architecture.

"They always start their design with the landscape as a starting point. They get to know the land and create buildings that are appropriate for the location. , which was completely different from what I thought was the proper approach to Japanese architecture.At the time, I was in my mid-30s and had worked on a wide range of projects, from commercial facilities to residential buildings, so I couldn't answer the question of what I was good at. This trip had a huge impact on me, and I spent about two years taking stock of my mission in order to face the question of who we are.”

The answer we came up with is the current philosophy of ADX: "Living with the forest.'' "is.

"When I was an elementary school student, I felt very proud when I saw people happy when they saw the houses my father built, and classes were being held at the school that my father also built. I remember it.It has had a much bigger impact on society than I thought it would.However, as time passed and I watched my grandfather's house being demolished and my father's house being renovated, I I am drawing a perspective view of a newly built property that will be demolished later.I was looking for an answer to the question of why I would build a wooden structure even though it looks like a scrap-and-build structure.That is Snohetta's work. By coming into contact with philosophy, I was able to return to my roots and think, ``What we should do is increase the value of wood by using various techniques.''

Even though I was having conflicts, I kept thinking about it, and what I needed to do became clear. All of the steps up to this point must have been necessary. The next thing we need to ask is what's going on now and in the future. What exactly does it mean to increase the value of wood? “Living with the forest. What are you trying to do to embody this?

ADX style architecture. A philosophy that grows stronger through focus.

"I believe that architecture is essentially about being able to live and stay safely.In cities, fashionable plans and designs that are preferred by commercial customers are popular, but we want to emphasize the experiential value of architecture. , we want to seek not only for cities but also for nature.When asked what ADX should do, our answer to the question was, "Build wooden buildings that allow people to live safely and comfortably in the harsh natural environment.'' "

"We are part of the earth and part of the ecosystem.That's why I want to create buildings that people can live in comfortably even in harsh environments so that they can learn about the earth. By providing an opportunity for people who have never climbed a mountain or spent time relaxing in nature, we can help them realize how wonderful nature is and how beautiful the earth is. I believe that if we can increase the number of people like this even by just one person, they will eventually want to cherish the nature that is right in front of them. To that end, there must be something we can do using wooden construction technology. ”

Then, what are the characteristics of ADX-style wooden architecture? Mr. Anzai explains that there are two main types.

"The first thing is to think about the landscape.The place where SANU now stands was originally an untouched forest. Yes, minimizing the damage is an absolute requirement for us as people visiting a place. So we first survey each tree one by one and collect data on what kind of trees there are in this place. We start by thinking about the architecture and its layout based on the data obtained in this way.We place emphasis on understanding and respecting the characteristics of the land before plotting the architecture.”

"The second thing is 'responsibility to build.' In the architecture we work on, we keep in mind how many years or decades the building in question can extend its life.In the case of SANU CABIN, Each and every part used in this cabin, including walls, floors, and ceilings, has been converted into digital data.In existing wooden buildings, there is a shortage of craftsmen, making it difficult to pass on skills, and buildings that are difficult to maintain will be demolished. What we had to do was a big challenge.By digitizing this, we are making it possible for machines to make parts in factories.We are learning how to make wood parts like children, which requires a lot of work, such as bending and shrinking wood. Because they don't listen, we prepare a maintenance system with an eye to future changes.Ensuring that the building can exist in this location for a longer period of time is the promise made to nature by humans who have decided to do business in this location. I think it is."

Listening to his story, I get the sense that Mr. Anzai is not only talking about the "thing'' of buildings, but also "things'' that go into development that considers the sustainability of the area. What kind of consciousness is flowing at the bottom?

"I think he is always thinking about the 'time axis'. My grandfather, father, and I have been involved in wooden architecture for three generations, and seeing long-span buildings on a daily basis has had a big influence on me. You may be able to create something that has an impact at the moment of completion, but what will it look like 5, 10, or 30 years from now?What if something loses its impact as time passes? , the opposite is also very possible.I visualize the time axis and imagine how buildings and the surrounding environment will change.The growth of trees, the bustle of people, and the changes in the time of day from morning to night. and the changing of the seasons.I think of these things broadly and imagine how this shape will look when it snows, and how it will look when the trees grow together with the buildings.''

The charm of cities can only be felt by exploring “nature”.

Mr. Anzai spends one-third of the year in the mountains conducting forest research. As you move back and forth between the city and nature, what do you find to be the differences between the two? Mr. Anzai answered from a perspective typical of someone who is trying to delve deeper into “nature.”

"I love cities. Cities are full of information and the cycle is fast. They are places where knowledge is accumulated, and there are hints in there. Also, when errors occur in cities, I believe that there are hints in nature about how to recover in times of disaster.The forests I like have rich ecosystems and are extremely urban.Large forests have large and small trees, and are home to animals. When we see errors occurring in cities, which are man-made objects, we wonder if it is because there are no large trees in the city, or because there are no living things in the city.We often use that comparison to understand phenomena. I see.”

“Cities are places for input, and nature is a place for output.In cities, it feels like you are just taking in information, but in nature you can be immersed.You can hear things you couldn't hear, such as the sound of the wind and the rustling of trees. In the city, we are asked for answers every day, but when we are not looking for answers too much in nature, new ideas emerge.''

Dream is to "build the best mountain hut."

Mr. Anzai is involved in a wide variety of projects including SANU. At the end of the interview, I asked him, "Do you have any dreams?" and he said this with his eyes sparkling like a boy's.

“My dream is to build the best mountain hut.Right now, I am making preparations.I have established a research team, a lab team, and a development team in-house, and I hope to have a lab by 2027. I want to build 10 mountain huts around the world before I die, and if I can do that, I wonder if someone around me will be able to increase the number to 20 or 30 (lol).In order to make that goal come true, First of all, this year I started conducting forest surveys using my feet.I wanted to get to know the real forest by physically touching the trees one by one, relying on the latest sensing technology to do what I had previously done mostly digitally using machines. I would like to have a wild sense that allows me to say, "I can eat this," rather than a human being who can't speak unless I hold up a machine. Even though we say we live with the forest, it is uncool that our only technology is digital. I want to be able to properly go into the forest, learn about it, and talk about it. ”