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- Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum: Architecture Gymnastics, a way to learn about architecture by using your body

Teachers Program: Connecting Schools with Cultural Facilities (third installment)

Event Report

No.005
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Excellent Tokyo Tower Impression

In this third installment of reports on the Teachers Program at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, we will explain in detail about Architecture Gymnastics.


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2017.01.05

Architecture Gymnastics with teachers as students

As one of the activities of the Teachers Program at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, teachers from different schools participated in architecture gymnastics. Architecture gymnastics is to express architecture by means of your body. Instructors for the day were Isaam Yone (Isamu Yoneyama) aka Dr. Architecture Gymnastics (because he invented architecture gymnastics), Mr. Architecture Gymnastics One (Hidehisa Takahashi), and Mr. Architecture Gymnastics V3 (Yuji Tanaka, a curator).

According to Dr. Architecture Gymnastics, this day was the first time in the 10-year history of architecture gymnastics lessons to include no children. Dr. Architecture Gymnastics is a curator of the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and he and his colleague, Mr. Architecture Gymnastics One, invented it as a workshop for children in 2002. It has expanded not only in Japan, but in Germany, Sweden and South Africa. Although all it takes is your body, there are three principles: "Use only your body," "Do it as your heart tells you to," and "Stay still when you think you get it right." Mr. Architecture Gymnastics One explains these principles and then lets the participants try it out.

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From the left, Mr. Architecture Gymnastics V3, Mr. Architecture Gymnastics One, and Dr. Architecture Gymnastics

Architecture is 3D construction

high into the sky. With a prompt, “Why don’t you try to be Tokyo Tower?,” most of the participants extended their arms into the air with their legs spread, representing its particular shape. Dr. Architecture Gymnastics said to them, “Stay still when you make the shape,” and he chose two people who he thought were the best. He commented, “I can feel this person’s enthusiasm to be different from others, even to the tip of his toes.”

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Excellent Tokyo Tower Impression

Then, the participants made the shapes of the Asahi Super Dry Hall, a landmark in Asakusa, and the House of Kunio Mayekawa, which has been relocated to the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. Since they were warmed up, they teamed up with another person. The first tandem work was Tokyo Sky Tree. They had to work with someone they met for the first time to perform. Dr. Architecture Gymnastics chose three pairs, commenting, “This pair’s work is superb. You know, architecture is 3D construction. The point is how to express the structure and space. This looks like Sky Tree from every angle.”

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Excellent Tokyo Sky Tree. The one on the right is the best.
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Group work learning experience

After trying out the Edo-Tokyo Museum and Tokyo Gate Bridge, they were tasked with forming the public bathhouse “Kodakara-yu” and the 1st Gymnasium of Yoyogi National Gymnasium, as a triad performance.

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The Edo-Tokyo Museum
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Tokyo Gate Bridge
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The public bathhouse “Kodakara-yu,” an early Showa-era public bathhouse, which has been relocated to the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

The last activity was to have a competition between the two 9-member teams. Each team chose a leader and the theme given to them was Tsukiji Hongan-ji, an Indian-influenced construction located in Tsukiji. They looked at photos and tried to move their bodies. Members contributed their ideas, such as “it could be like coordinated group gymnastics,” and “maybe we should face each other like this,” getting gradually close to Tsukiji Hongan-ji.

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Cooperating with one another to form one structure

The leaders of both teams exclaimed, “we are done,” and Dr. Architecture Gymnastics decided the winner by saying, “Both did an excellent job, but this team better expressed peculiarity of Tsukiji Hongan-ji.”

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Tsukiji Hongan-ji expressed by the winning team

Mr. Architecture Gymnastics V3 said, “when you do architecture gymnastics, you realize you can express the same structure in different ways, finding out new things each time. I hope architecture gymnastics helped you see architecture in different ways.” As a conclusion remark, Dr. Architecture Gymnastics said, “Please teach this to your students. I bet they will work as hard as you did.” Architecture gymnastics can be enjoyed by children as well as adults. It involves group activities because you have to cooperate with people you first met. It might as well be a form of architectural experience.

Text, Organization: Emi Sato