The Thieving Turnstile

A short video by Carmelia Chiang and Mike Nesbit


Tokyo Focus

Tokyo is a city famous for its size, its modernity, the scale of its structures and the pace of its (re)construction. Like any major world city, mega-structures are continually built within of existing neighborhoods, newly available land and ever-expanding urban boundaries. At the same time, like many cities of its size, Tokyo is also a city of the small, the old, the precise, the intimate and the specific. It is saturated with intimate spaces, small structures, familiar neighborhoods and unique experiences. How can we participate in a city of this immense size and complexity with interventions at the small scale?

Perhaps an apt metaphor (along with those of city-as-machine, city-as-organism, city-as-cluster, city-as-fractal, city-as-network, city-as-spectacle…) would be from the emerging network theory of cloud computing. Influence and power (effect) from great number inter-connected smaller units, temporarily working together to participate in a specific event. What might be the effect of that way of considering architecture in Tokyo? What sort of vision for the future of the city does that model suggest for this specific location?

Tokyo Focus is the product of a two week workshop were students from different backgrounds and universities got together to produce a short film. The film is comprised of two major components. First an architectural analysis and selection of site was key in generating an atmosphere and contextual backdrop for the film. Second the technological component/theoretical device supplied by one student was to be implemented as the activator or driver for the site intervention. The goal of the film was to speculate about and realize potential capabilities of the technology and its effects and usage as they would develop given the characteristics of the sites spacial surroundings.

Adaptive Reality

Site: Yokohama 

Technology: Augmented Reality


The concept behind the technology is to take the site of Yokohama, with all its historical importance of how it adapts to the 21st Century technology. While combining the past, present, and future to technology used today, spatial experience can be more interactive and tangible. This is a general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified even diminished rather than augmented. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. The brick taken from the Red Brick Building on the shore can be seen as a portal or a hub that collects data inputted by people at the location. Information can be shared and collective data can be extracted to create a network of personal experiences.

Hongo Pixel

Site: Hongo San Chome

Technology: Radiant Film Clad PVC Panel


The team focused on the potential communicative abilities of this technology. Given the vast difference in age and type of people that activate the site it seemed a suitable place for the transfer of information about past, present and future events in and around the area. The panels with an intelligence could begin to act like large signs or individual pixels that together create large displays of information. The majority of the film uses camera angels that are taken from the perspective of the panels as they are imbedded in the stone walls of the site.

Identity Line

Site: Marunouchi

Technology: Boid


The film uses the line as a element tracking time and proximal relationships. It begins with  individuals navigating the site, a sort of collision detection map, and how this has evolved particular to Tokyo and Marunouchi. The next interest was to establish a historical contextual link. The reintroduction of water would provide both a phenomenological spacial experience as well as that historical link. Using these our a base and noticing how this site underwent so many changes in recent history, our goal was to make this a self evident part of experiencing the site. The site circulation would remain intact underground. The metro being an integral Tokyo experience. The buildings would be underneath the surface of water, as they become occupied each would expand to accommodate the occupants, allowing the surge of population to transform the physical, a reciprocal relationship between the swarm of people and the boundaries of the site. From the vantage point of a neighboring street one would literally see the transformation from body of water to city and back to body of water. In a 24 hour period, witnessing both the evolution of the site as well as the cyclical nature of cities.

Intermediate Akihabara

Site: Akihabara

Technology: 3D projection Mapping / Digital Reaction Sensory

Akihabara was once known as the electric city up until the 1990ís. Around this time all of the electric department stores started to cover the city and Akihabara diminished and lost its face as electric parts could now be found anywhere. With a sudden identity crisis, the face of Akihabara started to change to a new upcoming culture of Otaku which over time has taken over Akihabara and is now in full effect. As the group visited Akihabara, key points of the culture and area were taken in and processed to determine what would be the future of this place.  Otaku is an interesting culture in that they place a huge emphasis on the female virtual character. They are obsessed with the virtual world and actually imagine the girls placed within these virtual worlds to be their girlfriends. So when you compare a person who lives and is ìnormalî with customs of seeking a girlfriend who exist in the real world we find an interesting thing happening in Akihabara. It is in fact where the fantasy world of Otaku meets reality and is introduced to the real world. We look to capture in this video the events of one of these characters going back and forth between reality and fiction and the activities going on within each specifically to Akihabara.


Site: Asagaya

Technology: Visualization of Sound

The Architects

We live our lives within invisible bubbles.  The size and shape of our individual bubble is dependent upon our own comfort levels.  Within a crowded space amongst strangers our bubble might tend to be tightly fit.  On the contrary, a pleasant walk through an empty field with a loved one might allow our bubble to expand.  The bubble is an invisible barrier between us and them.   Through the “Music Visualizer” the bubble can finally be perceived.  The bubble becomes a physical interface between us and sound.  A communication device that finally allows us to see with our ears.

The Mass

The bubble becomes a commercial filter.  For the sake of clarity, we assigned the same 3 colors (red, green, and yellow) for each individual.  Red represents stimulation, green for transportation, and yellow for necessity.   The user then programs their bubble to respond only to the stimulus, transportation, and necessities they want.  If they do not want it, they would not hear it. The bubble eliminate billboards and intrusive advertising, making sound the new seller.  Imagine you have programmed your bubble for jeans, trains, and italian food.  Your bubble will only activate when you are around jeans, trains, and italian food.  The size and shape that your bubble takes on will inform you of proximity and direction.  The more the bubble is used the more information it gains and the more information it sends out.  If the user likes Italian Food then they might also be interested in Japanese/Italian fusion.  The sound frequency between Italian food and Japanese/Italian fusion would share more similarities then Italian food and Mexican food.  Due to the Bubble, architecture must respond with a new building type that is more aware and responsive to sound.

Time Bridge

Site: Nihonbashi

Technology: Programmable Matter


This proposal suggests the modification of permanent infrastructure of the area into temporary programmable matter. All layers of structure can then be assembled and disassembled within selected sites or spaces instantaneously. According to user demand, the matter can be formed into restaurants, fishing docks, transportation pods, or mobile expressways, or other, all compiled within programmable modules according to predetermined magnetic layouts and substructure lines (preexisting magnetic paths/tracks). These modified layouts could spread throughout the river network causing new formations and deformations across the city.
The power of design is placed in the individual’s hands as they create their own modified forms and customized spaces.


Site: Daikanyama

Technology: Architect and User based input and output infrastructure


We were interested in a new method of experiencing the y-jiro. When one arrives at a y-jiro they are subjected to a choice, one must choose a path and forget about the others. Our movie explores the experiencial possibilities that exist when one can travel multiple geographic locations at the same time. This experience laced with an interactive environment provided by our technology results in a new way to exist in an architectural landscape.

Yotsuya Still

Site: Yotsuya

Technology: Boid


Yotsuya has, for its long history, always been a place passed through. From the salt traders of Edo to the trolleys and commuter trains of modern day, it has remained not a destination but a waypoint; a place characterized by the movement around and not within. But as this movement around the essence of this place intensifies, nothing will be lost. Instead, its identity will only grow and become better defined. In other words it will remain Yotsuya, still.

Film Excerpts

Wenders, Vin. Tokyo ‘Ga.’ 1985.

Oshii, Mamoru. Tokyo Scanner. 2003. (Part 1)
Oshii, Mamoru. Tokyo Scanner. 2003. (Part 2)

Iwai, Shunji. Swallowtail Butterfly (Yentown). 1996.

Oshii, Mamoru. Ghost in the Shell. 1995

Otomo, Katsuhiro. Akira. 1988.

Ozu, Yasujiro. Tokyo Story.1953.

Coppola, Sophia. Lost in Translation. 2003.

Anno, Hideaki. Neon Genesis Evangelion. 1995.
Neo Tokyo

Tarkovsky, Andrei. Solaris. 1972.
Shuto expressway

Kurosawa, Akira. Rashomon. 1950.
camera work, contrast

Resnais, Alain. L’Année dernière à Marienbad. 1961.
traveling camera

Reed, Carol. The Third Man. 1949.

Wells, Orson. Touch of Evil. 1958.

Pixar. Tokyo Mater. 2009.

Studio 4C. Honey Tokyo.

Takahashi, Nobuo. Musashino Plateau. 2007?.
computer generated landscape

Takeuchi, Yasuto (Dokugyunyu). Taking pictures in a park all day long.

Ichikawa, Kon. Tokyo Olympiad. 1965.
Japan’s high-growth period

Olympus. The PEN Story. 2009.

Riefenstahl, Leni. Olympia. 1938.
neo classic figure, camera work


Short video exploring the juxtapositions of Ueno and Akihabra

Composition by MCP and Chloe Brunner