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How convenient: For tourists, Japanese lavatories provide great entertainment; heated, remote controlled and with water jets. Shuhei Endo provides three more facilities.

It is not uncommon to see groups of elderly gentlemen sitting together in Japan's civic parks and gardens. They can sit for hours, apparently doing nothing, communicating mentally, as conversation and movement are rare. Groups of women, by contrast, can be seen walking their dogs, perfectly accessorised. And, groups of school children, immaculately turned out in bright uniforms, seem to run everywhere, two by two. In such delightful surroundings, however, who can blame them; each expressing their own instinctive reaction. In stark contrast to the constructed cityscape, the landscaped city (equally as manmade and artificial, but about as natural as urban Japan gets), offers a dramatic alternative to hustle, bustle and dense urban planning. The cherry blossom is known throughout the world and seen in abundance, and any tourist should visit during the full spring bloom. In just such a location--within the grounds of Osaka Castle--Shuhei Endo has completed a trio of pavilions that provide improved sanitary provision for occasional visitors, and those who apparently spend most of their waking day in the parks.

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Characteristically named in his emergent series of 'tectures', the three buildings are called Halftecture OR, Halftecture OO and Halftecture OJ. Why?... it is unclear; perhaps the fact that the sum of three halves is more than a single whole was the intended subplot?

Regardless of their tag, however, as a series they represent a shift in his work, and while in earlier projects (ARs August 1997, December 2000 and September 2005) corrugated metal was his material of choice, with this series attention has turned to 18mm thick sheets of Corten steel; the challenge now being to test this material's structural properties with folds and deflections that optimise the effect of gravity on form.

Halftecture OR, is the most significant of the three projects in terms of scale, complexity and location.

With a circular plan, it includes a cafe and male, female and accessible lavatories, surrounding an eccentrically placed inner court. The ring-like roof is supported by clusters of slanting tripods, comprising three poles (each 70mm in diameter) placed around the inner and outer perimeter rings, augmented by five intermediate clusters that halve the intermediate span. In section the 18mm steel roof plane is allowed to sag between support points, apparently to direct the rainwater to an appropriate point of discharge.

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In contrast to this form, the two peripheral lavatory blocks are rectangular in plan, with discrete enclosures, coated in porcelain enamel and placed beneath a single long-span Corten roof.

Where each differs from the other is in the way the span is made, one being slung--letting gravity make its shape--between two sloping A-frames that contain entrance lobbies (Halftecture OO), the other stiffened by a cross-axial fold and simply propped on single sloping end walls (Halftecture OJ); delightfully simple, and as a trio they are pleasing and convenient discoveries within the castle grounds.

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Article Details
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Author:Gregory, Rob
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:500
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