Another warm, humorous and imaginative Japanese architect popped up in our soup last night.

Takaharu Tezuka began a talk at the University by speaking of the importance of family. ‘I dress always in blue, my wife in red, and our daughter in yellow’ he explained.

He said architects should be happy in order to make other people’s lives happy.

Apparently Takaharu and his wife Yui’s career began with clients who regularly climbed out their window to enjoy living with the openness, elevation and spirit of their roof.


 Thus followed the internationally famous roof house, where those clients could fully exploit the joys of roof top living. This inspired project really kicked things off for the Tezuka’s. We wondered why the pizza delivery boy who climbed a ladder to bring the food was always different. ‘Is the last one unwell ?’ they asked the shop manager, ‘No, he replied, it’s just that in the spirit of fairness, we give all our staff a chance to experience that place.’


Following the roof house came the Fuji kindergarten roof. A sort of a pedestrianised version of the famous Fiat factory test track that sits on the roof of their heritage Lingotto factory in Turin. The circular plan means the school is an endless loop. ‘Children who wandered off would always come back to the same place’ he says.


This time the authorities insisted on a handrail, but did allow netting around the mature trees that poke through. Refreshingly, Tezuka spoke of danger as not something to be fearful of. Some children break an arm or leg, he said ‘but this educates them in later life not to break their neck or spine.’


Another project in a protected wooded mountain site had its enormous glass openings sufficiently strong to permit them to retain 3.0m of snow in winter.  During summer, ‘I thought we were in trouble because birds fly into glass and die, but the curator said “don’t worry, it’s all right”’ then showed them his collection of stuffed and mounted birds in his room out the back.

After the Fuji circular kindy garnered a UNESCO prize for the best school in the world the Tezuka’s are now feted around the world.



Takaharu finished his hugely enjoyable 90 minute presentation, which seemed spontaneous butwas surely well rehearsed, by showing off his family in their (bright yellow) Citroen deux chevaux. A car he noted had been in production for 50 years, unlike most Japanese cars that last two before being replaced by a newer model. Thus he ended with a warning that architecture was not about fashion.

There was only time for one question as Professor Andrew Barrie, his minder, had to whip him off to the airport for his next engagement in Auckland.  ‘What do you say to a staff member who arrives at your office wearing blue?’  The answer was ambivalent but Takaharu did point to the blue clothes lineage that started with James Stirling, flowed on to Richard Rogers, and then to him.  He said that when Rogers was copied by his staff, he turned to hot pink.

Funny that I thought architects always wore black.

But maybe that’s only the uninspiring ones.