It may have been 20 years ago, but Koichi Takada remembers well the day judges awarded him first prize in an architectural competition – not because he won, but because the judges were arguing about his win. 

 “So I asked Kuma-san, (Kengo Kuma) he was one of the judges, what was happening, I was so confused, and he told me that some of the judges were arguing if I should have won, saying ‘We could not see any architecture in your scheme.”

Today the quietly spoken, internationally acclaimed architect reflects on the mayhem of that day and says, “The question was more powerful than the answer.”

The excitement and enchantment surrounding Koichi’s current body of work echoes the judges of old – his work is not about buildings; it is about relationships in space, relationships that connect people, nature and design. With nary a straight line to be seen, Takada designs have movement; they wave and curl through space. 

“I think you know my background. In my Japanese heritage, we write kunji [adopted Logographic Chinese characters] when we write the language, the Japanese language, to communicate with people. I think a lot of these characters have a lot of curvature in it and also characters to show different parts of languages.”

By extension, he sees rounded character in the language of his adopted city.

“The nature and the typography, you know the landscape of Sydney is very much curvilinear and organic by nature. It’s never straight, nature is never straight, and I was asking myself that question, which nature does very straight lines? And its only humankind.”

In the heart of Sydney’s CBD the curves of Takada are gently reaching out to the clouds, the unique and quite massive roof top design of his Arc building for Crown Group is almost complete. Fifty-nine steel arches form the crown of the 25-level building that will include 220 apartments and 45 serviced apartments.

While the  ‘wave pool’ reception area is breathtaking, it is the rooftop that demands the accolades A pool, vast decking, fragrant frangipani trees, all under the rather sensuous steel arches suspended in the rarefied atmosphere of Sydney’s conservative skyline.

“There’s a lot of provision to express the building rooftop, or architectural feature as they call it, but not many architects do it. How shameful. Because the landscape of the skyline of Sydney, or any city, it just looks the same. You know New York, LA, London, they are all the same, glass curtain walls, they all look the same so why don’t we create something with a point of difference, and something that celebrates I suppose the great organic nature of Sydney. It’s a wonderful place to be. So, we chose to celebrate the rooftop, not ignore it.” 

An even more immense project is nearing completion, once again for Crown, in the southern Sydney suburb of Botany. On completion, the 20-storey building will have 325 apartment and a range of commercial outlets.

Officially named ‘Infinity’, it is already nicknamed the ‘landscape tower’, referencing the sweeping , staggered profile that allows each level to have green space – and brings light and air to the centre of the  precinct hub. 

A massive endeavour, and unique in almost every sense, Koichi is finally seeing his vision in actuality, as the scaffolding and any doubts are torn away. Yes, even the great ones have second thoughts.

“You are always doubtful, you are always questioning, was that the right decision that we made? Can we improve it and so on and so forth.”

 “It is a constant balancing act,” says Koichi of the process. “It is not juggling; it is a matter of finding the right balance.”

A balance that embraces Takada, and Crown Group’s belief in making buildings that are healthy places to live. Rather than curse the tightly regulated building codes and self-imposed standards, the Takada team thrive. 

With a growing list of award winning and internationally recognised projects in Australia, the impact of this man’s vision on Sydney will be considerable, and may shape the face of our country in the eyes of the global market.

“A good example, a controversial example is the Sydney Opera House, the Opera House created an incredible iconic image of the city, without the Opera House image, you cannot talk about the city.”

Koichi went on to explain how this iconoclasm had a negative effect on building design in Sydney. He suggests many did not try to compete with the Utzon vision.

“Everybody started to conform rather than create a contrast and I think that is what we are contributing to, changing the face of Sydney in some way.”

“I prefer of course to be in today’s context. This is a very exciting time. Through architecture we are discovering cultural differences and what human kind can do best."

This full interview can be read in the January / March issue of INFOLINK | BPN