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Hikikomori In Akihabara

Part 2 Project 2003
Yoo Eng Chia
National University of Singapore Singapore
Hikikomori reject the society, see no point in human interaction, withdraw into their individual space. Designers know little about how they live in isolation in this city. Designing enclosed space to suit them promote withdrawal, ‘designated interactive public space’ are too naïve to work. Rejecting the established, architects must redefine their communication, boundaries and space. A non-insistance architecture that merely set up a framework for them to evolve in years of use, allow designers to learn from. When every man facing their PC becomes somewhat withdrawn, they are no different from a hikikomori. Sony taps on the expert gaming skills of these withdrawn people (originally no economic value) & house them alongside common gamers.
Yoo Eng Chia

Yoo Eng Chia’s study on Hikikomori, the young people’s self-withdrawal from a society, takes the phenomenon as an alternative way of living and communication, partially derived from the present urban and suburban condition in Japan. Her first hand experience in Tokyo -- the convenience store late at night, quiet people packed in a coach, and vending machine that speaks inorganic way – intuitively taught that the various spatial settings encourage the society to become rather introverted. Her thesis, thus, can be considered as a process of objectifying and comprehending a significance of such spatial condition, while reconstituting it in the middle of “Electric City,” Akihabara, where Hikikomori people can hide yet live by working through electric devices only.

The corridor and staircase equipped with vending machines, bookshelves and hidden refugee’s area constantly give passengers opportunity to avoid face to face contact, while a metal-deck floor and pre-fab partition kit allow a resident to feel the others through even a subtle stepping noise. Such sensible and appropriate use of materials makes project tangible and experiential. Finally, I believe, what this project signify is not only a space for the Hikikomori, but also an architectural “prototype” for the new society to come.

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