interview with Tamotsu

In an interview with Urban Design member of staff Dominique Peck, Tamotsu Ito (project office leader) explains Atelier Bow-Wow‘s approach to working with participants of the summer school.

OK, I’m Tamotsu, working with Atelier Bow Wow. I’m gonna explain what we’ve tried to … with different people as well as students – this is the way I’ve thought about it. The first [important] thing is to get to know more about each character and their interests, skills, hobbies, needs and wants of the refugee community.
We actually had a language barrier, especially between me and the others. I cannot speak German, I always needed translation. Several people here do not speak German fluently, so I thought we communicate as much as possible with graphics or something, how to say … concrete, something we can share … is a really good way.
So, I started to draw my families, my hobbies. This is me. I’m an architect, I can design houses and some DIY, if necessary, I play bass guitar. I put some infographics around me. This is my wife, this is my mother, this is my nice. My nice can play football really well. He needs to study, but I can teach. My mother was teacher. She is already …, but she can teach.
I drew first, but I asked other members including the students and also the refugee people to do the same. We mapped all together to find whether we have something in common, like jobs, or like a common interest, or a matching between needs and desires. The mother can do the sewing, and also Nabi can make shoes. So, I thought this might be good for my nice’s shoe making for the football and maybe repairing it, which is really hard work.
We also counted the numbers. How many times a computer appears, how many times a drawing appears. We also counted and double checked what is really necessary for it. This is one thing.
Another thing is, I also asked everyone, refugee community people to draw their own houses in their home countries. What I felt after seeing the construction site was … it’s a really nice one, but in a western way. I thought that there might be some spaces missing, considering how lived originally. We found many things, like people usually had two living rooms. And also… it’s like a common room. One is mainly for welcoming guests. The construction site doesn’t have such a nice kind of common room. Many have said that a bedroom can be smaller, but living rooms should be much bigger. They really respect the time with family members or friends, the time to be together. So, in this sense we discussed and we need a really big space so they can use as necessity.

UD: How do you translate from these pieces of information, from a »speed ethnography« … you get everyone talking and mapping about how the used to live at home and what are their families and living conditions? How do you translate this on the community building, here right now?

Tamotsu Ito: OK. So, these two are to figure out what kind of space is really necessary. I forgot to tell you about this one, the reason why I asked to map not only the participants themselves, but also their families or their friends is that many have like a lot of unspoken voices. I assigned a little homework where I asked all of them to talk to their family members about they would want or what they need or what they would be able to do. This one is not just about sharing a discussion, but we can draw much more information out of it. We can be really precise about what we really need.
It also works to extract something like a hidden necessity by comparing the original lifestyle to their new lifestyle.
Here I tried to extend this notion, expand this notion into the public space. This is a diagram to draw how the market place of their home country was. This is one, this a historic one, new, very new, shopping mall in Iran. I try to figure out a small, kind of food truck thing, if it’s a movable one, we don’t have to be only on the site.