HAPPENINGText: Kengo Michizoe

What do you imagine when you hear the word “doboku (civil engineering)”?

From transportation networks such as roads and railroads to communication technologies like mobile phones and the Internet, from water and sewerage systems to disaster preparation, doboku brings comfort and supports our lives by creating advanced networks while meeting the challenges of the harsh, yet rich, elements of nature. However, we often take the value of the everyday delivered by doboku for granted, and we seldom have the opportunity to consider and appreciate its value. In an attempt to reconsider doboku, and imagine a better future by rediscovering and experiencing it, 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT in Roppongi, Tokyo held the “DOBOKU: Civil Engineering” exhibition from June 24th to September 25th.

“DOBOKU: Civil Engineering” exhibition Photo: Keizo Kioku

The exhibition welcomed as its director, Hiroshi Nishimura, an expert on both civil engineering and architecture who has designed train stations and bridges, and has worked on landscape and urban renewal projects. Collaborating with a curatorial team of civil engineers and creative experts, the exhibition featured authentic, full-scale works.

“Dismantling of Shibuya Station” Tomoyuki Tanaka

The introductory section of the exhibition titled “Cityscape” features architect Tomoyuki Tanaka’s drawings “Dismantling of Shibuya Station”, “Dismantling of Shinjuku Station”, and “Dismantling of Tokyo Station”. The complex and enormous Tokyo Station is depicted in fine, delicate lines, capturing the relationship between the spaces inside and outside of the station, which usually go unnoticed. By providing a comprehensive view of Tokyo Station — which we normally only see a portion of — as part of the urban landscape, this piece makes us conscious of the infrastructure that aids our daily movements.

“Doboku Orchestra” DRAWING AND MANUAL Photo: Keizo Kioku

In the exhibition section “Doboku Orchestra”, visitors can enjoy a symphony created by DRAWING AND MANUAL, which combines footage of construction sites from Japan’s rapid economic growth era with sounds from present-day sites of civil engineering works. Incidentally, the piece being played here is Ravel’s Boléro, and this work is titled “DOBOLERO” as an amalgamation of “doboku” and “bolero”. This work allows us to realize that Japan’s current landscape is a result of the steady and dedicated labor of many people who struggled against the forces of dirt and water, carefully taking each step, and tenaciously building and creating, year after year till completion. In the background of the screen, tools used in construction projects are on display, from which visitors can imagine the sites where doboku is created.

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