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Saul Kim

Advisor: Mohsen Mostafavi

Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Harvard GSD Spring 2021

Tsukiji, Tokyo

Nominated for James Templeton Kelley Prize
Featured on 'Landscapes of the Void' Harvard GSD news 2021 Spring



Superannex explores the idea of sectional urbanism, which enables buildings of juxtaposing scales to coexist on multiple grounds. The sectional urbanism operates in four different levels; underground, ground, rooftop and new ground. It is an opportunity for various conditions of adjacency between levels and buildings to occur, stimulating the idea of a transformative environment in Tokyo.

    "I was most interested in the rooftop conditions of Tokyo. Normally the rooftops of commercial buildings are occupied with building service elements such as water tanks and air conditioning units, and also billboards that make up the imagery of Japan. But these building service elements makes most rooftops unusable. But more recently, the commercial buildings started to reserve the rooftop spaces for greenery and public use by removing the billboards and translocating the building service elements. And these elevated outdoor spaces separated the human and vehicular traffic sectionally. It is more difficult to find usable spaces on the rooftops of smaller scale buildings as they have limited amounts of floor area. But the building users try to grow plants and do laundry above the rooftop, suggesting a kind of community in the air.


I was experimenting with the idea of rooftop urbanism, where intervention of multiple rooftop elements can create an elevated community within the block. So essentially the rooftop spaces connect with one another to form a larger area for various activities to take place. Some of the interventions include outdoor furniture, pavilions, micro homes, and green spaces.

Another interest I had was the coexistence of various scale and the sectional organization of urban elements. This is Ameyokocho market in the area of Ueno, where the giant infrastructure, a huge set of train tracks, create a shelter for small shops and markets to fit underneath. I interpreted the train track as the new datum that can accommodate a completely different program, and that it is possible through sectional urbanism. Another project that I thought was interesting is Ginza 6 shopping mall. It is a massive building that takes up multiple plots in the area of Ginza shopping street. In order to keep the store fronts proportionate to the surrounding buildings, the bottom levels of the building are divided into smaller masses and when you see this building from the street, you would barely notice the difference in scale. It’s a building that portrays duality in scale, and it is able to cater to the different sectional conditions of the surrounding.

My project was a speculation of the idea of sectional urbanism enabling buildings of juxtaposing scales to coexist on multiple grounds. The Superannex operates in four different levels; underground, ground, rooftop and new ground. It is an opportunity for various conditions of adjacency between levels and buildings to occur, stimulating the idea of a transformative environment in Tokyo through transposition."

The new ground was also made to sectionally curve from one edge of the site to another, inclining and declining to diverse altitude to find unconventional adjacencies while addressing the fact that this is a site with waterfront condition that needs to be dealt with differently. The site is imagined to be populated with small scale buildings at the bottom, with quite a large amount of public spaces and piers carved, and then the new ground accompanied by large scale buildings, overlayed above the fabric. It operates with multiple layers of ground surfaces, creating an ambiguous reading to the project. It is almost difficult to read where the original datum is, with the intervention of new ground and the basement. The new ground stitches itself from one corner of the site and arches over the fabric. It eventually dives into the water, creating piers for various activities.

The new ground begins to rise, running adjacent to the small scale fabric and eventually runs over the rooftops. Sometimes the rooftop level meets directly with the new ground and other buildings from the fabric grow taller in order to connect with the new ground programmatically. The larger scale towers contain the program of office and they suspend over the new ground and only the core goes all the way down to the street. The midsection of the new ground is at its peak, having most of the small scale fabric covered. We started calling the tall thin towers growing from fabric as Pencil Towers, where the upper floors are turned into residential units. Larger public amenities are placed above the new ground to once again avoid the disruption of the streets below. The waterfront section shows the way in which the new ground gently slopes into the river. As it descends, it creates trays of landscape with the view towards the water. The way in which it meets the water, the new grounds turn into piers that expand and contract during different tides, allowing various waterfront activities to take place.

The underground network of Tokyo is complex and also essential when it comes to connecting subway infrastructures to the surrounding buildings. Often shopping malls expand to underground levels to connect the street to the station below with long stretches of underground shopping alleys. It allows us to think about ways in which the street connects to both layers above and below the datum.  The porous layers of ground planes also allow green spaces to be placed on different levels.
In-between Grounds
There are many instances where small scale commercial buildings sit directly under the new ground. The structure provides shade and protects the rooftops from rain, allowing commercial spaces to expand to rooftops and also create public spaces accessible via local and external staircases. I thought that the idea of rooftop urbanism could be enhanced if the building service elements such as water tanks and HVAC systems could be fitted within the structure of the new ground. Another essential rooftop component is billboards. Instead of having the billboard structures occupy the rooftop spaces, I’m letting them hang from the structure, concealing the building service elements. That gives more room for rooftop elements to intervene. By having the rooftops filled with small shops, outdoor furniture and greenery begin to give life to the previously unused space. The catwalk hanging from the structure also connects one rooftop community to another. The idea is that one can move through the entire project in this elevated in-between space, hopping from rooftop to rooftop. It separates the vehicular traffic and human traffic to liberate the density of the street network.

This was an attempt to discover radicality on a different scale. (urban structure) The whole composition of the project is made with existing urban elements of Tokyo. Just with unconventional transposition of urban elements such as the street, the buildings of multiple scales, and rooftops, it allows us to re-imagine the urban structure and speculate a transformative environment of Tokyo.

Saul Kim / Superannex - Sectional Perspective

Masterplan of Superannex, Tsukiji, Tokyo

Saul Kim / Superannex - Site Elevation

Site Section - underground, ground, rooftop urbanism, new ground

Saul Kim / Superannex - Axon 1

New Ground - urban edge

Saul Kim / Superannex - Axon 2

New Ground - peak

Saul Kim / Superannex - Axon 3

New Ground - waterfront

Rooftop Urbanism Elements - suspended catwalk, greenery, outdoor furniture, micro home

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