the Martian Mochi

cover image simple

image source: Anesta Iwan

From time to time, a friend and I like to visit the local Japanese mochi store – Minamoto Kichoan. Our favorites are the white cherry blossom and the matcha red bean mochi (all goods are imported from Japan). I don’t know if it’s actually the mochi itself that draws me there each time – maybe it is the soft-spoken vendor or the polite use of trays for payment, or maybe it is the care in the packaging of each delicacy.

image source: (left) Yelp / (right) Anesta Iwan

The matcha red bean mochi comes in a box of eight. I love opening the box and find the eight green and beautifully wrapped mochis. As I unwrap one of them, I’m careful to not tear the soft paper wrapping – it is delicate. I sit and enjoy the treat.

image source: (left) foodspotting / (right) altered image – Anesta Iwan 

Just for fun! – when we look at these two images side by side – Minamoto’s mochi packaging and Shigeru Ban’s Centre Pompidou Metz – we see similarities on how they approach packaging. The paper wrapper, along with the potato starch powder, helps preserve the softness of the dough from drying as well as from excess moisture. The shroud of the Pompidou does just that as well – timber lattice along with the teflon-coated fiberglass membrane allows enough light into the vast interior space as well as protect the artwork from piercing sunlight.[1]

image source: archdaily – Didier Boy De La Tour

That is what architecture often is – a very fine enclosure of space – thin and malleable. Often it’s difficult to predict what actually goes inside, as REM puts it, “People can inhabit anything. And they can be miserable in anything and ecstatic in anything. More and more, I think that architecture has nothing to do with it.”[2]

image source: Calvin Klein / Sephora

The same rawness is also visible in the packaging of Calvin Klein’s cK Onecologne, which he spoke about at the GSD lecture (late 2015).[3] cK One is just cologne contained in a simple flask bottle. Prior to the cK One cologne, the company has had tremendous success in the fragrance business with Obsession as well as Eternity. So for cK One, he asks, “What do we do now? How do we outdo ourselves?…Let’s break all the rules. Let’s do everything the way no one does it.” It was neither gender specific nor was it packaged in gaudy spray bottles. It was bare and simple.

With recent news on SpaceX’s success – Falcon 9 landing[4] – the promise for future Martian inhabitation is no longer lightyears away. If we were to rethink ways of packaging space, let’s break all the rules and do everything the way no one does it. What if we create an inverse relationship between space and enclosure?

image source: “A Home is not a House” – Reyner Banham

Rather than enclosing space the way we do now with walls, can we instead enclose the being and leave the space as open? Maybe Reyner Banham was right, maybe all the enclosure we need is simple one around our bodies – like space suits? No longer do we need large stadiums or offices. And perhaps then on Mars, we can eliminate the inefficiencies of built space such as seen in abandoned areas such as Detroit, Michigan or Tianjin, China.[5]

As I sit here and enjoy the rest of my treat, a thought comes to mind – maybe we will soon be like the individualized wrapped mochi where package and body and architecture are one and the same – the Martian Mochi!


[1] “Centre Pompidou-Metz / Shigeru Ban Architects”. 2014. Archdaily.

[2] Koolhaas, Rem. 2014. Rem. Canada: CLOG.

[3] Harvard GSD . “Calvin Klein” Online video clip. Youtube. Nov 4, 2015. Web. April 17, 2016.

[4] “Spacex’s Dragon Soars As Its Rocket Lands: An Epic Spaceflight In Photos”. 2016. Space.Com.

[5] “Ghost City: Chinese Replica Of Manhattan Stands Empty As Economy Slows”. 2016. Ctvnews.


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