Interview: Architect Koichi Takada
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Interview: Architect Koichi Takada

“We want to make Sydney the greenest city in the world.”

By Terry Christodoulou
Thu, May 13, 2021 11:00amGrey Clock 4 min

Architect Koichi Takada has never taken the easy option.

Born in Tokyo, at 16 he held dreams of pursuing life as a fashion designer or an artist – aimed at realising a firm desire to live in Manhattan.

He eventually came to architecture – a combination of art and engineering – as a pathway to appease such wants and those of his parents.

It didn’t quite work out – his father offering an easy life and generous role in the family engineering business so long as he remained in Tokyo.

Takada instead chose New York.

Cut to now and the 48-year-old is a force within global architecture, having set up an eponymous Australian-based firm while securing various awards across projects that have transformed urban landscapes here as well as in Asia, America, the Middle East and beyond.

Kanebridge News: Most people would take the path of least resistance – why were you so set on going it alone and moving to New York?

KT: This was definitely a leap of faith. I had this gut feeling that I’m going to survive there, that somehow everything would work out including communications [a language barrier] and making friends – you know Japanese people are very homogenous and very singular, and I’d thrown myself into this melting pot. But it had been a dream of mine.

 

KN: Did first impressions of the city stack up? 

KT: When I arrived my first impression was just disbelief – and the way you come out of the Lincoln Tunnel, I was just,‘wow’. But it was overwhelming, it was noisy and very competitive and cold and I didn’t get the pampering I had with my parents in Japan. I had sold everything to be there and I got sick of it.

 

RR: You eventually left New York to study in London, how did those times influence you and your work?

KN: After leaving New York, to continue my studies at the AA [Architectural Association School of Architecture] I met and learned from the likes of Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhas, and that’s where I really learnt to push the boundaries, and create the point of difference, the uniqueness within this monotonous repetition of all this regulation … And the cultural component is definitely an important part too. When I was in New York, my favourite part was going to Central Park. And the same in London – I craved breathing space. I discovered a feeling that I connected with when in Japan, because nature is respected and there’s an effort to try and blend in [with nature] and find harmony.

Koichi Takada
Infinity Tower In Sydney’s Waterloo – Designed by Koichi Takada

 

KN: Nature is a central part of much of your work. 

KT: Yeah. With Infinity [Sydney’s Infinity Tower], when we were competing for the project we were given the volumes, but I thought it would actually overshadow the courtyard which was meant for public use. I thought to myself, ‘why would you create a courtyard that doesn’t receive any daylight?’ So, we opened a hole to let the light in. It’s very simple, but then all of a sudden you have a breeze, light and a way to interact with nature.

KN: Why did you settle in Sydney?

KT:  When I moved to Sydney in 1997, I just instantly felt something wonderful about the city, and now I’ve been here more than 20 years. I call it my home. It’s city and nature trying to balance. It’s one of the best cities in the world.

KN: Do you feel your style of melding nature and urban living was a natural fit for Sydney?

KT: Yeah, I think our product is very Sydney, it’s definitely not New York. Definitely not London. Definitely not Tokyo. But also fits what we want to make Sydney – the greenest [plant-filled] city in the world.

KN: The ‘greening’ of cities by architects and urban planners is imperative as we move forward. 

KT: For the next generation of architects, they’re very much part of this and have massive challenges to bring awareness to climate change – though it’s also very a globalised challenge for everyone.

KN: Well before Infinity Tower you were designing restaurants in Sydney’s suburbs – and then you went from, say, Sushi Train Maroubra, to Qatar’s Natural Museum. How much pressure came with such a high-profile role?

KT: Well, it was the best project in the world. And yeah, I did feel extra pressure. I think as an architect when you get a sense of freedom and liberation it turns into confidence, but in this instance,  you are against all the greats, like Jean Nouvel, and I thought look who we are against, I’m no one.

Interiors of the National Museum of Qatar

KN: You’re quite the sartorial gent – fair to say fashion is a firm creative outlet away from architecture?

KT: Yes, definitely, and I remember seeing Alexander Wang, who I’ve come to admire. You know we went to a grand opening party for Qatar and what I noticed is that I, naively followed the dress code, and these guys just did their own thing. It’s much more interesting than architecture.

KN: Seeing such appealed to the rule-breaker within?

KT: I wish I had figured it out when I was 18 in New York, and I’m not saying break every rule, but growing up in Japan, everything is telling you to conform. But it’s ok to think outside the box, to push a little bit. But it’s not so much his [Wang’s] work, it’s his spirit I’m inspired by. I know what it’s like being Asian in Manhattan, let’s just call it racist, or political, or whatever, but to be in that position and with that creativity and to prevail – I suddenly looked up to him.

koichitakada.com



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Is ‘Rizz’ the Secret to Getting Ahead at Work?

Whether you call it charisma, charm or magnetism, some people seem like naturals. Good news: It can be learned.

By Rachel Feintzeig
Mon, Jul 22, 2024 4 min

Great leaders have it. Gen Z has a new word for it. Can the rest of us learn it?

Charisma—or rizz , as current teenage slang has anointed it—can feel like an ephemeral gift some are just born with. The chosen among us network and chitchat, exuding warmth as they effortlessly hold court. Then there’s everyone else, agonising over exclamation points in email drafts and internally replaying that joke they made in the meeting, wondering if it hit.

“Well, this is awkward,” Mike Rizzo, the head of a community for marketing operations professionals, says of rizz being crowned 2023 word of the year by the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s so close to his last name, but so far from how he sees himself. He sometimes gets sweaty palms before hosting webinars.

Who could blame us for obsessing over charisma, or lack thereof? It can lubricate social interactions, win us friends, and score promotions . It’s also possible to cultivate, assures Charles Duhigg, the author of a book about people he dubs super communicators.

At its heart, charisma isn’t about some grand performance. It’s a state we elicit in other people, Duhigg says. It’s about fostering connection and making our conversation partners feel they’re the charming—or interesting or funny—ones.

The key is to ask deeper, though not prying, questions that invite meaningful and revealing responses, Duhigg says. And match the other person’s vibes. Maybe they want to talk about emotions, the joy they felt watching their kid graduate from high school last weekend. Or maybe they’re just after straight-up logistics and want you to quickly tell them exactly how the team is going to turn around that presentation by tomorrow.

You might be hired into a company for your skill set, Duhigg says, but your ability to communicate and earn people’s trust propels you up the ladder: “That is leadership.”

Approachable and relatable

In reporting this column, I was surprised to hear many executives and professionals I find breezily confident and pleasantly chatty confess it wasn’t something that came naturally. They had to work on it.

Dave MacLennan , who served as chief executive of agricultural giant Cargill for nearly a decade, started by leaning into a nickname: DMac, first bestowed upon him in a C-suite meeting where half the executives were named Dave.

He liked the informality of it. The further he ascended up the corporate hierarchy, the more he strove to be approachable and relatable.

Employees “need a reason to follow you,” he says. “One of the reasons they’re going to follow you is that they feel they know you.”

He makes a point to remember the details and dates of people’s lives, such as colleagues’ birthdays. After making his acquaintance, in a meeting years ago at The Wall Street Journal’s offices, I was shocked to receive an email from his address months later. Subject line: You , a heading so compelling I still recall it. He went on to say he remembered I was due with my first child any day now and just wanted to say good luck.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a good memory for that,’” he says. Prioritise remembering, making notes on your phone if you need, he says.

Now a board member and an executive coach, MacLennan sent hundreds of handwritten notes during his tenure. He’d reach out to midlevel managers who’d just gotten a promotion, or engineers who showed him around meat-processing plants. He’d pen words of thanks or congratulations. And he’d address the envelopes himself.

“Your handwriting is a very personal thing about you,” he says. “Think about it. Twenty seconds. It makes such an impact.”

Everyone’s important

Doling out your charm selectively will backfire, says Carla Harris , a Morgan Stanley executive. She chats up the woman cleaning the office, the receptionist at her doctor’s, the guy waiting alongside her for the elevator.

“Don’t be confused,” she tells young bankers. Executive assistants are often the most powerful people in the building, and you never know how someone can help—or hurt—you down the line.

Harris once spent a year mentoring a junior worker in another department, not expecting anything in return. One day, Harris randomly mentioned she faced an uphill battle in meeting with a new client. Oh!, the 24-year-old said. Turns out, the client was her friend. She made the call right there, setting up Harris for a work win.

In the office, stop staring at your phone, Harris advises, and notice the people around you. Ask for their names. Push yourself to start a conversation with three random people every day.

Charisma for introverts

You can’t will yourself to be a bubbly extrovert, but you can find your own brand of charisma, says Vanessa Van Edwards, a communications trainer and author of a book about charismatic communication.

For introverted clients, she recommends using nonverbal cues. A slow triple nod shows people you’re listening. Placing your hands in the steeple position, together and facing up, denotes that you’re calm and present.

Try coming up with one question you’re known for. Not a canned, hokey ice-breaker, but something casual and simple that reflects your actual interests. One of her clients, a bookish executive struggling with uncomfortable, halting starts to his meetings, began kicking things off by asking “Reading anything good?”

Embracing your stumbles

Charisma starts with confidence. It’s not that captivating people don’t occasionally mispronounce a word or spill their coffee, says Henna Pryor, who wrote a book about embracing awkwardness at work. They just have a faster comeback rate than the rest of us. They call out the stumble instead of trying to hide it, make a small joke, and move on.

Being perfectly polished all the time is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. We know this, which is why appearing flawless can come off as fake. We like people who seem human, Pryor says.

Our most admired colleagues are often the ones who are good at their jobs and can laugh at themselves too, who occasionally trip or flub just like us.

“It creates this little moment of warmth,” she says, “that we actually find almost like a relief.”

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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