I have an affliction. I call it secondthoughtitis. Its symptoms are insidious: it flares up the moment I commit to an idea and it eats away at my resolve until I lose total confidence in any of the choices I’ve made. I worked creatively in advertising for 25 years and I suffered from secondthoughtitis the whole time making it impossible for me to be absolutely 100% happy with any of the ads I made. Talk about job satisfaction.
You might think someone who is prone to this disease shouldn’t be embarking on a project involving lots of creative decisions, like having a house designed by a Japanese architect. It’s madness. But after 25 years of dealing with secondthoughtitis, I have discovered one remedy and that’s to just keep moving forward. Otherwise you become paralysed. So the rule is the faster you move forward, the less paralysis you suffer.
In April this year, with this remedy in mind, I decided to move forward very fast, at a cruising speed of approximately 900km/hr in the direction of Tokyo, Japan. I thought I should meet up with Yo Shimada in person to see if I even connected with the guy and also to test the depth of my resolve to build a minimalist monument to moi.
My secondthoughtitis had already taken hold in the weeks prior to my trip. It was a fairly chronic bout. I had experienced second thoughts about the cost of buying land in the inner city. I was thinking twice about whether I should be building a purist’s home for me or whether I should be building one with broader appeal to a family if I needed to resell. I even thought it might have been smarter to renovate my current home, a fairly original Queenslander even if it involved running the difficult gauntlet of redevelopment approvals to turn it into something more moi.
Despite my misgivings or perhaps because of them I went to Japan. Yo Shimada had agreed to travel down to Tokyo from Kōbe to discuss my project even though he too must have felt, following my latest series of erratic emails, that my project was already beginning to look like one of those on-again-off-again affairs. Still, he came and we agreed to meet at my hotel, which was in one of those towers overlooking the metro madness of Shibuya crossing. I had asked my friend Andy, an Australian lawyer who was working in Tokyo to come along to the meeting because he spoke fluent Japanese. Shimada-san bought his colleague Chie Konno, an architect from Kobe Design University. Apart from speaking fluent English Konno-san had also made a guest appearance in the architecture faculty of the University of Queensland.
Konno-san was Shimada-san’s Queensland connection. She was not only familiar with Queenslander architecture, she also had connections with some Japanese architects who were currently working within a Brisbane firm. I started to feel my secondthoughtitis was starting to go into remission.
Over a beer in a bar, forty or so floors up, all four of us discussed Shimada-san’s work. I tried unsuccessfully not to gush over his House in Yamasaki, a truly inspired concept of semi-submerged living with a little village of light boxes on its rooftop deck to allow in light. Against that backdrop, we talked about my idea of renovating my little old Queenslander house. Shimada-san smiled supportively. Then as an aside I mentioned the block of land in Hamilton I’d been looking at. It was then that I realised where I was and what I was doing and that I should order a concrete martini and harden the Fukushima up.
What was the point in going all that way to Tokyo to talk to one of the most exciting and innovative architects in the world if all I was brave enough to do was tizzy up the old banger on the hill that I already had? (Although I’m sure Yo Shimada would have given her a serious mind fuck, given a proper budget.) Still, it would be a waste of this man’s valuable time. He had amazing things to create in his life from scratch and I had an opportunity to take a front row seat while he did that. So that’s what I decided to do.
I took his business card, which is also unapologetically conceptual, designed to look like a receipt, although I hope that’s not an omen about his costs. I thanked him and Konno-san for coming to meet with me. We resolved to talk more when I had more concrete plans. Then I went souvenir shopping. I arrived home a couple of days later with some plastic restaurant display toast (very Tokyo), Shimada-san’s business card and a clear resolve to buy that land in Hamilton. Why the toast? Because I may be eating toast for the rest of my life.