‘The Emperor’s Castle’ Origami Tessellations by Thomas Hillier


Thomas Hillier Emperors Castle Act1

ACT I – The First Meeting

Thomas Hillier during his studies at Bartlett School of Architecture created this refined architectural piece entitled “The Emperor’s Castle. It starts with a story built upon paper cuts and fine threads into these beautifully crafted collaged scenes of Toyko. Thomas’s architectural interests go beyond the built environment to include art, design, story telling and installations with a particular interest in how literature can be directly translated into urban and architectural space. The story continues to grow in every chapter.

The Emperor’s castle originates from a mythical and ancient tale hidden within a woodblock landscape scene created by Japanese Ukiyo-e printmaker, Ando Hiroshige. This tale charts the story of two star-crossed lovers, the weaving Princess and the Cowherd who have been separated by the Princess’s father, the Emperor. The story begins with four acts that explore the relationships between these characters. Act I introduces the characters illustrating the moment the Princess and the Cowherd fall in love. As time passes the happy couple begin to neglect their duties. The Emperor being a stern ruler who does not tolerate idleness decided to punish the lovers, separating them by a deep and swift lake unassailable by any man. In the final act the Princess’s flying friends the magpies form a feathery bridge across the lake allowing the Princess and Cowherd to renew their pledge of eternal love.
Thomas Hillier Emperors Castle Act2

ACT II – Duties Neglected

Thomas Hillier Emperors Castle Act3

ACT III – Eternal Punishment

Thomas Hillier Emperors Castle Act4

ACT IV – The Last Meeting


Thomas Hillier Emperors Castle Lungs

The Emperor’s Origami Lungs

These characters have been replaced and transformed into architectonic metaphors creating an Urban Theatre within the grounds of the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo. The Princess, a flexible, diaphanous knitted membrane, envelopes the spaces below and is fabricated using the surrounding Igusa rush to knit itself ever larger in aim to reach the grass parkland perimeter representing the Cowherd. Linked within this skin is a series of enormous folded plate lung structures. These origami lungs of the Emperor expand and contract creating the sensation of life. The lungs, deployed around the site act as physical barriers that manipulate the knitted skin as it extends towards the outer parkland, these manipulations are controlled and articulated by the Emperor’s army using a series of complex pulley systems which pull back the lungs and the surrounding skin. I have not included all of the pictures the rest can be seen here.

Thomas Hillier Emperors Castle Canopy

The Princess’s Knitted Canopy

Thomas Hillier Emperors Castle Cows

The Cowherd’s Mechanical Cow – Cutter’s

Thomas Hillier Emperors Castle Igusa

Igusa Rush Collection


The Emperor’s Castle – An Origami Lung Retreats

This piece of narrative architecture was the vehicle to examine current day cultural and social issues in Japan such as unconditional piety, relentless work ethic, and conservative attitudes towards love.

The way the work was represented throughout was key in illustrating my precise architectural ambition for the project. Tokyo is looked upon as the city of ‘bright – lights’ and fast moving technology, yet within its underbelly still exists the idea of ‘exquisite craft’ that has defined Japan over the centuries, I wanted the Emperor’s Castle to compliment these ideals.

The aim of the Emperor’s Castle was to provoke thought but never patronise or attempt to solve all the world’s problems. The rest of the imagery can be found here.

The Grass Band Of The Cowherd Delimits The Castle Boundaries

The Origami Lungs Connected Via A Series Of Walkways

The Emperor’s Origami Lung’s Pulled Back & Forth On Giant Platforms

images and text via Thomas Hillier

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