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Intermediatheque

Intermediatheque is a gorgeous exhibition space at the JP Tower in Tokyo which feels like a cross between a natural history museum and a yesteryear’s cabinet of curiosities. Assembled by the University of Tokyo, the collection is filled with marvelous displays of hundreds of animal skulls, bones, and skeletons, specimens, taxidermy, and models, and includes such items as an Ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, temple fragments that survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, 19th-century machinery, typewriters and microscopes, beautiful rocks and minerals, preserved two-headed turtles, and a whale’s jawbone. It is comprised of both vintage and newer acquisitions. For a lover of curiosities like me, it’s a wonder. Besides the interesting specimens, all the display cases themselves are beautifully done. I saw some very lovely and notable bell jars. The aesthetic arrangement of the exhibitions is striking in its own right. The whole space is a unique hybrid of vintage and modern which feels simultaneously spacious, luxe, elegant, eccentric, and quaint, all contributing to make it one of my most memorable experiences in Tokyo. As a plus, admission is free.

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Cement Factory Turned Residential Home

Architect Ricardo Bofill bought an old, abandoned cement factory in Barcelona, Spain in 1973, and transformed it into a dream home that looks like a sort of enchanted, ivy-covered industrial fairytale castle from the outside, and inside is a contrasting modern spectacle of heavenly spaces. The mix of old and new is fascinating, as the structure and elements of the original factory are clearly present, integrated into a luxe, contemporary style, and it is also evocative of a cathedral and gives off a sense of antiquity.

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Shanghai’s 1933 Slaughterhouse

This beautiful concrete, glass, and steel edifice, designed by British architects and built by Chinese developers in 1933, is an Art Deco wonder of space, natural light, and enigmatic curves and bends. It’s hard to imagine that this incredible building, which reminds me of a Lovecraftian elder city of stone labyrinths, was originally designed as a slaughterhouse.

Its maze-like passages were built to herd cattle along to their deaths. The rough surfaces were to prevent cattle from slipping, even on floors slick with blood. Atlas Obscura says, “The hulking spiderweb of intertwining staircases, ramps, bridges and corridors was all part of guiding the flow of both thousands of workers to their stations, and millions of cattle to their deaths….Ultimately it is the interlocking staircases and twenty-six ‘air bridges’ of varying width that connect the outer areas with the circular core that give the building its mind-bending M. C. Escher quality.”

It underwent a major renovation in 1998 after being abandoned for years, and is now used as a sort of mall and simply called “1933.” This architectural gem reminds me of Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, a gorgeous midcentury industrial district of military factory buildings built in the ’50s in a Bauhaus-inspired style, which was reclaimed and redesigned by artists in the ’90s and 2000s, and is now a home to art studios, galleries, and cafes, with a unique, spacious, majestic, beautiful, half-sterile feel. 1933 would be amazing as a center for art and creativity.

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“Shelf-Pod” Home by Kazuya Morita

Designated “Shelf-Pod,” this 557-square-foot house in Osaka Prefecture, Japan, created by Kazuya Morita Architecture Studio, is an innovative, simplistic, and elegant living space built around a specific concept: being capable of efficiently housing 10 tons of books and incorporating that as a major and stunning design element. It is a book-lover’s paradise. Shelf-Pod was commissioned by a young historian with an extensive collection of books on Islamic history.

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