The Emperor’s Castle- Thomas Hillier, Bartlett School of Architecture

via Thomas HillierWe’re gonna bring you another thesis project today.  This one is from Thomas Hillier  at the Bartlett School of Architecture.  It’s quite a different project than our post yesterday, but definitely amazing.  The detail in the models, and the care taken to interpret a story into an architectural solution is really amazing.  Check it out after the jump.Thomas uses a great mix of illustrated pages, and models to create his narrative, and turn it into an architectural solution.  Split in 3 chapters, the project moves from a 4 act original story, to architectural interpretation, to final product.  The style of the drawings for the first and second chapter are unique in their influences from early Japanese illustration, and are a great departure from the regular plans, renderings and models of a regular project.  Disclaimer:  There are going to be a lot of images, cause we think they are amazing.

 Chapter I:  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. 

via Thomas Hillier

Act I: The First Meeting

As time passes the happy couple begin to neglect their duties.

via Thomas Hillier

Act II: Duties Neglected

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.

via Thomas Hillier

Act III: Eternal Punishment

 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.

via Thomas Hillier

Act IV: The Last Meeting

Chapter II:   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.

The Princess's Knitted Canopy

via Thomas Hillier

The Igusa Rush

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.

via Thomas Hillier

The Emperor's Origami Lungs

The lungs, deployed around the site act as physical barriers that manipulate the knitted skin as it extends towards the outer parkland…

via Thomas Hillier

The Army Pulley System

…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.

via Thomas Hillier

The Emperor's Mechanical Waves


Chapter III:    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. 

via Thomas Hillier

The Emperor's Origami Lungs

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.  

via Thomas Hillier


The aim of the Emperor’s Castle was to provoke thought but never patronise or attempt to solve all the world’s problems.

via Thomas Hillier

The Cowherd and His Mechanical Cow Cutters


via Thomas Hillier

The Princess's Knitted Skin

Check out Thomas’s website for more on the project, and even more pretty pictures:

5 thoughts on “The Emperor’s Castle- Thomas Hillier, Bartlett School of Architecture

  1. Pingback: Futures + Design – Top Posts | FuturesPlus

  2. Pingback: Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL students’ works | archisharehub

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