buildings are shown with photos on wall-mounted panels.
Photo by Koji Koseki
sculptural form of Shin Takamatsu's Tianjin Museum.
Presented by Architectural Institute of Japan (AIJ)
|The Architectural Institute of Japan, in collaboration
with the Japan Foundation, has this year produced its
third decennial exhibition of contemporary Japanese architecture
(full disclosure: I co-curated the show, together with
Riichi Miyake, Taro Igarashi, Yoshitake Doi, and Yasuhiro
Teramatsu). The initial opening was at the Images &
Technology Gallery of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of
Photography, following which the exhibition will tour
internationally, in a slightly modified form, for most
of the next decade. The buildings are shown with photos
on wall-mounted panels, and in a few cases with models
or virtual reality video environments. The choice of the
Museum of Photography as the venue also provided the opportunity
to include a selection of architectural photography from
the museum's permanent collection.
Covering the period from 1996 to 2006, many of the works
on display date from a traumatic time in Japan, the aftermath
of an extraordinary confluence of catastrophes -- the
collapse of the speculation-driven economic bubble, the
devastating Kobe earthquake, the poison gas attack on
the Tokyo subway system. Through a selection of 110 representative
buildings, the exhibition traces new relationships between
architecture and society from the immediate transitional
period into a more somber economic and cultural environment.
All the buildings included are as innovative and sophisticated
as might be expected, yet overall there is clearly less
of the indulgence and excess that was enabled by the absurd
budgets of the bubble. Along with a few buildings by foreign
stars invited to build in Japan, there are some important
projects by Japanese architects in other countries, notably
China. The range of expression is captured by the contrast
between the structural bravura of Shin Takamatsu's Tianjin
Museum and the cool abstraction of Riken Yamamoto's Jian
Wai SOHO housing in Beijing.
In fact, the central concept of the entire exhibition
is contrast, the juxtaposition of thematic pairs: expanding
metropolises and shrinking local communities, ostentatious
international cultural facilities and small social facilities
for children or the elderly, developer-driven megaprojects
and artisan-based minor interventions. The exhibition
also groups the projects in pairs, making contrasts at
the level of architectural technique, in building materials,
planning strategies, and spatial compositions, as well
as in their impact on human behavior and physical context.
Thus, SANAA's 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
in Kanazawa is juxtaposed with Yoshio Taniguchi's Gallery
of Horyu-ji Treasures at the Tokyo National Museum: a
transparent round structure accessible from every direction
versus a solid square box with a single entry point. Kazuyo
Sejima's House in a Plum Grove is juxtaposed with Jun
Tamaki's Hakama house: in the former the walls are minimum
thickness structural steel, while in the latter the huge
apparent depth of the white-plastered exterior walls contrasts
with the tall curtains used as interior partitions. Yoshio
Taniguchi's design for MoMA is juxtaposed with Shigeru
Ban's Nomadic Museum: two New York projects by Tokyo architects,
one a vast expansion for the most prestigious modern art
collection in the world, the other a temporary gallery
on the Manhattan waterfront for the work of a single photographer.
Roppongi Hills is paired with Omotesando Hills; both are
commercial developments by the Mori Building Company,
yet one is a menagerie of architectural styles master-planned
by Jon Jerde, and the other is a work of cool minimalism
entirely designed by Tadao Ando. And so on.
The bubble period was undoubtedly beneficial for Japanese architects and architecture, turning promising young talents into stars with well-funded project portfolios almost overnight, and allowing them unprecedented levels of experimentation. The post-bubble restraint has necessitated a different kind of innovation, with less emphasis on individual genius. The show includes a number of collective practices -- Atelier Bow-wow, Mikan, C+A -- as well as architects specializing in low budgets and the maximization of ordinary building materials, in a sometimes-innocent, sometimes-ironic exploration of the unavoidable constraints on architectural design in 21st century Japan.
|Walls of minimum thickness steel in Kazuyo Sejima's House in a Plum Grove.
Photo by Kazuyo Sejima & Associates
Presented by AIJ
||Tall curtains used as interior partitions in Jun Tamaki's Hakama house.
Photo by Kei Sugino
Presented by AIJ