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Focus features two in-depth reviews each month of fine art, architecture and design exhibitions and events at art museums, galleries and alternative spaces around Japan. The contributors are non-Japanese residents of Japan.

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image image The Architecture of Tsuyoshi Tane: Searching for the Future by Digging into the Past
James Lambiasi
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View of the exhibition. Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.

Throughout our history, form following function has remained a core philosophical tenet for architects. Combined with the imagination of the architect, it has allowed the consistent generation of new designs, and ever-advancing technologies have created newer and newer forms embracing the future. Rather than creating originality by imagining the future, however, Paris-based Japanese architect Tsuyoshi Tane proposes that inspiration for originality lies in searching our history. This is the theme of the current exhibition at TOTO Gallery Ma, Tsuyoshi Tane: Archaeology of the Future -- Search & Research, where Tane displays meticulously assembled historical information and images he uses as context for his designs.

Tane explains that, like an archaeologist, there is joy in discovering lost artifacts from the past and joy in piecing these clues together to form an image of the place. Reference to the past, while addressing the building functions, requirements, and aspirations for the future, inevitably combines to create originality and result in architecture acting as a vessel to gather our history and carry it forward. The philosophy that Tane conveys, therefore, is that historical context is the key to new architecture, not something imagined in the future.

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Estonian National Museum (Tartu 2006-2016). Photo: Eesti Rhava Museum / Courtesy of DGT


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View of the exhibition. Photo: James Lambiasi

The Estonian National Museum is the most significant project completed by Tane to date. Devoted to the history of Estonia since the Ice Age, this museum has become a significant symbol of Estonian culture, and it hosted the 100th Anniversary Ceremony of the Republic of Estonia in 2018. In this exhibition, the walls are covered floor to ceiling with an abundance of images highlighting the history of Estonia. Some images show the intricate detail of the architecture and art of Estonia, as well as that of snow and forests found in the landscape. Using these images as context, they have been depicted on the futuristic large glass facades to create delicate patterns. Also crystallizing Tane's philosophy of using historical context, this 335-meter-long building connects seamlessly with the former Soviet air base runway located at the building site, creating a reference to the past while seeming to propel the building into the air, towards the future.

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Kofun Stadium -- New National Stadium Japan (Tokyo 2012). Image courtesy of DGT

Kofun Stadium, a proposal that was shortlisted for the New National Stadium of Japan, also roots itself in the past while looking to the future. Kofun are ancient burial mounds in Japan which Tane researched in detail to understand their form and cultural significance. Once the largest works of construction in Japan, kofun match in significance the important role of this stadium for use in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. In its future orientation, the proposal calls for planting the mound structure with a forest of trees from all over Japan; it also pays homage to the past in that it would be planted by the hands of local citizens, just as was done for the Meiji Jingu forest over 100 years ago.

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Study models of "Todoroki House in Valley" (Tokyo 2017-18)


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View of the exhibition. Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.

"Todoroki House in Valley" is a house set in the context of a wooded site in the suburbs of Tokyo. The site has two distinct characteristics, one being its location in a lush green valley, and the other being overhead dry winds. Digging back to uncover historical images of forest dwellings gave Tane inspiration for a house on stilts. The building volume containing bedrooms appears to float above the forest floor, while the space below the volume seems to melt into the surrounding woods, creating a fantastic living area that is separated from the forest only by transparent glass.

All projects on display are accompanied by an abundance of study models, drawings, historical images, and even fossils that Tane sees as the historical context for his designs. The arrangement of the exhibits is reminiscent of an archaeologist's laboratory where all artifacts are shelved, cataloged and displayed as a piece of a puzzle to recreate the past. By surrounding oneself within this abundance of historical information, one can understand how Tane uses his architecture to understand the past and connect to the future.

Concurrent with this exhibition, Tane is also exhibiting some of his projects at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery. Entitled Archaeology of the Future -- Digging and Building, this exhibition showcases through media and large scaled models representative projects such as the Estonian National Museum and Kofun Stadium.

All images shown by permission of TOTO Gallery Ma.


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Tsuyoshi Tane: Archaeology of the Future -- Search & Research
18 October - 23 December 2018
TOTO Gallery Ma
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James Lambiasi
Following completion of his Master's Degree in Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 1995, James Lambiasi has been a practicing architect and educator in Tokyo for over 20 years. He is the principal of his own firm James Lambiasi Architect, has taught as a visiting lecturer at several Tokyo universities, and has lectured extensively on his work. James served as president of the AIA Japan Chapter in 2008 and is currently the director of the AIA Japan lecture series that serves the English-speaking architectural community in Tokyo. He blogs about architecture at tokyo-architect.com..
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