Architecture in Japan

The prototype of the Shinto temples seems to originate from the Kofun period: a wooden structure with posts and beams filled with lightweight walls of thin sheets; the roof is covered with straw; the moss sauce is laid briefly, around timber across, the floor is lifted from the ground, and cold runs run along the house on one or more sides; characteristic is unpainted, natural wood as opposed to the later Chinese style of construction with the rich polychromation.

Pagoda in the Horyuji temple complex

With the introduction of Buddhism, Confucianism and Chinese culture by the way, Japan is entering the historical era of the 500s. Some of the buildings at the Horyuji Temple at Nara from the beginning of the 600s probably represent the world’s oldest preserved wooden houses. The complex consists of a pagoda, which has a square plan and five roofs above each other, and the rectangular golden hall, condo , with three roofs on a stone terrace, surrounded by a wall with galleries inside; Immediately behind the facility is the kodo (learning hall). The Yakushiji Temple’s pagoda dates from the 7th century , which, with its three floors and its richly designed support system, is one of the most beautiful and complete in all wooden building art.

From the 8th century, architecture became lighter and more serene and became more strongly associated with nature. In the 1300s and 1400s, and in conjunction with new, strong Chinese impulses, simple meditation and study pavilions , such as Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion) and Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion) , were also constructed , both in Kyoto. Now the garden also came to play a growing role, intimately connected with the buildings, such as in the tea-ceremony houses. A richer decorative decoration is evident in the architecture of the 16th and 16th centuries. The interior of a typical Japanese dwelling is simple, and the furniture plays little role; they are small, take up little space and are stored in built-in wall cabinets when not in use.

The introduction of steel and reinforced concrete in the late 1800s led to a rapid change in the Japanese building industry at the same time as the first influences of Western modernism. In 1910, Kingo Tatsuno designed a house that bore features both of traditional Japanese architecture and of the imported art nouveau style. The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Tokyo was completed in 1922 and immediately became important to a smaller group of architects, including Arata Edo ( Koshien Hotel in Nishinorniya, 1930).

The golden pavilion, Kinkakuji

The golden pavilion, Kinkakuji, built in 1397, during the Muromachi period (1333-1573), when Japan was closely associated with China. This building is a reconstruction of the original.

More important, however, were the trips that younger Japanese architects made to Europe more and more frequently, where they came into contact with the dominant currents of contemporary Western architecture. It quickly led to the erection of a number of buildings in a modern design language, including Kikuji Ishimoto designed two buildings in Tokyo ( Asahi newspaper shop, 1927 and Shirokiya department store,1928) which shows the influence of Erich Mendelsohn and which must be described as examples of Japanese expressionism. More influence was gained from the Bauhaus school. In the 1930s, several buildings were constructed in an almost purely functionalist style, such as Bunzo Yamaguchi’s Dental School (1934) and Mamoru Yarnadas Hospital (1937), both in Tokyo. Sutemi Horiguchi set himself the goal of revitalizing traditional architecture by consciously playing on the contradiction between this and the Western tradition ( Okada House, 1934).

With the reconstruction following the 1951 peace settlement, there was a period marked by attempts to reconcile traditional Japanese architecture with Western internationalism. A new heyday was ushered in with Kenzo Tange’s Hiroshima monument(1955) and his later visionary projects for the development of Tokyo in the 1960s, strongly influenced by the modernist group Team-10. The so-called metabolists now designed their infinite structures made up of equally prefabricated units. This overall architectural framework had to be adapted to the needs that existed at all times. A number of visionary projects were created, such as Arata Isozaki’s Sky City, but apart from Kiyonori Kikukate’s “Sky House” (1958), metabolism gained little importance beyond serving as an idea forum for a large group of younger Japanese architects.

Kenzo Tange was the leading figure in the Japanese architectural environment, and throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he further developed his brutalistic form of language with several works that attracted international attention, such as the Center for Communications in Yamanashi (1966) and the Kyoto Convention Center (1973). . Lately, Tange has come a long way in creating an unmistakable international architecture that at the same time gave associations to Japanese tradition.

Japan (modern architecture)

Japan (modern architecture). Kenzo Tange was the leading architect in Japan from the 1950s, and has been a schoolteacher in modern architecture. The picture shows the sports hall and swimming pool in Yoyogi, built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

This new orientation towards the country’s own architectural heritage can be seen clearly in Koichi Otake’s town hall in Nago (1981), where both the terraced buildings and the ornamental detail clearly point back to Okinawa’s regional building traditions. The growing interest and respect for the country’s own historic building heritage occurred at the same time as a renewed interest in Western classical architecture, which we can see in Yasufumi Kijima’s temple building in Kumamoto (1975) and two residences by Takefumi Aida (1980-81). With this link between regionalism and international historicization, a tendency that was simultaneously expressed throughout international architecture, Japanese architecture is placed in postmodernism with names such as Kazuhiro Ishii (Gable House in Tokyo, 1980) and Arata Isozaki (Tsukuba Center,1983). For Isozaki, the former metabolist who had collaborated with Tange, postmodernism did not mean, first and foremost, the offer of architectural style, but the liberation of architecture from all social contexts, and he therefore experimented with different forms of expression. In the cultural center in Mito (1990) we find a composition of a number of historical motifs, while the entire composition is crowned by a hundred meters high tower-shaped superstructure. Itsuko can also be classified as a postmodernist, but she herself claims that her buildings and facilities express what she calls “a different kind of nature” (Shonandai Cultural Center in Fujisawa, 1987–89).

Japanese post-war architecture is a reflection of Japanese society’s attempt to combine ever-stronger integration into the Western world with an anchoring in Japanese traditions. Kenzo Tange has been the rough figure throughout this period and his new Tokyo Town Hall building (1991) shows his constant ability to create attention-grabbing architecture. The building is shaped over the compositional form at Notre-Dame in Paris, but also has a sculpture of the building shape that points back to the American Art Deco skyscrapers.

The simple Japanese house has always been an inspiration to Japanese architects, and in recent times no one has gone beyond Tadao Ando in transferring the Japanese sense of space and form to a modern language. After working for a while with Tange, he designed several smaller homes on his own, where untreated concrete again became the main material ( Sumiyoshi in Osaka, 1976) and later also in larger projects ( Rokko apartment complex in Kobe, 1984). In these works, Ando has concentrated all attention on the interior of the buildings, where a deliberate use of open and dense surfaces creates a beautiful play with light on the concrete surfaces. With the office building of the company Sumino-ku in Osaka (1989) he expanded his repertoire of materials and opened the building in a whole new way towards the surrounding landscape.

You may also like...