Japan. A land of beautiful and unique proportions. To the west, a curious culture we cannot truly understand and, still, influences us. A culture of tradition and future. One may think these subjects cannot correlate or supplement each other; but Japanese people prove it time and again they go hand in hand.
One of the influences Japan brought to the west was minimalism. It’s trendy everywhere – from fashion to interior design – and, as this exhibition shows us, architecture.
some background history
In 1945, Japan was bombarded by the US right at the end of the Second World War. And as history tells us, many cities were bombed, killing 129,000 people. The war let thousands of families suffering serious health issues to this day. Tokyo bombing was the single deadliest raid in history; there was so much damage, 50% of the city was reduced to dust – forcing Japan to rebuild their city. And that’s when Japanese architects had to put their thinking caps on to rebuild it.
Post-war architecture brought very provocative designs, like the Face House (in Kyoto) and the Tower House (in Tokyo), proving Japanese are tough, creative and very practical. In April, Barbican Center opened an exhibition focused on this very topic, this part of history and how it influenced Japan’s life and culture: the Japanese House Architecture and Life after 1945.
in a nutshell
Once you step in the Barbican Center, you can feel the unique vibe from the exhibition. When you start, you are given a glance of what is about to come. However, the curators and designers want to deliberately make visitors glance the real-life sized model of the Moriyama House.
Once the exhibition starts, you’ll be given a bit of history, for context. You will see pictures and designs from the era before, during and after the war. There are a mix of house models, digital media and colour to introduce every topic along the way – while always leaving some space to sneak at the Moriyama House on the ground floor. Very sneaky indeed.
You’ll be introduced to Ryue Nishizawa and Sou Fujimoto, along with many other important Japanese architects from the 20th century. But of course, the main event, the star of the exhibition is the Moriyama House, from Ryue Nishizawa and inhabited by Yasuo Moriyama.
The original house is situated in Tokyo and is divided into 10 individual houses; a futuristic house of minimalist and curious proportions. The whole ideia of the house is to see the house as a city. The house is very spacious and the 10 different divisions of the house form this sense of urbanism inside of one building.
Along with this model of the house, the exhibition space includes a magical and traditional garden designed by Terunobu Fujimori and a relaxing room with pillows where you can watch a documentary with Yasuo Moriyama inside the house.
From start to finish, I felt all sorts of emotions: sadness, rage, contempt, happiness and amazement. The way the exhibition is built is ingenious and is worth spending a few hours venturing to the art gallery and discovering such ground-breaking and contemporary designs.