Kengo Kuma: Selected Works

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The museum functions as both a marker, a destination, and a means to connect the historical city with the new districts. Its lightness and transparency almost renders it a part of the environment, as well as a place of attraction. The offsetting three level structure of the museum ensures that viewers will have a different perception of the city from wherever they stand.

Hoshakuji Station | Architecture | Interior architecture, Timber architecture, Wood architecture

Writer: Luke Halls. An aluminium-and-wood frame is inserted between the pathways and garden space, subtly controlling the relationship between the two. The site is positioned to increase metropolitan flow considerably, opening up the district by acting as a point of connection for the two northern sides of the city. Project: Gare Saint-Denis Pleyel Location: Paris, France Status: Ongoing Visualising its new role, the steel frames found throughout the site evoke rail tracks, emphasising the passage of time and history.

A new public plaza will accompany the station, embedding it within the urban Parisian backdrop as a new cultural hotspot. Architecture 17 Jul Register for our daily bulletin of the stuff that refines you. The Metabolists had emerged in the s as the vanguard of Japanese Modernism — their name was meant to imply a flexible architecture that had a cellular, metabolic relationship to the growing city — and they produced a number of spectacular plans and futuristic visions that extended the programs of European Modernism into the realm of the fantastic: cities floating in the sea or houses vaulted into the sky.

At Osaka, however, Kuma saw only exhaustion: The architects he admired were exclusively interested in producing fantastic forms, completely divorced from their environment or human needs. Kuma found a more copacetic model for his developing interests in architecture school in the late s and early s, where he studied with Hiroshi Hara. The renowned theorist took Kuma and his other students on a two-month trip through the Sahel, where they visited and documented village structures of nomadic peoples. With no knowledge of the relevant languages, let alone the customs, they had to learn to manage in harsh conditions, and explain their curious interests with a flurry of exaggerated gestures and a mixture of English and French.

This experience with impermanent, modest dwellings, as well as the travel through unfamiliar rural areas, gave Kuma skills and confidence that he would later use in the countryside of Japan. When Kuma arrived for a yearlong fellowship at Columbia University in , he was in the midst of a transitional period both in architecture and in the economic history of his country.

The high tide of architectural postmodernism was cresting, just as the economies of both the U.

Kengo Kuma : selected works / Botond Bognar.

That year, West German, French, British, American and Japanese officials signed a treaty known as the Plaza Accord, designed to coerce the United States into devaluing its currency, thereby limiting Japanese exports — cars and electronics — that had flooded U. The immediate result was to give Japanese consumers a newly strong yen and, after the Bank of Japan lowered official interest rates, to overheat the domestic market. From to , an enormous stock market bubble swelled.

The result in architectural terms was an explosion of construction throughout the country, and a seemingly unending stream of commissions for any architect who wanted them. Kuma spent his year at Columbia immersed in the then-dominant kingdom of architectural postmodernism. He met with and interviewed the reigning figures of the day, visiting their offices and observing them at work: Philip Johnson, Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Frank Gehry.

But he ended up collecting his interviews in a book that was a kiss-off to the style. Nonetheless, he started his own, eponymous firm in Tokyo in , and in a typical Kuma gesture, produced for his very first major building an almost canonical example of the postmodernism he had just dismissed. Called M2, it was commissioned as a Mazda showroom, but its scale and imagery far exceeded the requirements. A defiantly crazy and arguably cynical building, its standout feature is a central, monstrously oversize column crowned with an ionic capital, buttressed on either side by a bricolage of arches, made up of concrete panels meant to look like solid blocks.

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Familiarity with his later work makes it hard to fathom how an architect so fixated on humility would begin his career with such a spectacular folly. Around the time that he was finishing M2, Kuma received a phone call related to some of the construction details on the building. Picking up the receiver with his left hand, he put his right hand — his drawing hand — down on a nearby glass table to balance himself, and the table shattered beneath him.

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  • The nerves and veins in his wrist were severed and the bone exposed. The injury he sustained to his hand was permanent. Another paradoxical liberation came the following year, when the Japanese economic bubble burst. Kuma was forced into a period of necessary reflection, and out of it he developed the practice and thought that would come to define his career.

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    With a population of just 3,, but sprawling over a wide area, the town contains four buildings by the architect, built over a span of nearly two decades, with another currently under construction. For Kuma, the scale of the place has meant fewer impediments to his true passions: working with local craftsmen and using local materials. It offers freer access to the past, in a country that until the postwar era had been mostly rural. To track this work — from the Kumo-no Ue-no Hotel completed in , through to the Yusuhara Town Hall , a new fruit market and hotel called Machi-no-Eki Yusuhara and the extraordinary Wooden Bridge Museum — is to watch the progress of a mind as it grows increasingly bold and fanciful in its experimentation with wood.

    Kuma works almost exclusively in cedar — typical both to the region and to Japanese architecture in general. Throughout his buildings, unfinished beams and panels intersect with smoother, thinner louvers.


    The effect is warm, of course, but also weathered and transient: Exterior panels become darkened by years of afternoon sun; interior spaces have a rough-edged sensation, and the buildings exude the scent of cedar, as if they had been freshly tossed up. The Town Hall, finished a decade later, represents an enormous leap forward.

    A seemingly simple rectangular box, with a hidden concrete walled exterior, its roof is cantilevered from a traditional Japanese beam structure.

    9780500343425 Kengo Kuma: Complete Works: Expanded Edition

    A glass facade, parceled out into asymmetrical wood paneling to shade the interior, can be opened up in warmer months to the exterior. This permeability would be a recurring feature of his later work. Lingering in the warm, brightly lit lobby, where a wooden stage is set up for performances of kagura a traditional Shinto dance native to the region , one can forget the immediate presence of bureaucracy, and all its connotations of willful obscurity.

    During his years in Yusuhara, Kuma was theorizing his own work with some frequency, and his substantial body of writing reveals a repeated turning over of the same ideas and experiences, much as he constantly comes back to wood to see what else it can accomplish. It is a story of returning to the values of traditional Japanese architecture through the work of modern architects who admire them, as well as the rather simple idea — however sometimes tortuously expressed by Kuma via detours into Western philosophy and critical theory — that architecture should cease to force itself onto a landscape and should instead, through acquaintance with local materials and methods, relate itself harmoniously to its surroundings. Some of the most enduring monuments to international Modernism, especially in their use of concrete, are in Japan, perhaps the only Asian country to have embraced, so fully and ardently, the movement descended from Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus. But as with many modernizing movements in Japan, there was always dissonance. Complicating matters was the fact that Modernist architects themselves — from Bruno Taut to Richard Neutra to Frank Lloyd Wright — had been greatly influenced by prewar, traditional Japanese architecture.

    Kuma was not the first to grapple with these questions. He concentrates not on the formal aspect of his buildings, but on the immediate experience they provide — on surfaces, effects and moods — all at the risk of producing structures that photograph poorly, or seem modest. Small architecture is not his only mode, but it is the most natural expression of his approach, and a testament to how much he fights against other architects in his work. Kuma is an indefatigable and focused individual, and I often found myself trailing behind him as he dashed from place to place.

    He practically ran from his office through the cemetery to the Kurokawa site, which was marked by a proud obelisk, slightly larger than the surrounding markers. It was made of ashino stone, a flaky substance quarried north of Tokyo and the same material he used in one his best-known buildings, the Stone Museum, completed in in the ski resort destination of Tochigi Prefecture, which houses a museum and showcases an interwoven arrangement of ashino structures. It was a classic moment for Kuma: The occasion of something deeply personal, the death of a parent, became yet another opportunity to demonstrate his principles, use traditional materials and conduct a surreptitious fight with the architectural past.