Travel blog: arcspace in Japan
By Vibeke Hjortskov Knudsen
Wooden architecture with beautiful carpentry details, futuristic mega structures, visionary residential architecture, a round museum and trees with flowers everywhere. Arcspace just returned from a trip around Japan, perfectly timed with the sakura/cherry blossom season. Below is a report with images from our visit.
Japan has a long
tradition of building with wood. Carpentry skills have been
developed over the years to an extremely high technical and
aesthetic level, and their joinery work without the use of any
nails or screws are very inspiring. On our walks around Kyoto and
Tokyo we noticed many beautiful wooden buildings - from old temples
to everyday architecture and modern buildings.
It is easy to spend hours
inside the Kyoto Station, designed by the Japanese
architect Hara Hiroshi. The building opened in 1997 and
is one of the largest in Japan. Besides being a transportation hub
it also contains many shops, a hotel, a movie theater, restaurants
and several local government facilities. It has 15 different
levels, and you get the best overview of the architectural
complexity in themain hall covered by a giant exposed steel
beamed roof. A long series of escalators take you away from the
busy main hall to the peaceful roof terrace and observation deck on
top of the station.
In 2004 The 21st Century Museum
of Contemporary Art by Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue
Nishizawa/SANAA opened in Kanazawa. Kanazawa is a few
hours train ride away from Kyoto. The museum is located in the
center of Kanazawa. The strong impression of openness is striking -
a circular building on a grass lawn with integrated artwork. There
is no main entrance; the round building and park are accessible
from multiple directions. A large part of the museum and permanent
art installations like Leandro Erlich's "Swimming Pool" and James
Turrell's "Blue Planet Sky" have free public access. Inside the
open circular plan, white cubes of various dimensions create
galleries, rooms, courtyards and corridors - almost like a
cityleaving the visitor to decide a route through
A tower structure of concrete capsules with circular
windows stacked on top of each other. Our first stop in Tokyo
was The Nakagin
Capsule Tower in Shimbashi - an example of Japanese
Metabolism. This first example of capsule architecture was
completed in 1972 and designed by Kisho Kurokawa. It was
designed to house businessmen and women - who either missed their
trains or needed to remain close by their work - in small but
functional capsule units. The building has sadly not been well
maintained, during our visit it was covered by a safety net - and
its future is uncertain.
island Odaiba was originally made for defensive purposes in Tokyo
Bay in the 1950s. Later in the 1990s it was redeveloped as a city
for futuristic living. Today Odaiba is a popular shopping and
entertainment district and the futuristic feeling is still here -
from arriving to the island with the automated elevated monorail,
Yurikamome to walking around the mega structure of
the Fuji TV building by Kenzo Tange
Associates. The headquarters of Fuji Television moved
into the new Fuji TV building in 1996. The building is a mega grid
structure with towers connected by pedestrian bridges or "sky
corridors" and an observation deck shaped as a giant sphere fixed
123 meters above ground with public access and views over the Tokyo
Both Japanese architects Ryue Nishizawa and Sou Fujimoto Architects worked with new architectural ideas of a home for the design of respectively Moriyama House and House NA. The 2 houses are located in two different dense residential districts of Tokyo, but with the same context of narrow streets and normal low-rise Japanese houses.
Ryue Nishizawa worked with the vision of "house as a city" for the home of Yasuo Moriyama in 2005. Moriyama house is actually not one single house but a multi-building. It consists of 10 white prefab steel cubes of individual proportions in a garden located in a corner lot. Each room or function has its own little building - bathroom, living room, bedroom, study, rental units etc. Walls are only 6 cm thick to maximize the interior space on the small site. The buildings are like a small community, where the separated functions strengthen the connections between the inside and outside.
The idea of
living in a tree inspired Sou Fujimoto Architects in their design
of a home for a young couple. House NA is surprisingly open and
bright compared to the surrounding houses. The interior is spread
on 21 individual floor plates at various heights linked by stairs
or ladders and with very few walls.
Our last architecture stop in Japan is The Yoyogi National Gymnasium by Kenzo Tange - a classic site to visit if you are interested in architecture and close to the Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. The sculptural complex consists of two large curving buildings - a main and a minor gym both with a roof that seem to rise from the park landscape.
The roof of the main gym had the world's largest suspended roof span when it was built in 1964 for the swimming and diving events at that year's summer Olympics in Tokyo. Today it is still used as a venue for music concerts and sports like ice hockey, futsal and basketball.
Last updated: December 19, 2013
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