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Arabella Ross

The Japanese House. Architecture after 1945. Barbican

By Arabella Ross Arabella Ross

Wednesday, 10 May 2017


Arabella Ross Contributor


This is an inspiring exhibition about a search for the root of the Japanese spirit throughout the many diverse periods of its architecture. The space of a house constantly transforms with the passing of time. The light in an internal space changes over the course of an hour, bringinging the house from day to night. Lightness can be experienced in terms of illumination, utilising translucent surfaces to create spaces that appear to be made from light itself. Some architects open their houses to nature, incorporating plants, sunlight and even soil into the architecture so as to make the house a living organism.  

What is revealed in this exhibition is that the house / home and it's architecture can act as a catalyst for creative design and living, mediating between technology, nature and everyday life, suggesting sometimes startling new ways of living.  One philosopher, critic and photographer Koji Taki claims that the meaning of a traditional folk house does not derive from architecture alone, but is accrued through generations of occupation: ways of living perfected slowly over a long period of time. It has matured until the way of living, the method of structuring the environment, and the ordering of the surrounding world evident in the house are beyond the capacity of any one occupant to invent by himself. 

Tea culture reached it's apex in the Momoyama period (c.1573 - 1600 ). The tea master Sen no Rikyu's philosophy centred on intimate tea ceremonies housed in small, rustic huts.  The architectural setting and the humble utensils used promoted Wabi-Sabi - a way of thought that values simplicity, imperfection and the passing of time.  The tea ceremony is an expression of refinement and cultural prestige.  

The installation of a teahouse and garden at the Barbican, designed by Terunobu Fujimori reinterprets the traditional tea house and garden with little resemblance to any one period or style. At the heart of his practice is a deep appreciation for the accidents and imperfections of natural materials. The teahouse and garden incorporate larch, oak, chestnut, plaster, copper, ceramic, moss and living plants. The distinctive black colour is the result of a centuries-old technique known as "yakisurgi", in which wood is weatherproffed through an intensive process of charring.  

A fascinating cultural exhibition about the experience of Japanese architecture that allows one to look, contemplate, read, view film clips, architectural drawings and models and to sit in an original tea house. Not to be missed!  The exhibition continues until 25th June 2017.



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Arabella Ross

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