Instead of pursuing monuments that cry out with a message of economic power, these Pritzker Prize-winning architects are scoring success with a uniquely Japanese reinterpretation of the past.
Unlike their predecessors, who modernized
Their sensibility is also a hit abroad, said
"Food and architecture," said Solomon, stressing how the two are
Among the major
He also designs private homes for affluent Chinese who admire Zen philosophy and want to incorporate that stark aesthetic into their daily lives, he said.
Kuma, an admirer of
Japanese architecture offers warmth and kindness as it is adept in the use of natural light and artisanal craftsmanship, such as bamboo and paper. It is "working together like music," Kuma said, to create a comfortable and luxurious spot even in a cramped space. That's the basic principle of a Japanese tea house, he said.
"It's part of our genetic makeup," Kuma told The Associated Press, sitting in his
The older generation of Japanese may have embraced the superiority of the Western lifestyle, including construction he feels is merely based on stacking blocks on top of each other, but not architects of his generation, said Kuma.
"People all over the world are sick and tired of modern monuments," he said. "The desire for the human and the gentle is a backlash to the globalization that brought all these monster skyscrapers."
No other place illustrates Kuma's Japanese sense of blending with the surroundings than his
Also erasing boundaries with the outside is the architecture of Sou Fujimoto, another rising star.
Fujimoto's house of glass, and it is literally just that, sits in a residential area in
Instead of seeking shelter from the environment, residents experience the passage of time, seeing the sun and the stars above; watching and being watched by neighbors and passers-by. No room is defined by walls, as we know them, although drapes can be drawn for privacy.
Inhabitants move from one area to another within a borderless box. At night, the home glows like a luminescent jewel.
Like Kuma, Fujimoto is busy, working all over the world, including
His works have a striking look. His beachside cultural center in
Fujimoto, who admires modern architecture pioneer
"This understanding of the connection between nature and the man-made is Japanese. The Japanese garden utilizes nature while also being finely crafted. You go back and forth between those two points," Fujimoto said. "I like this co-existence of the convoluted with simplicity, being not just minimalist and simple but also energetic and complex."
In a telling sign of their rising stature, four of the winners of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in the last six years have been Japanese:
In the past, the winners were few and far between.
More recently, Japanese have also been recognized with the gold medal by The
Sejima, who works with
Ban carved out his career by using recycled paper tubes as construction material, and his housing ideas have been widely praised for their use as temporary housing after disasters.
When people were crammed in a gym after the 2011 tsunami in northeastern
Ban also created housing out of shipping containers, placed on top of each other, proving that a little artistry could add beauty as well as comfort to disaster housing.
Ban denies anything "Japanese" about his designs, scoffing at the often made suggestion that he is inspired by "shoji" paper screens, stressing he uses paper as construction materials.
"I hate to use Japanese tradition consciously as a style," he said, while conceding that his idea of connecting the inside with the outside may be Japanese, but noting with a laugh the influence can be seen with American architects as well.
"Nationality is not that important," he said.
Ban is no exception in being in great demand outside
Fuji Kindergarten in
The walls of the doughnut-shaped building are glass, and they open as sliding doors into a courtyard. The spherical roof works as a playground, for the children to run around and around.
The couple often uses the roof for living space, and they swear sitting side by side on a sloped surface, like a riverbank, as opposed to facing each other across a table, is good for human relations.
With Japanese architecture, a slight change of approach transforms a roof into something more than just a roof, in the same way the artistry with which a chef cuts and presents raw fish transforms it into sashimi,
The Tezukas also utilize the Japanese "engawa," or porch, to blur the distinction between inside and outside for a "wall-less" effect.
"One of the most important qualities of Japanese architecture is its openness," said
It's also clear the Tezukas have also made family a central theme in their designs.
Seeing that children climb into closet-like niches, they created hideaway spots in their buildings. Their work proposes a move away from the stereotypical Japanese workaholic lifestyle toward an enjoyment of quality in daily life.
The 1987 Pritzker winner "
Takaharu's wife and collaborator Yui wears red. Everything they share, such as their car, is yellow and their daughter dresses in yellow. Their son wears green.
"Architecture is a tool, and it holds the possibility for changing your life," she said. "Life will become fun."
Sou Fujimoto: http://www.sou-fujimoto.net/
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