Japanese architecture holds unique space in the global arena, but its uniqueness is often elusive, ambiguous and difficult to define. It is especially confusing when you remember the fact that the notion “architecture” is very Western, and there were  NO so-called “architects” in Japan until 19th century, when Japan finally opened its doors to the Western countries and started studying architecture as a new academic/scientific subject.

Clearly, traditional Japanese “architecture” matured without relying on the finely-constructed value system named architecture. But then, on what kind of philosophy/aesthetics was it based? How did it blend with Western style architecture? What were the outcomes of such a marriage? At least two types of duality need to be examined: traditional versus modern, and Western versus Japanese.

The exhibition “Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation” (through Sept 17, 2018) currently on view at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan is a bold undertaking to showcase some inherent/critical elements that form the gist of Japanese architecture.

The exhibition is divided into nine sections, starting with “Possibilities of Wood” and ending with “Living with Nature.” Amplified by a number of the items on display, the themes are overwhelmingly diverse and seem to be all over. But the seeming randomness of the subjects explains why Japanese architecture is so elusive. Unlike Western architecture, it does not seem to be governed by a methodical system. Rather, Japanese architecture is an amoeba-like, subtle whole that embraces some fundamental duality. It has been a reactive system if you will – that has been embracing often elusive nature, and often conflicting ideas/philosophies different groups of people have presented.

Japan in Architecture: 9 Sections

1. Possibilities of Wood

2. Transcendent Aesthetics

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Installation view: “Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation”

Photo: Koroda Takeru
Photo courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

3. Roofs of Tranquility

4. Crafts as Architecture

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Installation view: “Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation”

Photo: Koroda Takeru
Photo courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

5. Linked Spaces

6. Hybrid Architecture

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Installation view: “Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation”

Photo: Koroda Takeru
Photo courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

7. Forms for Living Together

8. Japan Discovered

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Installation view: “Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation”

Photo: Koroda Takeru
Photo courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

9. Living with Nature

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Installation view: “Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation”

Photo: Koroda Takeru
Photo courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

1. Possibilities of Wood

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
The Main Hall of the Ancient Izumo Shrine

Date unknown / 2018 (CG)
CG Production: Goto Katsunori

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Kitagawara Atsushi KIGUMI INFINITY, Japan Pavilion, Expo Milano 2015

2015, Milan
Photo: Ohno Shigeru

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Kuma Kengo   Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum

2010, Kochi, Japan
Photo: Ota Takumi

2. Transcendent Aesthetics

Mori Art Museum “JAPAN IN ARCHITECTURE” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Taniguchi Yoshio   D.T. Suzuki Museum

2011, Kanazawa, Japan
Photo: Kitajima Toshiharu

4. Crafts as Architecture

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Yoshida Isoya Main Lounge, Royal Hotel

1973, Osaka
Photo courtesy: Takenaka Corporation

6. Hybrid Architecture

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Kobayashi Kiyochika   First Bank of Kaiun-bashi Bridge, Heisei new edition

1876 (original), Colored woodblock print
Collection: Shimizu Corporation, Tokyo

7. Forms for Living Together

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Inokuma Jun / Naruse Yuri   LT Josai

2013, Nagoya, Japan
Photo: Nishikawa Masao

8. Japan Discovered

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Frank Lloyd Wright   Main Entrance, Imperial Hotel

1923, Tokyo
Photo courtesy: Imperial Hotel, Ltd.

9. Living with Nature

Mori Art Museum “Japan in Architecture” (2018.4.25 – 2018.9.17)
Ando Tadao   Chapel on the Water (Hoshino Resort Tomamu)

1988, Hokkaido, Japan
Photo courtesy: Hoshino Resort Tomamu