Contemporary Japanese architecture is a rich mix of traditional design practices and western modern aesthetics. The dialogue between the two is seen in the integration of time-honored Japanese architectural elements like fusama [sliding doors], shoji [movable screens], modular tatami floor mats that have cutting edge design and technology, use of wood in foundation and walls, thatched roofs [kirizuma, yosemune, irimoya, hogyo], Engawa [verandas] and Genkan [main entrance].
The architecture style strives to work in harmony with their natural surroundings due to respect for nature that comes from the Japanese culture. The Japanese traditional architecture serves as a source of inspiration and wisdom for contemporary architects and designers that are working towards creating sustainable designs.
Currently, this architecture style is at the forefront of investigating questions of micro-housing in dense cities like Tokyo where the population is outnumbering the space available to build. Contemporary Architecture firms based in Japan such as Tadao Ando and Associates, Ryue Nishizawa, Kengo Kuma, and SANAA have played a prominent role in contributing towards global architectural trends.
Here is a crate of 10 books on Japanese Architecture every architect must read:
1. The Art of Japanese Architecture by David Young and Michiko Kimura Young
Originally published – June 2007
Genre – Travel Literature
The book is an overview of Japanese architecture in its historical and cultural context. It discusses the early prehistoric dwellings and concludes with a description of works by important modern architects. The simplicity, asymmetry, sensitivity towards the natural environment, and use of natural materials in Japanese architecture are studied in the book.
The book studies the major changes in Japanese architecture that were caused by the Buddhist culture in Korea and China, the indigenous influences, development of feudalism, influences of the western culture, and the adaptation of Internationational style in contemporary buildings.
2. The Architecture of Trees by Cesare Leonardi and Franca Stagi
Originally published – 1983
Genre – Exhibition catalog
The book features more than 550 exquisite quill-pen illustrations of 212 tree species. The extensively detailed book covers details such as the tree’s height and trunk diameter, some sections specify information about the tree’s changing leaf colors along with the shading of its tree canopy at different times of the year.
This book is an essential addition to architects, designers, botanists, or anyone fascinated by trees and nature in all its varieties.
3. The Japanese Garden by Sophie Walker
Originally published – November 2017
Genre – Culture
The book is an in-depth exploration of 8 centuries of art, essence, and impact of the Japanese gardens. It brings in fresh insights on this subject through the exploration of Japanese gardens in detail through a series of essays and 100s of featured Japanese gardens. It is focused on gardens as a prompt for philosophical, spiritual, and poetic contemplations.
The book consists of richly illustrated designs of various aspects of garden design like dry gardens, Zen gardens, use of path and procession in routes, courtyard gardens, view-only gardens, etc. Each essay written in the book is followed by a selection of examples that are illustrated through images related to the specific topic.
4. Japanese Architecture: An Exploration of Elements & Forms by Mira Locher
Originally published – October 2010
Genre – Culture, History
The book provides us with a contemporary perspective of the traditional Japanese architecture that used architectural elements like a thatched roof, mud plaster walls, carved transoms, tatami mats to tell a story about the historical development and context of the buildings and gardens of Japan.
The book tries to situate these elements within the natural context and traditional culture of Japan to understand the development, construction, function, and inherent symbols used in these historic architectural elements.
5. Jutaku: Japanese Houses by Naomi Pollock
Originally published – October 2015
Genre – Residential design catalog
The book showcases around 400 examples of contemporary residential design that defy gravity, redefine comfort, dispel Western ideas of home in Japan. The featured designs in the book come from rising designers and established architects such as Shigeru Ban and Jun Igarashi.
Originally published – November 2020
Genre – Tradition, Culture
The book describes how traditional Japanese buildings respond to different materials, objects and argues how the acknowledgment of the built environment can help affirm the individuality of one’s own being.
The book tries to showcase how subjective experiences of this, here, and now can help us overcome our separateness as individuals and serve as extensions of the human body to affirm these experiences.
7. Contemporary Japanese Architecture by James Steele
Originally published – 2017
Genre – Travel Literature
The book features an overview of the historical and cultural framework that informs the work of all Japanese architects whilst serving as an introduction to an in-depth investigation of the challenges faced by contemporary designers.
8. Project Japan: Metabolism by Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist
Originally published – 2011
Genre – Documentary
The book is based on the radical makeover of entire lands in Japan by a group of architects called Metabolism. Rem Koolhas and Hans Ulrich interviewed the surviving members of Metabolism and featured hundreds of never seen before images, excerpts of architecture models and magazines along with master plans of projects based in Manchuria to Tokyo along with intimate snapshots of the Metabolists at work.
9. Wabi-Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence by Andrew Juniper
Originally published – 2003
Genre – Self-help book
The book describes the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi, i.e., is finding an aesthetic in the beauty of things that are imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, and includes advice for designing structures that allow for the transformation of body, mind, and home.
The book aims to remind us to slow down and take comfort in the natural beauty around us in the current fast-paced world.
10. The Japanese House by Alexandra Black
Originally published – 2000
Genre – Art
The use of natural materials, fluidity in the floor plans of Japanese architecture that depicts the pure beauty and elegance of Japanese sensibility is captured in this book by Japanese photographer Noboru Murata.
- Tremblay, K., 2021. 10 Best Japanese Architecture Books Reviewed and Rated in 2021. [online] sturtstreetcellars.com. (Last Updated: 2021-03-28 by Kitty Tremblay) Available at: <https://sturtstreetcellars.com/japanese-architecture-books/> [Accessed 29 March 2021].
- News, U., 2021. Japanese architecture, individuality explored in new book | University of Hawaiʻi System News. [online] University of Hawaiʻi System News. Available at: <https://www.hawaii.edu/news/2020/11/10/japanese-architecture-individuality-book/> [Accessed 29 March 2021].
- Stamp, E., 2021. The 20 Best Architecture and Design Books of 2015. [online] Architectural Digest. Available at: <https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/best-architecture-design-books-2015> [Accessed 29 March 2021].
- Architecture, W., Forms, J. and Forms, J., 2021. Japanese Architecture: An Exploration of Elements & Forms. [online] RIBA Books. Available at: <http://www.ribabooks.com/japanese-architecture-an-exploration-of-elements-forms_9784805313282> [Accessed 29 March 2021].
- Dexigner.com. 2021. Architecture Books. [online] Available at: <https://www.dexigner.com/directory/cat/Architecture/Books> [Accessed 29 March 2021].