“Japanese architects have become a new guard for modern Architecture, releasing Innovative, functional, and aesthetic designs that are lauded around the world.”Tadao Ando

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Japan is a culturally and historically rich country with a distinct architectural identity. Those interested in architecture will find that Japan has a lot to offer. The great range of traditional Japanese architectural styles is shaped by a variety of beliefs and conceptions. Japan’s architectural styles have changed throughout the years, affected by geography, climate, accessible raw materials, and even the course of catastrophic disasters. Japanese architecture eventually incorporated aspects from surrounding Asian cultures as well as influences from the West.

The values of simplicity, honesty, and purity have guided architecture throughout much of Japanese history. Japan can claim tradition over what the rest of the world labels modern. Creating modernist architecture has, of course, posed numerous obstacles in Japan. However, it is the architects’ skillful blending of current sensibilities with a reverence for their heritage that has set them apart. Japan puts forth greater effort than almost any other country to preserve and reinterpret its traditions. As a result, architecture in Japan is merely one facet of a larger cultural movement in Japan that examines the meaning of modern Japanese identity. 

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One is the emphasis on simple forms and honest material treatment. While these ideals are both fundamentals of worldwide modern architecture, they have long maintained spiritual and philosophical significance in Japanese Shinto and Buddhist architecture.

Rokko Housing

Japan’s architectural style is characterized by graceful simple shapes that blend into rational and complex structures and are heavily influenced by the country’s religions and aesthetics. One of these styles, in particular, has been said to mirror the artistic philosophy of another Japanese art form: haiku. The simplest of forms can reveal great spiritual, philosophical, and personal connotations in haiku. Materials such as flat concrete and glass are used. The materials are plain and unadorned, representing the most basic and straightforward rendition of a structure.

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The Rokko Housing in Kobe, Japan, is a great example of this. The structure, designed by Pritzker laureate  Tadao Ando, represents Japanese philosophy and delicate aesthetic style through its simple form and bare materiality. 

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Sober materiality of Rokko Housing_©www.flickr.com
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Rokko Housing_©www.flickr.com

Nezu Museum

Besides speaking of the spirit of architecture, people want to easily experience the spirit and beauty of nature through architecture. The incorporation of a garden and a backyard is a common practice in Japanese architecture. 

The Nezu Museum houses a wide collection of items in such a way that visitors feel as if they are wandering through a traditional Japanese garden’s bamboo forest outside. the imaginative use of natural light and for structures that follow the natural features of the terrain rather than disrupting it by forcing it to adapt to the built space of a building. Complex three-dimensional circulation routes are frequently seen in spaces. These routes weave in and out of internal and external areas created both within and between large-scale geometric structures.

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Integratio of Nature at Nezu Museum_©media.thisisgallery.com
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Nezu Museum_©theculturetrip.com

Katsura Imperial Villa

Similarly, the Katsura Imperial Villa is known for its mind-blowing strolling gardens and spiritually exuberating Zen gardens. The property is shaped like the letter l, with a bamboo porch projecting over the sparkling ponds, ideal for moon viewing. The Katsura Imperial Villa is one of Japan’s most important large-scale constructions, located in the western suburbs of Kyoto. 

This home is a typical example of Japanese architecture that combines modern and traditional elements. Because the Japanese place a premium on one’s experience, every component of construction revolves around the individual’s experience.

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Landscaping according to the cultural relevance of Japan at Katsura Imperial Villa_©en.wikipedia.org
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Katsura Imperial Villa_©www.travelcaffeine.com

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art

The minimalism of modern Japanese architecture, which is heavily influenced by Japanese culture, emphasizes the concept of sensation and physical experiences. Zen is a religious phrase that emphasizes simplicity and focuses on inner feelings rather than external appearance. Zen influences can be seen clearly in contemporary Japanese architecture. It is generally made of concrete and glass to embody the concept of simplicity, producing a sensation of cleanliness and weightlessness (even though concrete is a heavy material). 

The exterior, construction, and arrangement of the space are relatively perspective to convey the aesthetic of sensation due to the simplicity of the exterior, construction, and organization of the space.

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Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art_©en.japantravel.com
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Form driven spaces at Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art_©www.pinterest.com

Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple

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Nowadays, various temple architects in the country are starting to think about the future. Architects appreciate the Japanese tradition of invention and experimentation while designing temples for urban environments, while also embracing the age-old principles of tranquil reflection and simplicity. This is accomplished by striking a delicate balance between opposing aspects such as modern and natural materials, light and darkness, and open and enclosed places. Temple architecture in Japan is evolving, but it nevertheless evokes an ambiance that is consistent with the country’s eternal beliefs.

Modern frames and materials are used in the Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple to address the temple’s urban surroundings, while a green terrace surrounds the building to incorporate a natural aspect.

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Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple_©architizer.com
Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple_©architizer.com

References

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Plaza Homes Ltd (2018). Guide to Traditional and Modern Japanese Architecture – PLAZA HOMES. [online] PLAZA HOMES. Available at: https://www.realestate-tokyo.com/news/traditional-and-modern-japanese-architecture/.

ssarbkimbo12.github.io. (n.d.). All about Japanese modern architecture. [online] Available at: https://ssarbkimbo12.github.io/J_modern/.

 [Accessed 13 Sep. 2021].

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Breeders, B. (n.d.). JAPANESE ARCHITECTURE – TRADITIONALLY MODERN. [online] architecturecompetitions.com. Available at: https://architecturecompetitions.com/japanese-architecture

 [Accessed 13 Sep. 2021].

‌Journal. (2019). Modern Temples: How Religious Architecture Is Being Transformed Across Japan – Architizer Journal. [online] Available at: https://architizer.com/blog/inspiration/collections/temples-of-japan/.

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Author

Abhishek Guha is an architecture undergraduate who wishes to create life altering spaces & experiences through his designs . His interests - writing, fashion, and cooking, are as erratic as he is. As a spontaneous extrovert who enjoys meeting new people, he seeks knowledge about the architectural paradigm while exploring the world.

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