Following a successful tour that began in 2014 in France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, the“Japon, l’archipel de la maison” (Japan, Archipelago of the House) exhibition of modern Japanese residential architecture finally arrives in Japan. The exhibition is the brainchild of French photographer Jérémie Souteyrat and French architects Véronique Hours, Fabien Mauduit, and Manuel Tardits, who are all well versed in Japan and Japanese residential architecture—particularly Tardits, who has lived in Japan for thirty years and who co-founded the Yokohama-based architectural firm Mikan. Together, they offer a compelling evaluation of Japanese residential architecture that reflects their diverse views on the subject.
The evolution of residential architecture in Japan has been shaped by the country’s distinctive geographical features and natural environments, as well as its economy, industry, technologies, society, and cultures. The exhibition’s organizers have selected seventy houses—with a focus on works by currently active architects, both established and up-and-coming—that best exemplify this evolution. The resulting exhibit aims not only to present a straightforward history of how architectural styles have changed in Japan over time, but also to showcase the unique, innovative ways in which Japanese architects have incorporated Japanese housebuilding traditions and views of nature while also meeting the homeowners’ ideals.
The exhibition is divided into three sections: Yesterday’s Houses, Tokyo Houses and Today’s Houses. Each section features striking photographs and videos, as well as blueprints and interviews with architects and homeowners. In addition, models and sketches that were missing from the exhibit’s European leg of the tour will also be displayed. Together, the items present the four organizers’ novel take on what it means for something to be Japanese, what the essential qualities of the Japanese house are, and what traditions shape these architectural designs.
Drawings and live art by guest artist Kyohei Sakaguchi will also be featured as part of the exhibition. Known for radical works such as Zero Yen House and the Living in a Water Tank project, Sakaguchi explores new methods of living in and thinking about urban environments.
In an age when countries around the world are tackling the issue of how to create urban environments that are both functional and attractive, this exhibition should provide visitors with numerous ideas on how to achieve such a goal.
The history of modern Japanese architecture goes back to the late 19th century, when Western influences began to enter the country following the end of feudal rule. Since then, both Western and Japanese architecture have incorporated elements of each to grow into what they are today. This evolution is embodied by the 14 works presented in this section, including Antonin Raymond’s Karuizawa Studio—which was built on the eve of the Second World War in 1933—and Toyo Ito’s self-designed house, nicknamed Silver Hut. Each work is a rich representation of modern Japanese architectural philosophy. Although this section only covers a small sampling of historically significant architectural works in Japan, each house has been and continues to be studied by architects for its design and the intentions behind it.
The title of this section derives from a photography series of the same name by Jérémie Souteyrat, who captured his architectural subjects from an original perspective during his explorations of Tokyo. Of the 54 works in the series, 36 were chosen to be displayed at this exhibition.
“For Tokyo Houses, I used documentary photography techniques to capture the architecture of these houses through their exteriors as well as through their surrounding environments,” says Souteyrat. “I wanted to separate the two elements so I could present the houses through both the humanity of street photography and the precision of architectural photography. The houses I photographed for this series were all designed by famous architects. They are like hidden jewels nestled within the vast expanse of Tokyo, a city that functions as an outdoor stage. The people who live here serve as both actors and audience members, and together they create one truly unique photographic backdrop.”
Souteyrat also took most of the photographs that are featured in Section III.
“What is surprising about these twenty houses,” says Manuel Tardits, “is how none of them have sacrificed livability in order to meet their owners’ high expectations.”
This third and main section of the exhibition focuses on twenty houses designed by veteran and up-and-coming architects, as well as the homes’ owners. Each work is presented in fascinating detail through photographs, videos, drawings, sketches, interviews, and scale models. Courtesy of Panasonic’s new LinkRay Light ID Solution, visitors may access a wide range of digital information on each houses simply by aiming a smartphone or tablet device at LED light sources placed throughout this section.