100 Years of BUNRIHA: Can Architecture Be Art?

Georges Rouault and Japan: A Shared Spirit and Sense of ArtGeorges Rouault and Japan: A Shared Spirit and Sense of Art

General Information

October 10 Saturday - December 14 Tuesday, 2020
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Admittance until 5:30 p.m.)
* Open until 8 p.m. (Admittance until 7:30 p.m.) on Nov. 7 and Dec. 4.
We will limit the number of visitors in the exhibition room as measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19(Coronavirus Disease 2019). After reaching the limit, we will issue a numbered ticket and specify the admission time. Please note that you may not be able to enter if we issue all the numbered tickets on the same day.
Adults: ¥800
Visitors aged 65 or over carrying proof of age: ¥700
Students (College): ¥600
Students (High / Middle school): ¥400
Admission is free for children in primary school and younger.
Admission is free for disability passbook holders and up to one accompanying adult.
Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art, Asahi Shimbun
Architectural Institute of Japan, The Japan Institute of Architects, DOCOMOMO Japan, Society of Architectural Historians of Japan, Minato City Board of Education
Society for Digital Heritage
Academic support
100 Years of Bunriha Study Group
Exhibition design
Kimuramatsumoto architects office

Exhibition overview

New stars swept over the Japanese architectural world: the Bunriha, the first architectural movement in Japan. In 1920, classmates of the Department of Architecture of Tokyo Imperial University, Kikuji Ishimoto, Mayumi Takizawa, Sutemi Horiguchi, Keiichi Morita, Shigeru Yada, and Mamoru Yamada formed the group before their graduation. With Shuichiro Ouchi, Chikatada Kurata, and Bunzo Yamaguchi later joining, the group was active in exhibiting and publishing their works until 1928.

The year 2020 marks 100 years since its formation. Following the trajectory of the young architects, the exhibition includes related artworks along with drawings, models, photographs, and videos. The exhibition reveals the role the group played in history by examining the “art” in architecture they pursued. The exhibition casts new light to reveal the role the group played in the history of contemporary Japanese architecture.

* Some parts of the exhibition will be changed during this period. The exhibition is divided into two versions: first, October 10 – November 10; second, November 12 – December 15.

Learn with manga! Bunriha Kenchiku Kai True Stories.

Read the manga illustrating the encounters and exploits of the members of Bunriha.

Created by manga essayist Y-ko Y-da (Waiko Waida).
Granddaughter (eldest daughter of the fourth son) of Mamoru Yamada, a founding member of Bunriha. She transforms into art the collected interviews and materials about her grandfather, who died before she was born.

Exhibition highlights

1. Architectural Style in a Lost Japan

As liberalism grew apace in the Meiji and Taisho eras, Western architecture percolated into and settled in the Japanese consciousness, leaving room for the question: what did architecture unique to the island nation look like? Here we will briefly review what led to Bunriha’s formation through educational materials and the group’s European influences.

Keiji Goto "The Prison I Built," Hototogisu(Book 16, Volume 4) Hototogisu Publishers, 1913

2. Rise Up!: 1920

The six graduates of Tokyo Imperial University who composed Bunriha Kenchiku Kai declared their secession from architectural styles of the past and argued architecture was indeed an art. Their graduation projects may serve here as an introduction to their work.

Topic 1: Bunriha’s Debut at the Tokyo Peace Exhibition

To commemorate the end of World War I, the Tokyo Peace Exhibition was held in 1922 in Ueno Park, Tokyo. Tokyo Imperial University professor Chuta Ito served as construction advisor, enabling Bunriha’s Sutemi Horiguchi, Mayumi Takizawa, and Chikatada Kurata to participate in the exhibition hall’s design.

Mamoru Yamada, Graduation project, International Labor Association, front view, 1920,
Department of Architecture, The University of Tokyo
(on display until November 10th)

3. Toward Sculpture: The Hand

Contemporary European sculptures inspired their creativity. The following is an introduction to a number of studies produced as a result of their influences, which include Expressionist sculptures following Rodin, whose works they were introduced to through Shirakaba-ha (White Birch School).

“Mountain House” model, 1921. Reproduction: 1986, supervised by Mayumi Takizawa

4. Toward the Rustic: The Foot

Suburbs far from urban, mainstream culture – It is here Bunriha dreamed of their new lives. The following introduces residential projects with rustic themes as well as their involvement in the Nomin-bijutsu (peasant art) movement.

Topic 2: The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the New Tokyo

In 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake hit with a magnitude of 7.9, inflicting over one hundred thousand casualties and enormous damage. For their part, Mamoru Yamada and Bunzo Yamaguchi designed bridges in the Reconstruction Board, which was established to raise a city recovered from disaster.

Sutemi Horiguchi, Shien-so (from the Collection of Photographs of Shien-so), 1927,
Tokyo City University, The KURATA Chikatada Archive

5. Between Construction and Design

Tokyo strove to recover from the Great Kanto Earthquake. Members of Bunriha too were met with opportunities for hands-on work and came to produce public buildings for telegraph offices and newspaper companies. Could the rationality of construction be compatible with the beauty of architecture? The discord sparked anew was also an interrogation of the essence of architecture.

Mamoru Yamada, Tokyo Central Telegraph Office upon completion, 1925. Postal Museum Japan
Keiichi Morita, Rakuyu Kaikan, 1925. Photograph by Hayato Wakabayashi, 2020.

6. From Furniture to the City: Composition Pervades Society

Now in the Showa era, our Bunriha members tasked themselves with working in the urban scale on one hand, producing buildings such as the Shirokiya Department Store, while also absorbing modernist ideas and cultivating their interest in the practical arts. The focus here is on composition, which underlies designs accentuating lines and surfaces found in both architecture and furniture.

Kikuji Ishimoto, drawing by Bunzo Yamaguchi (Okamura), Shirokiya Department Store perspective view, 1928,

7. Dispersion: Various Views of Modernist Architecture

Bunriha’s seventh exhibition in 1928 marked the end of such activities. Eight years since the formation of Bunriha, its nine architects found themselves thoroughly entrenched in real-world goings-on, looking inward to question the grass roots of architecture amidst the currents of nationalism and socialism, so as to navigate their respective next steps.

Osaka Municipal Electric Science Museum, (Shuichiro Ouchi is involved in the design process), Post card, Private collection