The Making of a Modern Japnese Architecture: From the Founders to Shinohara and Isozaki

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9784770029331: The Making of a Modern Japnese Architecture: From the Founders to Shinohara and Isozaki

The year 1988 commemorating the fourth generation since the Meiji Restoration of 1868 defined Japan's position-political, economic, and cultural-in the modern world. This period of history, which witnessed the rise, defeat, and rebirth of contemporary Japan, gave rise to a distinctive and important architectural style. David Stewart explores the modern Japnese ideals by interrogating the early and, then, the mature works of Kazuo Shinohara and Arata Isozaki-linking the buildings of these years with a surge of interest in phenomenology, a fascination with the techniques of Russian formalism, and even a Japnese rereading of Proust. Finally, Stewart gives an explication of "Japnese Space."

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The year 1988 commemorated the fourth generation since the Meiji Restoration of 1868 defined Japan's position--political, economic, and cultural--in the modern world. This period of history, which witnessed the rise, defeat, and rebirth of contemporary Japan, has been widely written about. Nevertheless, there remains, in the realm of architecture, an intractable gap in our knowledge of this span of more than a century. It is precisely that breach which Making of a Modern Japanese Architecture (with its more than 400 illustrations) undertakes to repair. It brilliantly charts the course of the art of building in this very old and yet, in a sense, quite new country from the middle of the nineteenth century to the onset of the 1980s.

The book successfully sets before the reader, and illustrates in striking manner, the sea change that Japan's architecture underwent as feudal customs and an intense preoccupation with beauty encountered industrialization and modern lifestyles. By what means, then, was the switch-over made from homes of paper and wood to efficient urban complexes of earthquake-proof reinforced concrete? The answer, during the Meiji era, was gaslighting and brick, followed in the second and third decades of the new century by an interval of Art Deco and jazz-age freneticism. On account of his controversial rebuilding of the great Imperial Hotel, the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was a participant in these years of so-called Taisho Democracy. Wright was more often than not present in the Japanese capital during this phase of his career, which he lived to the hilt by pursuing his instincts as a connoisseur and an aesthete of the first order. When he was, eventually, dismissed, his versatile assistant, the Czech modernist Antonin Raymond, stepped into the vanguard of Japanese architecture, a position which in many respects he retained well into the 1950s.

But even before 1900, the Japanese architectural profession had come into its own, cutting its teeth on palaces and ministries, wrestling with notions of urban planning and municipal improvement. There was a bizarre episode of native expressionism followed by a remarkable rationalism, which in itself constitutes a hitherto unknown chapter in the history of the International Style--here illustrated and comprehensively explained for the first time in any Western language. The high modernism of this period was interrupted by nationalistic adventurism in northeast China and the propagation of the militaristic Imperial Crown style. By contrast, after World War II, the Japan Style evolved in the near classical masterpieces of Maekawa, Sakakura, and Tange, all three emulating the French master Le Corbusier. Yet neither the West nor Japan was prepared for the consequences of the Corbusian "Late Style," which more than any other single factor has led to the present dispensation of so-called postmodernism.

David Stewart seeks to explain in a thoroughly new way this sabotaging of Modern Movement ideals by interrogating the early and, then, the mature works of Kazuo Shinohara and Arata Isozaki. The 1960s and early 1970s was thus a period in which a radical aestheticism--or return, in part, to the sukiya ethic--occurred. This is manifest through a dramatic disjuncture with modernism in all the buildings of these two heirs to a Japanese contemporary architectural tradition. The author convincingly links the buildings of these years with a surge of interest in phenomenology, a fascination with the techniques of Russian formalism, and even a Japanese rereading of Proust. Finally, not the least achievement of the book is an explication of "Japanese space," a working notion every Japanese architect is familiar with at an empiric level, although almost totally inaccessible, until now, in the West.

About the Author:

David B. Stewart was born in Washington, D.C., and educated at the Universities of Pennsylvania and London. He has taught in Japan as Visiting Foreign Professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology since 1975. Before that, he was a member of the editorial staff of L'Architecture d'aujourd'hui, in Paris, and has also worked as archivist for an international agency with headquarters in Paris and Washington. He was trained as an architectural historian at the Courtauld Institute of the University of London by the late Professor Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, under whose supervision he earned his Ph.D.

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