What makes Japanese Architects So Significant? Vol. 03

Architects Who Won Competitions to Design Famous Museums

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Taro Igarashi
Taro Igarashi

Architectural historian, critic, and professor

Born in 1967, Mr. Igarashi graduated from the Graduate School of University of Tokyo in 1992 and later obtained a Ph.D and now serves as a professor at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan. He was the commissioner for the Japanese pavilion at the 11th International Architecture Exhibition Biennale in Venice in 2008, and the artistic director for Aichi Triennale in 2013. He was the supervisor of the Legendary Houses in Postwar Japan exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in Saitama and served as curator for the exhibition of Architecture since 3.11 at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa. He was ranked 64th in the newcomer category of the Ministry of Education’s Award for Fine Arts. Works include: What I Thought About While Walking the Disaster-stricken Areas(『被災地を歩きながら考えたこと』,Misuzu Shobo)

Expansion of MOMA by Yoshio Taniguchi

 

In the early 2000s the New York skyline began a period of change as buildings designed by Japanese architects started to appear through-out the city. During the redevelopment of Ground Zero, Fumihiko Maki (1928- ) designed the Four World Trade Center in 2013 to contextually match the spatial atmosphere of the city. Jun Aoki (1956- ) designed a series of Louis Vuitton stores starting from Nagoya, Japan, and also designed the LOUIS VUITTON NEW YORK in 2004. IN 2007, SANAA (Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates) designed the New Museum, a contemporary art museum that resembles randomly stacked boxes. It was a challenge designing the concept while following the strict height and size restrictions but never the less SANAA created a very unique building.

 

Four World Trade Center, Fumihiko Maki ©TARO IGARASHI

Four World Trade Center, Fumihiko Maki ©TARO IGARASHI

 

LOUIS VUITTON NY, Jun Aoki ©TARO IGARASHI

LOUIS VUITTON NY, Jun Aoki ©TARO IGARASHI

 

New Museum, SANAA ©TARO IGARASHI

New Museum, SANAA ©TARO IGARASHI

 

Yoshio Taniguchi (1937- ), designer of the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, a work so remarkable that it gave him the prestige necessary to win the competition for the expansion of MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art, New York) which quite remarkably featured famous architects such as Herzog & de Meuron (a unit of Jacques Herzog (1950- ) and Pierre de Meuron (1944- )) and Bernard Tschumi (1944- ) among his competitors. The construction of MoMA finished in 2004 and is renowned for its attractive modern design. As you wander through the corridors you can catch glimpses of the city as well as exhibitions. In 1929 MoMA opened as the world’s first modern art museum, and ever since it has led the art stream of the 20th century. The MoMA’s prestige as an art museum means that the international reputation of Japanese architects like Yoshio Taniguchi are so high that there works can stand with some of the most respected institutions in the world.

 

MOMA, Yoshio Taniguchi ©TARO IGARASHI

MOMA, Yoshio Taniguchi ©TARO IGARASHI

 

Taniguchi’s father, Yoshiro Taniguchi (1904 – 1979) was a well-known architect who designed the National Museum of Modern Art, in Tokyo, also known as MOMAT and the Tokyo National Museum Toyo-kan. Taniguchi worked under Kenzo Tange (1913 – 2005), and this background proves that Taniguchi is a thoroughbred. He is known for his great works in museum architecture such as the Shiseido Art House (1978), Ken Domon Museum of Photography (1983), Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art (1991) and the Tokyo National Museum – The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures (1999). Many of his works are featured in museums through-out Japan. In recent years, he has worked on the HEISEI CHISHINKAN Wing of the Kyoto National Museum which opened in 2014. Taniguchi’s design is urbanely sensible as it is based on a north south axis designed for the grid structure of urban Kyoto. This sensibility most likely was inherited from Kenzo Tange. The reflection of the shimmering light that is beautifully reflected into the room from the front water surface is a commonly seen theme in other museums designed by Taniguchi. Although no typical Japanese element is used, a sense of tranquility, an important aspect of Japanese design, gives the atmosphere Taniguchi.

 

HEISEI CHISHINKAN Wing, Yoshio Taniguchi ©TARO IGARASHI

HEISEI CHISHINKAN Wing, Yoshio Taniguchi ©TARO IGARASHI

 

HEISEI CHISHINKAN Wing, Yoshio Taniguchi ©TARO IGARASHI

HEISEI CHISHINKAN Wing, Yoshio Taniguchi ©TARO IGARASHI

 

Louvre-Lens by SANAA

 

The Louvre-Lens designed by SANAA (Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates) won the Prix de l’Équerre d’Argent of 2013, an award for prominent architecture in France. It opened in December 2012 as a branch of the Louvre Museum in Lens, a city that once flourished as a coal mine. It is a simple structure consisting of five rectangular compartments each connected to another at their corners for a length of 360 meters. Another location that you can see the unique techniques of SANAA is the use of transparency for the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa. While staying conscious of the relationship with the surrounding landscapes, SANAA successfully designed the environment so that the outer walls, made of glass and aluminum, reflect the scenery. Also the mirror finish on the walls of the permanent exhibition space create a visual effect of a nonexistent extra room. The art exhibits are also quite unique. In a huge room, pictures are not hung on walls, instead the paintings and sculptures are placed randomly, like trees in a forest, to take the visitor through 6000-years of time travel.

 

Louvre Lens, SANAA ©TARO IGARASHI

Louvre Lens, SANAA ©TARO IGARASHI

 

Taking a closer look, you will notice that the walls and floors are not straight. It gradually curves and this causes a slight twist in the space. As a matter of fact, the architecture is curved in accordance with the raised landscape left behind from a former railway track. However, the form does not have a clear bend, and neither are the curves an expression of art. The viewer who does not know that there is a slight curve will subconsciously experience the effects of the curving lines. You may be interested to know that in the competition for Louvre-Lens, SANAA was chosen over Zaha Hadid (1950- ) as the designer. On the contrary, in the competition of the New National Stadium Japan, Zaha’s proposal of a UFO-shaped design won over SANAA. SANAA and Zaha have a rivalry as architects, but both have completely different ways of using curves. Zaha uses bold curves that can be noticed by anyone to create the type of architecture that becomes landmarks. On the other hand, SANAA’s objective is not to emphasize the curves. They calculate how the architecture can interact with its surrounding landscapes, blend in to the environment and cause a fluctuation in the large space.

 

Centre Pompidou Metz by Shigeru Ban

 

Centre Pompidou Metz, Shigeru Ban ©TARO IGARASHI

Centre Pompidou Metz, Shigeru Ban ©TARO IGARASHI

 

In Metz, France, the annex of the Centre Pompidou designed by Shigeru Ban (1957- ) opened in 2010. It has become the new symbol of the town and features a roof made of wood weaved into a wire-mesh structure with a deeply surging form. This is probably an expanded version of the roof that graced the Japanese Pavilion Ban designed for the EXPO 2000 HANOVER. Under the great roof, in the shape of a hat, there are 3 rectangular “Gallery Tubes” which are 15 meters wide and 90 meters deep. The Gallery Tubes are stacked crossing over each other. A hexagon elevator tower in the center functionally connect the spaces. The clear-cut traffic stream line is similar to that of Ban’s Nicolas G. Hayek Center in Ginza, Japan (2007). At the end of the opposite facing tubes, there are large glass openings, from them one can enjoy scenic viewpoint of the town similar to a classical painting, with the cathedral and central station perfectly positioned in view. The Centre Pompidou Metz is a piece of work that can be considered as the compilation of Ban’s works in architecture.

 

The Tamedia New Office Building. Shigeru Ban

The Tamedia New Office Building. Shigeru Ban by 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia

 

The Tamedia New Office Building in Switzerland (2013) is a revolutionary structure consisting of 7 stories and entirely made of wood. Ban’s persistence to paper and wood, movable partitions, and the continuity from the inside to the outside, evoke the characteristics of Japanese traditional architecture, but at the same time he incorporates modern techniques as a way of contemporary exploration. Ban is also known for his participation in disaster relief projects all over the world; such as the Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, and the Wenchuan Earthquake. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, he designed temporary houses and a new station building in Onagawacho using piled containers. The Oita Prefectural Art Museum that opened in April, 2015 is also his work.

 

The Tamedia New Office Building Mockup ©TARO IGARASHI

The Tamedia New Office Building Mockup ©TARO IGARASHI

 

The expansion of MOMA, the Louvre-Lens and the Centre Pompidou Metz are all projects that won in international competitions. Despite the fact that Japanese art is not main stream in the international world of art, many of the buildings where famous pieces of art are contained are designed by Japanese architects. The MOMA, Louvre, and Pompidou are no ordinary museums, but are celebrated brand-name facilities. The design capacity of Japanese architects is something to be very proud of, but unfortunately these architects are still yet to be known in Japan.

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