The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945

You can always seem to count on the Barbican Centre to know how to execute an exhibition to the very best. Their modern approach feels fresh while offering a new way of thinking in curation and delivery. After leaving an exhibition at the Barbican Centre, I always find myself amazed at their ability to immerse you into an artist way of life and thinking or for you to leave understanding a whole new subject. Not only does The Japanese House – Architecture and Life After 1945 tell a fascinating story of Japanese homes post-Second World War but opens up a debate on the purpose of a home and it’s ability to adapt to a rapidly changing society.

It only seems fitting for such an exhibition to be held at the Barbican Centre. The widespread devastation in Tokyo and other cities across Japan during the war called for an urgent need for new houses to be built. Yet Japan resisted to build rows of public housing blocks and use the opportunity to use the single family home as a source for architectural experimentation. Britain may have built those row of public housing blocks but the Barbican Complex, a great example of experimenting with architecture and life, occupies a site that once felt the effects from the London Blitz.

In the heart of the exhibition is a full-scale recreation of The Moriyama House (2005), designed in Tokyo by Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) inhabited by the “enigmatic urban hermit” Yasuo Moriyama. The Moriyama House blurs the boundaries between inside and outside, public and private and can be easily adapted to create a single home or a series of apartments. Bunny-eared dining chairs inhabit the rooms with amusing toy objects to libraries of DVD and magazine collections revealing the hidden tastes of Mr. Moriyama. As the lighting changes from dusk to night and back to daylight, casting shadows on the house as you move from each room, you understand a real sense of Mr. Moriyama’s everyday life.

With Japanese architecture’s average 25 year lifespan, there is a need and hunger for the new. Year-by-year, each generation proposes a new set of ideas and questions what a house could or should be, leaving Japan with an amazing varied landscape of a range of different solutions while fusing traditional and modern building techniques.

The Japanese House and the Barbican Centre only begins to tell the story of Japanese architecture as well as the role of a home in Japanese culture. Yet it does leave a lasting impression on the purpose of a home, whether it should it be a space for personal expression or to be functional but also puts into question of the purpose of architecture and its ability to influence our daily routines and interactions.

“Rainy day is nice too.”

All photos are my own.

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