His projects have been widely praised for their beauty, clarity and attention to detail. One of the key issues in the architecture of Kengo Kuma is the way it responds to its setting. Unlike many important figures of Western modernism, who have promoted the idea of the isolated architectural object, his work attempts to have a tight fight with its immediate context. Architecture Words is a series of texts and important essays on architecture written by architects, critics and scholars. Like many aspects of everyday life, contemporary architectural culture is dominated by an endless production and consumption of images, graphics and information.
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I am opposed to the presence and atmosphere of certain works of architecture that I have chosen to call objects. Whether or not a building is an object is determined by its character rather than its architectural style. To be precise, an object is a form of material existence distinct from its immediate environment. I do not deny that all buildings, as points of singularity created by humankind in the environment, are to some extent objects.
However, buildings that are deliberately made distinct from their environment are very different from those that attempt to mitigate this isolation, and the difference is perceptible to everyone who experiences them. I set out to criticise buildings that are isolated from their environment and eventually came to realise that all architectural styles are open to criticism. I had gone by train to Atami, a well-known resort in Shizuoka Prefecture, where I had been commissioned to design a small guest-house on top of a hill.
Following my map, I took a narrow path up from the station and after ten minutes I arrived at the site. I walked around, checking views of the sea and of the mountain that rose inland. Then, as a courtesy, I called on the neighbouring house to inform the owner of the impending construction work. This house was modest and compact, with a look typical of prewar domestic architecture.
Two storeys high, and made of timber, it blended in with the carefully tended pine trees in the grounds. At the back of the house was a veritable hanging garden — a lawn supported by concrete columns and beams jutting out over a steep, seaward slope.
The client had the idea of creating a basement within this structure, and asked Taut to design the interior. Though the basement could be equipped with windows to let in light, there was no opportunity to design an architectural form as such. This was not the sort of commission one would normally expect a professional architect to undertake, let alone one with an international reputation.
Taut not only took on the project, but expressed his satisfaction with the result in a letter he wrote to a friend in Berlin. Ordinarily, a building is considered an object — an independent material object distinct from its environment. The public perceives buildings to be objects, and that is also the perception of most architects. When one speaks of a beautiful work of architecture, one generally means the work in question is a beautiful object.
By an excellent architect one generally means an architect with the ability to design beautiful objects. Taut questioned such a conception of architecture. He abhorred objects, believing that architecture was more a matter of relationships. The basement is half-buried in the ground and connected to its surroundings. It is incapable of being perceived as an independent object. One might even liken it to a parasite, living off its environment. It is an anti-object.
Taut did not begin his architectural career thinking that architecture was about relationships; he arrived at this idea only in a roundabout way. However, before discussing that visit, we need to consider the origins of his abhorrence of objects. The two tendencies apparent in these works — conforming to an old architectural tradition and resolving 5 ANTI-OBJECT the demands of contemporary industry — were already present in my early youth. So there were two different tendencies in my youth: on the one hand romanticism, on the other two or three architectural solutions, sensational at the time, in which I used steel, reinforced concrete, an abundance of glass and a variety of intense colours.
This philosophy was based on an awareness of dichotomies — Kant searched for them everywhere, avoiding all facile preestablished notions of harmony. This set him apart both from Descartes, who preceded him, and from later philosophers such as Hegel. Taut saw himself as torn between romanticism and objectivism, between visionary tendencies and a faith in technology. The world as envisioned by classicism was a collection of objects ruled by a rigorous order, existing independently of the subject.
This dichotomy came to trouble architects with the classical revival during the Renaissance. The Renaissance technique of perspective was considered to be part of the same conceptual framework as the neoclassical approach, which was to govern architecture through geometry.
As a mathematically based method of drawing, perspective induces a rigorous geometrical composition. At a stroke, the objectivity of the neoclassical world is destroyed. The dichotomy between consciousness and object is exposed, expressed in the disparity between the space depicted through perspective and the space actually experienced by the subject.
At the centre of the perspective, the disparity is so small it can be ignored. However, on the margins of the drawing it takes the form of an enormous distortion. If the subject begins to move and shift his viewpoint, the static spatial perception achieved through perspective is rendered practically useless.
This shows how complex an operation the perception of three-dimensional space really is. The only way to eliminate the dichotomy between subject and object is through stage-set architecture, in the style of Leon Battista Alberti. The Renaissance was a period when architecture was object-oriented, conceived as a rigorous and transparent structure based on mathematical proportions. When a subject was introduced into the space, this was revealed as an illusion.
The rigorous composition and proportions existed only when seen from upon high, from a godlike viewpoint. The moment the viewpoint was lowered to ground level all geometries lost their effect. Premised on this human viewpoint, design became a matter of deciding how to distort and deform architecture effectively.
Architecture gradually became more subject-oriented. The painstakingly transparent structures of the Renaissance were transformed into distorted, exaggerated objects, that is, baroque architecture.
Design came to be based, not on geometry, but on perceptual effect. The baroque style was, in turn, eventually supplanted by neoclassicism, where a building was typically an independent object standing in the midst of nature. The Petit Trianon in the gardens of Versailles is a representative neoclassical work — a pure form in stark contrast to the palace proper, a grand, distorted exercise in the baroque.
Neoclassical buildings were typically designed to be viewed from a distance, thus avoiding the distortion inherent in perspective and solving the problem of the dichotomy between object and subject. At least on the outside: the interiors were another matter. Architects were well aware that the neoclassical solution was ineffective when the distance between object and subject could not be maintained, so they had no qualms about abandoning geometry and adopting the naturalistic and ornamental rococo style for interiors.
Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas. How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety?
Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from experience. Since architects had been corrupted by an object-oriented way of thinking, it was left to members of a new, untainted profession to develop an empiricist design method in the form of the landscape garden. The English landscape garden was conceived as a series of qualitatively different experiences rather than as a single entity ruled by some overarching geometry.
Any inconsistencies in those experiences were of no consequence. A masonry pavilion in a medieval European style might occupy one spot, a Chinese pagoda another. From above, these mutually incompatible fragments were seen to be connected by a continuous path. An observer that is, the subject followed this path around the garden and at any one moment was able to experience only the fragment that was before his eyes. This was the condition imposed on each individual, so these fragments, no matter how diverse and incongruous, never seemed inconsistent.
The landscape garden made manifest the position of empiricism. Kant took this position into account but was critical of the empiricist method. He proposed that we cannot accurately know the objective order of the world merely by accumulating sensory perceptions. I liked the descending approach. Walking down to a building is very different from walking up to one. A building on a higher level is seen against the sky; you have to look up at it and acknowledge its presence as an object.
A building on a lower level, on the other hand, is difficult to see. In extreme cases, you may be right on top of it before you know. Beneath this lawn is a narrow, dimly lit space containing an addition designed by Bruno Taut. There is no outward hint of the existence of the space — the architecture is made to disappear, far more effectively than any conventional basement. Moreover, there is no lower vantage point from which you can look up at the building, so precipitously does the land rise from the sea.
Nor does the access road on the upper level reveal its presence; from there all you see are the trees growing on the cliff. It is doubly absent. The building is visually shielded in nearly all directions. To make a building without a display exterior, as such, the architect must relinquish the use of forms and abandon the idea of making an object.
In this there is no contradiction. Architecture can never be closed off completely. That is the premise of my work. One may enclose space with walls and bury it underground, but architecture is always situated in — and connected to — the world. More precisely, architecture is a device mediating between the subject i. The goal of this project was to reconfirm that fact. Establishing the relationship between the subject and the world happens to be the goal of the intellectual occupation we call philosophy.
That being so, the goal of this project can be said to be an engagement in philosophy through architecture. There are two forms of connection between subject and world: the frame and the floor. A typical example of a device for visually framing the world is a window punched into a wall. For the device to function effectively, there must be a certain distance between the subject and the world. The frame selects some particular element of the disordered environment while screening out all other elements.
Through this process of elimination, it generates an object — an object summoned from the outside world. Thus the frame form is another name for objectification.
I am opposed to the presence and atmosphere of certain works of architecture that I have chosen to call objects. Whether or not a building is an object is determined by its character rather than its architectural style. To be precise, an object is a form of material existence distinct from its immediate environment. I do not deny that all buildings, as points of singularity created by humankind in the environment, are to some extent objects. However, buildings that are deliberately made distinct from their environment are very different from those that attempt to mitigate this isolation, and the difference is perceptible to everyone who experiences them. I set out to criticise buildings that are isolated from their environment and eventually came to realise that all architectural styles are open to criticism.
He then moved to New York City for further studies at Columbia University as a visiting researcher from to Kuma lectures extensively and is the author of numerous books and articles discussing and criticizing approaches in contemporary architecture. His seminal text Anti-Object: The Dissolution and Disintegration of Architecture written in , calls for an architecture of relations, respecting its surroundings instead of dominating them. Instead, he goes much deeper, extending to the mechanisms of composition to expand the possibilities of materiality. He utilizes technological advancements which can challenge unexpected materials, such as stone, into providing the same sense of lightness and softness as glass or wood. The place is a result of nature and time; this is the most important aspect. I think my architecture is some kind of frame of nature.