The Japanese House: Architecture and life after 1945

With the UK’s first major exhibition showcasing Japanese domestic architecture, the Barbican curates an impressive show of visionary design, highlighting the relationship between home and the self.

 

“Life can’t be contained within a single lot. People’s sense of living expands beyond it, effectively erasing all borders.” – Ryue Nishizawa

 

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At the heart of this ambitious exhibition is a full scale version of the Moriyama House designed by Ryue Nishizawa in 2005. The structure intertwines with the brutalist fabric of the Barbican’s inner walls, evoking the relationship between the architecture and it’s original surroundings in metropolitan Tokyo. Where the gallery walls meet the architecture of the house the construction is parted to reveal sections of the interior’s domestic space.

 

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Designed as a collection of ten distinct residential units, the boundary’s are blurred between private and public spaces throughout, as neighbours can wander between units through the meandering garden.

The lighting, a pivotal element within Japanese architecture, is not forgotten within this depiction of the Moriyama House as the lights change gradually over the course of each hour, displaying the space at different times of the day from dusk till dawn.

 

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The furniture and objects on display within the house were carefully curated with assistance from the owner of the original Moriyama house, proposing to portray the experience of his home and personality in their entirety.

 

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The exhibition goes on to highlight some of the more playful and often eccentric approaches to architecture such as – Face House by Kazumasa Yamashita – 1974.

The construction of which illuminated an otherwise lacklustre street in Kyoto in the early 70’s. Architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown were said to have described the work as “a decorated shed” – a building in which a symbolic façade is applied to a utilitarian structure.

 

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Photo: Architectural Review – 1975

 

Subsequently, in the late 1970’s Architect Takefumi Aida, adopted a similar playful approach to his own design process, this time in response to the modernist fixation with reason and functionality. The design is essentially based around solid geometric forms, creating a visual language that references scaled up wooden toy blocks.

 

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Takefumi Aida – Toy Block House – 1979

Photo: Aida Doi Architects

 

The exhibition provides a truly inspiring insight into Japanese architecture from the post war period to the present day. It’s not long now until my much anticipated trip to Japan this Autumn, when I’ll be delving deeper into the country’s rich culture of design, craft and architecture.

 

 

 

 

La Ricarda: Mid-century modern in Catalonia

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As we approached “La Ricarda” through various hectares of land overflowing with Mediterranean flora, Marita Gomis explained the history of the family home commissioned by her parents more than 60 years ago.

Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Bonet i Castellana for the Gomis Betrand family, “La Ricarda” (also known as the Casa Gomis), is an archetype of mid-century modern design in the area.

Located in the town of Prat de Llobregat and backing on to a wide stretch of open coastline, the house is nestled within a large estate, surrounded by pine trees.

 

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Originally designed in 1953, the house wasn’t completed until 1963. Bonet was living in Argentina at the time and directed the project remotely, which resulted in a lengthy communication and construction process. Coincidently, the build was managed by Emilio Bofill, the father of Ricardo Bofill – whose architecture studio I also visited here.

Upon entering, the principal reception space is immediately impressive and bathed in natural light thanks to a full height glass wall showcasing an interior atrium. This close connection between interior and exterior space continues throughout the house.

 

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The structure is composed of a series of vaulted ceilings, typical of the Catalan construction style. Whilst the internal space is incredibly open, interior walls provide separation but stop short of full height, enabling light to disperse through the whole house.

 

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La Ricarda and it’s contents have been perfectly preserved thanks to the dedication of the Gomis family, the original surfaces, textiles and furniture remain intact, almost in their entirety.

Marita explained that the majority of furniture was also designed by the architect and custom made for the house. In addition there are various carefully curated international elements, such as the Danish chairs by Hans J Wegner and the Japanese low wooden coffee table. The result is a blend of styles that all compliment each other perfectly, with a colour palette boasting muted ochre, soft sage green and tan.

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The enormous central living room is divided into distinct areas, surrounding a central fireplace and includes a “mesa de juegos” – games table.

 

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A system of interlocking bricks each filled with different coloured glass, forms a main feature of the construction and can be seen throughout the house.

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During the last 15 years of Franco’s Spain, Ricardo Gomis opened his home as a cultural refuge to some of the countries leading creative figures, including Joan Miro and Antoni Tàpies. Standing in the dining room conjures up images of them having dinner around the vast wooden table.

 

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Many thanks to Marita Gomis and family, for the opportunity to discover their iconic home.

 

Images & Text by: Jennifer Ring 

A brutalist oasis in Barcelona.

 

Last week I travelled just outside of Barcelona to visit the studio and private residence of local architect Ricardo Bofill. Perhaps better known for his infamous work “La Muralla Roja”, an unmistakable labyrinth of colour that lies on the coast of southern Spain.

“La Fabrica “ on the outskirts of the Catalonian city, however, may be one of the architects lesser-known works. An abandoned cement factory dating back to the turn of the century was discovered by Bofill in 1973 and transformed over the following years.

 

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The majority of the industrial elements from the building’s previous life have been preserved in the imposing structure. From the naked concrete interior walls to the huge mixing vessels suspended from the ceiling in the cavernous main space.

 

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What’s most striking about this place is the marriage of the industrial with the natural. The man-made and the wild sit next to each other in harmonious contrast.

This colossal structure, that echoes the raw aesthetics of brutalism, is surrounded by a calm oasis of greenery. Climbing plants envelope the exterior walls, whilst eucalyptus and olive trees fill the interior courtyards.

 

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Comprised of a maze of cylindrical forms, the construction boasts surreal winding staircases that lead to circular workspaces. An abundance of curves frame each and every one of the windows and doors, all of which were installed during the process of renovation.

 

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It’s easy to get lost in the otherworldly warren of concrete chambers at La Fabrica. The contrasting architectural language references the surreal, the romantic and the brutalist all at the same time. As we leave through the lush palm filled garden, a bright green gecko runs across the lawn affirmatively. Reminding us that this is still the Mediterranean.

 

Images and text by: Jennifer Ring

 

Creator’s Home: Finn Juhl

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In the autumn of last year we set out on a creative pilgrimage, to the epicentre of Scandinavian design, Copenhagen. Not having visited Denmark before, I was keen to discover the birthplace of iconic contemporary design brands, such as the beloved HAY and Ferm Living.

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At the time I wasn’t familiar with the name Finn Juhl. But, a little poking around quickly uncovered an outstanding portfolio of design classics. Known predominantly for his furniture designs, Juhl was a pioneer of the mid century modern aesthetic.

After discovering that his home, a short trip outside of the city, was preserved and opened to the public in 2008, I added a visit to the top of my to do list.

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Built in 1942, Finn Juhl’s house was one of few architectural projects from the designer, in which his aim was to create a home where everything was designed by his own hand, even down to the smallest details such as the cutlery.

The house represents an early example of open plan, with a great sense of connection between each space. Composed of two blocks at right angles together envelope the garden and encourage views to the outside space.

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The space houses many examples of hand-crafted furniture, realised by master joiners in the region. With the mid century timber of choice, teak, featuring heavily and adding to the warmth of the space.

Juhl’s own designs sit alongside artworks and sculpture that he collected from other creatives during the period, giving a wonderful insight into his personal vision. One of my favourite’s, was this geometric rug in the reception area, from textile designer Anna Thommesen.

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Our visit to Copenhagen fell in late October, the city was filled with autumn colours and the air was so cold you could see your breath. The timing couldn’t be more perfect to appreciate the Danish obsession with “Hygge”. A concept that seems to be perfectly defined here, in the home of Finn Juhl.

 

Images and text by: Jennifer Ring