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




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 its 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.




Designed as a collection of ten distinct residential units, the boundaries 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. The lights change gradually over the course of each hour, displaying the space at different times of the day from dusk till dawn.




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.




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 70s. 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.



Photo: Architectural Review – 1975


Subsequently, in the late 1970s 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.



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.


By Jennifer Ring



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