[From June Issue 2012]
Japan is a country that holds great fascination for architects. There is something unique about Japan and its architecture, whether it be traditional or contemporary. For a country with a reputation of being conservative, it gives rise to some of the world’s most extraordinary architecture. There seems to be a lack of inhibition that offers architects freedom of expression. There are buildings that seem to serve no purpose. They are simply pieces of urban artwork. In these cases, form certainly does not follow function.
For me, the fascination with Japanese architecture began after I graduated and went to work in Japan. It was the early 1990s and the end of the property bubble. There were some remarkable projects being built by Japanese and foreign architects. Around that time renowned architecture publication, “Japan Architect,” published an edition specifically on Tokyo which contained architectural walking maps. Armed with these walking maps, I spent most weekends seeking out the latest architectural wonder or historic classic.
After I returned to Australia and established my own architectural practice, I maintained a strong connection with Japan. I was able to undertake some projects in Japan and followed the latest news in the Japanese architecture scene. My appreciation and knowledge of Japanese architecture has developed to the point where I now conduct Japan Architecture Tours. On the tours I share my knowledge, appreciation and understanding of Japanese architecture with architects and other people with a general interest in architecture.
There are so many great places to visit in Japan where one can see excellent examples of Japanese architecture. There is Ginza and Omotesando, home to the boutiques of some of the greatest fashion brands in the world; there are the open-air architectural museums such as Meiji-Mura, Nihon Minkaen and Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum which contain old buildings and houses which help us understand Japan’s architectural historical past.
There are the museums and galleries around Roppongi, the skyscraper district of Shinjuku, there is Kyoto, home to UNESCO World Heritage buildings and structures such as Katsura Rikyu, Nijo-jo, Kiyomizu-dera and Kinkaku-ji; there are the quaint little backstreets and alleys that have survived since the Edo period; and of course there are plenty of other wonderful architectural gems dotted throughout the urban landscape. Where else could you see so much architectural variety and history?
Japan is considered by many architects to be at the forefront of architectural design expression. The ever-changing urban and architectural landscape of Japan means there is so much to see on the Japan Architecture Tours. This combined with the warm welcome and generous hospitality, makes it a joy to visit Japan every time.
Text : Robert DAY