Fumihiko Maki says architects who know better should speak up in the public’s interest

Architecture International Newsletter
Fumihiko Maki addresses the Japan Society in New York. (James Way)

Fumihiko Maki addresses the Japan Society in New York. (James Way)

Octogenarian Fumihiko Maki shows no signs of slowing down, based on his presentation last night at the Japan Society in New York City. Going back as far as only the mid-1990s, the Pritzker Prize winner showed a handful of projects that, as moderator Toshiko Mori said, eschew a signature style yet are identifiably Maki buildings.

A young Fumihiko Maki points toward a drawing of a library at Washington University in St. Louis. (James Way)

A young Fumihiko Maki points toward a drawing of a library at Washington University in St. Louis. (James Way)

From the beautiful Kaze-no-oka Crematorium (1997) in Nakatsu (which Maki reported a townsperson complimentarily said, “Now we can die in peace.”) and the equally off the beaten path Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo (2006) to international projects in New York, Toronto, and Patna, India, Maki showed a wide range of materials, forms, and conceptual reasoning that went into each, but mostly it comes down to the context. “Architecture must establish a rapport with the people, that’s more important than architectural critique,” professed Maki.

Toshiko Mori and Maki at the Japan Society. (James Way)

Toshiko Mori and Maki at the Japan Society. (James Way)

Maki explained that his influences were a combination of fellow countryman Kenzo Tange and his professor at Harvard, Josep Luis Sert, of course with a dash of omnipresent Le Corbusier, who Maki noted “was always wearing bowties.” These connections to the Metabolists and CIAM helped launch Maki’s lifelong career as a theorist and commentator, most recently in his highly public opposition to Zaha Hadid’s design for the New National Stadium in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics. Maki defended his position saying, “An architect who knows better has a responsibility to point out to the public” faults of scale, cost, context and the limited time to develop the design.

Also of timing, Mori and Maki discussed the imminent demise of the classic Hotel Okura Tokyo. The mid-century icon designed by Yoshiroo Taniguchi is slated for demolition in September to make way for a new hotel to service Olympic tourists. The pair hope that minimally the lobby could be relocated and preserved.

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