Posts tagged with "Japan Society":

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Building of the Day: the Japan Society

This is the twenty-sixth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! During an Archtober Building of the Day tour of the Japan Society, visitors learned how the building’s architecture echoes the organization’s mission to deepen the cultural dialogue between the US and Japan. Archtober guide Michael Chagnon, PhD, curator of exhibition interpretation at the Japan Society, delved into the history of the organization and its current location. Founded in 1907, the Japan Society shut down its operations during World War II and was revived by John D. Rockefeller III, an avid Asian art collector. When the organization outgrew the home it originally shared with the Asia Society, Rockefeller secured the land in Turtle Bay and commissioned Tokyo-based modernist architect Junzo Yoshimura to design the Japan Society a new home. In his design, Yoshimura, a student of Antonin Raymond (a Frank Lloyd Wright disciple), masterfully blends traditional Japanese residential language with the bold, almost Brutalist lines and reinforced concrete of American Modernism. Chagnon pointed out several elements on the building’s facade traditionally found in Japanese homes: the low-slung diagonal fence, typical of Kyoto’s Edo period; the elegantly rhythmic vertical storm window grates, or amado; and surare, horizontal screens, usually of bamboo, and here rendered in steel. These references continue in the Japan Society’s lobby, where the ceiling’s exposed concrete combines with delicate wood slats of Japanese cypress, known for releasing a lemon-scented aroma when heated. According to Chagnon, although Yoshimura intended for visitors to have a full sensorial experience upon entering the building, the New York City Fire Department demanded that the slats be coated in flame retardant. A bamboo pond at the end of the garden, once still and serene, now bubbles with the addition of a waterfall. A few other elements of Yoshimura’s original design have also changed, particularly after a renovation in the 1990’s by Beyer Blinder Belle. As the organization, which hosts everything from Noh theater performances to exhibitions on Japanese prints and anime and lectures on sake, continued to expand, its space needed to grow accordingly. Beyer Blinder Belle added two floors, which more than doubled the available gallery space. And while sacrifices have been made in the name of the organization, we can rest assured that the building, the first in New York City built by a Japanese modernist architect, will remain. In 2011, at the age of 40, it became the youngest landmark building by the State’s Landmark Preservation Committee. About the author: Camila Schaulsohn is the Communications Director and Editor-in-Chief of the AIA New York Newsletter.
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Fumihiko Maki says architects who know better should speak up in the public’s interest

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. 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. 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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Brilliant Bamboo

Morigami Jin's Reclining II

It’s hard enough to see all the gallery exhibitions devoted to architecture in any given New York City week, but if I also try to visit design shows, it takes every waking moment. (I missed the top floor of MoMA’s Home Delivery show, for god’s sake, even though I caught the prefabs on West 54th Street.) New Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Masters at the Japan Society is a show I read about in the A/N diary and kept thinking: “I should run up and see this.” Well, it closes on Sunday, and I would have never gotten there if New York sculptor Stephen Talasnik had not reminded me that I had promised to look at his bamboo pieces. I ran up this morning, and the show is indeed full of the most extraordinary bamboo designs—from Talasnik’s Bunraku-inspired black basswood and bamboo sculptures, suspended over the central water fountain, to Kawashime Shigeo’s delicate constructions and Morigami Jin’s inwardly-folded Reclining II. For the young architects who think they are creating folded baroque shapes for the first time on CNC milling machines, note well: These objects are all hand made. There is so much more to see, but you need to get there before Sunday afternoon at 5:00! 

Stephen Talasnik's suspended fountain sculptures
Kawashime Shigeo’s Drawing to the Sky