Kengo Kuma, life and works of the most influential Japanese architect in the world

Born in 1954 in Yokohama in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, Kengo Kuma is recognized as one of the most important contemporary architects, the only one to appear in the very prestigious 2021 Time 100, the magazine’s list of the 100 most influential personalities on the planet TIME.

Selected among the innovators and already awarded numerous prizes and awards (Architectural Institute of Japan, 1997; Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award, 2002; International Architecture Award for the Best New Global Design, 2007; Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the French Republic, 2009), Same to you succeeds the architects Jeanne Gang, Elizabeth Diller, David Adjaye and Bjarke Ingels, nominated in previous editions.

He is also the author of Victoria & Albert Museum di Dundee in Scotland (2018), a building mentioned by the American magazine in the 2019 World’s Greates Places, and numerous other cultural centers including the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum (2005) and the Suntory Museum of Art in Tokyo (2007); the Stone Museum in Nasu (2000) and the Chokkura Plaza Takanezawa (2006), both in Ashino, Shirakawa and Ooya stone; the Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum in Tarougawa (2010) and the Prostho Museum Research Center in Kasugai-shi (2010), made using a complex system of interlocking wooden strips.

Foto Jeff J. Mitchell via Getty Images

Kengo Kuma he graduated from the faculty of architecture of the Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering in 1979 and, around the mid-1980s, he attended Columbia University GSAPP in New York as a visiting researcher; other significant experiences will follow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Keio University, where in 2008 he will obtain his PhD.

In 1987 he founded the Spatial Design Studio atelier – then Kengo Kuma & Associates – with offices in Tokyo and Paris, and becomes a professor at theTokyo University, a position that he still carries out by conducting a series of research projects concerning architecture, urban planning and design within the laboratory And Lab.

Often compared to his contemporaries Shigeru Ban and Kazuyo Sejima, Kuma is also known for his critical texts, among which stands out Anti-object: The Dissolution and Disintegration of Architecture (2008), and for the “unexpected and innovative” approach which, through a careful study of the place and an accurate use of materials and light, intends to reinterpret the Japanese tradition.

Intent of“Relationship architecture” of Kuma, conceived as a natural derivation of the context in harmony with the construction techniques and the Japanese culture, is to achieve a situation of balance with the surrounding environment and to establish a healthy relationship with it, so that it is respected and not dominated by the new .

Testimonies of this language are the residences Plastic House of Tokyo (2002), la Great Bamboo Wall House in Beijing (2002); there Stone Roof and Nagano (2010) and the Water/Glass House to Atami (1995), the most dated and experimental, conceived as “a total environment in which everything dissolves, where there is no disarticulation of spaces and where borders disappear”; built over a pool of water facing the ocean, this particular villa is inspired by Bruno Taut’s Hyuga (1936), in turn influenced by the imperial villa of Katsura dating back to the 17th century.

Kuma’s antidote to the excessive Western “objectification”, put into practice by the architecture of the “desirable and the possible”, is a materiality with emotional capacities well separated from the reckless “concrete method”. Wood, stone, ceramic, aluminum, metal mesh, bamboo, plastic and vinyl, together with the expressive decorated facades and the “spatial immateriality” granted by glass and light, are in fact part of Kuma’s “losing architecture”, that idea of architecture which, according to Kenjiro Hosaka, director of the Shiga Museum of Art and curator of the exhibition Kuma Kengo: Five Purr-fect Points for a New Public Space at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, it is made up of intricate buildings scattering around them.

Foto SOPA Images via Getty Images

Foto SOPA Images via Getty Images

For example, the very recent installation created on the occasion of the reopening of Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, ​​consisting of 164 thousand meters of chain Kriskadecor that create luminous and chromatic games together with geometric verticality effects due to the different heights of the metal curtains; while the exception, in terms of evanescence, is the new one Japan National Stadium in Tokyo (fulcrum of the 2020 Summer Olympics), an oval-shaped facility whose green facade is composed of cantilevered structures made with wood from the Japanese prefectures, and other large buildings such as the Hongkou Soho skyscraper in Shanghai (2015), entirely clad with vertical retiform aluminum structures; L’Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center in Tokyo (2012), a tower consisting of six superimposed volumes whose attics echo the sloping roofs of traditional houses; The Darling Exchange in Sydney, a community civic center enveloped, like a nest, by a dynamic curved facade animated by 20 km of acetylated radiata pine strips; and the great cultural centers built in France, including the City of Arts and Culture of Besançon (2012) and the FRAC (Regional Contemporary Art Fund) di Marseille (2012).

Among the most significant works for in progress, the complex Welcome, feeling at work, visionary workplace designed by Kengo Kuma for Europe Resources.
A waterfall of greenery perfectly integrated into the surrounding nature of the Lambro Park (former Rizzoli area) in Milan. An example of organic architecture with a marked horizontality, eco-sustainable and biophilic, dove wood and vegetation are protagonists, with ultra-sophisticated technological requirements and zero CO2 emissions.

This ambitious project proposes “a work environment model that promotes corporate innovation in favor of sustainability”, And funded by a fund managed by PineBridge Benson Elliot and will be completed in 2024.

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