Currently at the Barbican Centre is an ambitious and multifaceted exhibition exploring minimalist Japanese architecture from WWII to present, through drawing, photography, modelling, installation and film.
The first part of The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 (to 25 June) discusses how the country’s changing national identity influenced its architecture and design. Starting with the Allied Occupation – and Western values being forced on traditional culture – to the ‘Bubble’ era of the late 1980s and tensions between modern consumerism and traditional spirituality. Other ideas explored include women’s changing role in the home and the influences of Le Corbusier.
The second part is a full-size recreation of the 10-room Moriyama House designed by Ryue Nishizawa (from SANAA), which allows visitors to experience the theories discussed in part one for themselves.
Despite the variety of displays, the exhibition only discusses buildings with a clean, minimalist aesthetic. Such repetition leaves this reviewer questioning if Japanese architecture has become stagnant of late, especially if the past decade has remained largely similar. A wider range of styles – both beautiful and vulgar – would have shown the significance of worthwhile buildings more clearly, and also be more representative of the real situation.