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The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at barbican.org.uk

Introducing The Japanese House

In our upcoming exhibition, we’re bringing the outside in, and the inside out, as we explore the styles, inspirations and culture of Japanese domestic architecture in The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945.

Our homes and our personalities are intrinsically linked but none more so than in Japanese architecture where the needs of a building’s residents inform its very construction. From the end of the Second World War to now, this exhibition will celebrate this chapter of Japanese architecture, presenting some of the most ground-breaking architectural projects of the last 70 years, many of which have never been exhibited in the UK.

At the heart of the exhibition is an ambitious and unprecedented full-size recreation of the Moriyama House (2005) by Pritzker-prize winning architect Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) – considered to be one of the most important houses of the 21st century.

Moriyama House, 2005; Office of Ryue Nishizawa © Takashi Homma

In a radical decomposition of the conventional house, this building consists of ten individual units, separated by an exterior garden – soon to be reconstructed in our Art Gallery space, intertwined within our Brutalist architecture. You’ll be able to weave in and out to explore the fully furnished units and garden, imagining how it might be to live there. Each room will be furnished with hundreds of objects including books, music and films to recreate the world of the house’s owner, Yasuo Moriyama. More than a mere architectural model, this 1:1 recreation forms a portrait of Moriyama – a reclusive collector who has never left Japan.

Still from Beka and Lemoine’s ‘Moriyama-san’ (2016)

We’ll also be presenting the world premiere of Moriyama-san, a new film by renowned filmmakers Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine which documents a personal and spontaneous encounter with Mr Moriyama, allowing viewers privileged access into the day-to-day life of this 21st century urban hermit. You may remember Bêka & Lemoine’s work from Barbicania, their 2014 account of life within the walls of the Barbican Estate.

Filling the other half of the lower gallery, we have a new commission by Terunobu Fujimori. Both a practicing architect and a highly respected historian of Japanese architecture, Fujimori is known for his eccentric and lovingly crafted structures. Made from hand-charred timber and built in collaboration with students from Kingston University, Fujimori’s teahouse will be his biggest ever, revealing the importance of the handmade, the material and the fantastical in Japanese design.

Terunobu Fujimori Leek House, 1997 Photo by Akihisa Masuda

To add to the experience, the gallery will be transformed every hour by lighting that mimics dawn to dusk, ensuring that every visitor can experience the magic of these buildings across any one day.

In addition to the buildings, The Japanese House will feature over 200 works including rarely seen architectural models and drawings, photography and films, exploring themes such as A House is a Work of Art, Earth and Concrete, Inhabiting the Experimental, Sensorial and Beyond the Family.

Highlights include a 1:1 installation designed by Kazuyo Sejima based on her House in a Plum Grove (2003); Kazuo Shinohara’s iconic Tanikawa Villa (1974) with its startling soil-floored interior; the Arimaston Building (2005– ), a remarkable house that former Butoh dancer Keisuke Oka has been building by hand for over 15 years, one 70cm2 block of concrete at a time; innovative projects from Toyo Ito, including the atmospheric White U (1976) and the visionary Pao: A Dwelling for Tokyo Nomad Women (1985); Atelier Bow-Wow’s charming Pony House (2008); the radical Anti-Dwelling Box (1972) by Kiko Mozuna; and Kiyonori Kikutake’s Sky House (1958), a single-room concrete structure that is suspended in the air.

Toyo Ito, White U, 1976 © Tomio Ohash

In the wake of the war, the widespread devastation of Tokyo and other cities in Japan brought an urgent need for new housing, and the single family house quickly became the foremost site for architectural experimentation and debate. Responding to this new period in Japanese history, architects such as Kenzo Tange and Seiichi Shirai explored ways to synthesise tradition with modernism.

In the years following, Japanese architects have consistently used their designs to propose radical critiques of society and innovative solutions to changing lifestyles. In the 1970s, designers concentrated on enclosed houses that acted as defensive bulwarks against the polluted and overpopulated city; and in the 1980s the economic excesses of the Bubble era saw architects embrace the onset of information technologies and produce houses that were exceptionally lightweight and open to the outside world.

Recent Japanese residential architecture, particularly in Tokyo, suggests ingenious solutions to the constraints of living in the world’s largest metropolis; while parallel to this tendency there is a continued understanding of the house as a privileged space for fantasy and creative expression.

The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 is open from 23 March–25 June 2017.


The exhibition is co-organised and co-produced by the Japan Foundation. Sponsored by Kajima, Japan Centre, Shiseido and Natrium Capital with additional support from Japan Airlines, The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation. Media Partner: Elle Decoration

Lead photo: Tezuka Architects (Takaharu + Yui Tezuka) Roof House, 2001 © Katsuhisa Kida/FOTOTECA

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