Edifices of steel, glass and wood in focus

ARCHITECTURAL DELIGHT

Edifices of steel, glass and wood in focus

With expectations to see what modern-day Japan looks like, one enters the gallery at The Japan Foundation and finds an array of images with detailed descriptions that are difficult to understand. But a little help from the brochure and one realises that the travelling exhibition ‘Parallel Nippon: Contemporary Japanese Architecture 1996-2006’ is a documentation of the architecture of modern Japan.

The photographic panels of dominantly steel and glass structures are divided into four categories - Urban Cycles: Centre and Periphery – airport terminal, spa, unusual buildings; Life Cycles: From Cradle to Grave – schools and colleges, hospitals; Culture Cycles: Environment, Information, Art - museums and Living Cycles: Conformity or Diversion – dwellings including tea house.

What is a city? What does it mean to live in a particular place? The exhibition explores these probing questions that Japanese architects have confronted and tried to answer. Their quest has resulted in many outstanding works of architecture that not only incorporate the latest forms and materials but also present new ways of living. The decade following the collapse of Japan’s speculation-driven ‘bubble’ economy has been recorded as a period of major change in the country’s society and is held responsible for widening the contrast between rural and urban communities.

Nevertheless, what one sees in this architectural exhibition is not just the developed infrastructure of the state but also the curatorial manner in which every building becomes a part of a section. While it is difficult to control one’s surprise at the sight of images of these magnificent structures and their equally difficult names toremember, what does gets etched in memory are the miniature models ofarchitectural marvels including the Taj Mahal that have been created through origami art. It is a delight to see delicate and intricate structures of the Westin Hotel, Pola Museum of Art (along with paper trees) and others created by cutting white paper in various patterns.

There is detailed description for almost all the images, but the excessive numbers make it exhaustive and a tad uninteresting when compared to the other previously organised exhibitions by the institution.

However, the exhibition does provide a better understanding of the reasons that have shaped such diverse and dynamic buildings in Japan. Riichi Miyake, Professor of Architectural History at Keio University rightly says, “Architecture is a force that informs society through its focused accumulation of knowledge.” ‘Parallel Nippon’ is on display at The Japan Foundation till September 30.

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