Simplicity of Culture

by thavila

It’s been a while that I wanted to write about Japanese Architecture, but it’s not an easy topic, behind the designs of the city and the contemporaneous architecture, there’s a lot of history and culture. This is a short introduction of my vision about this simple but amazing living style and architecture.

The most impressive thing (for me) about Japanese Architecture is the simplicity, the clean lines of every structure, the minimalism and their everyday living that shows in the architecture perfectly, it seems they really live the architecture, they feel it; Nowadays, we don’t get to “feel” the architecture, we practically do not look the way while we are walking, we have so many things in mind that we do not realized what’s going on around us, we have to focus on the simple things of life, like many cultures do.

Living a place is to enjoy what you see around you and what you sense from it, this applies specifically in architecture, we spend most of our time inside an structure, whether you are a writer or a doctor, there are places in the structure you work  on (office, home, hospital, etc.) where you feel different, a lighter place, a relaxing place or even a place where you feel proactive, this is what it means to “live” the architecture, even if we don’t realized, every area has a purpose and it should help you feel/work different. This concept for every space is what makes  Japanese Architecture a great example to “feel” the architecture.

To understand the morphology of Japanese Architecture we should know that Japan has had some big transformations during the centuries, from culture to religion, this transformations affected architecture directly. Japan has a variety of influences in its architecture, like:

– Chinese culture and Buddhism from the VI century with temples and stupas or pagodas, as funerary structures.

– The integration of Tea Ceremonies held in rustic wooden houses to drink tea and enjoy art.

– In a military period (Azuchi Momoyama/Sengoku), Castles where built as a defensive structure of liege people.

– They also tried to simplify architecture because of the attacks some cities suffer; they combined classical architecture with new simple forms so the reconstruction of buildings didn’t take long.

– After the First World War, the Japanese architecture change, a big transformation that came from modernism architects like Frank Lloyd Write (United States) and Bruno Taut (Germany) that arrived to Japan to work, they help with a transition from the architecture that had become “traditional” through the pass of the years, new methods of construction and occidental influences.

The modern architecture brought new techniques of construction, styles, new materials like concrete and new interpretations from the traditional architecture; the concept of space, the relation between interior and exterior and, of course, simplicity are the main concepts that I take when it comes to think/design about Japanese Architecture, especially in the contemporary architecture (but that’s a whole new topic for another post).

– After the Second World War, Japanese architects started to emerge; they brought simple forms to architecture and elements from the everyday living, and managed to ease off the architectonic patterns that characterized their history.

Just how new symbolic elements appear and remained from century to century in their life and construction, simple forms are now taking the step down and becoming the new symbolic way to describe Japanese Architecture and culture.

We can not simply the culture of a country, specially if it has so many changes and diverse influences like Japan’s culture, what we can do, is to understand the basic ideas (in this case) of the design and the everyday habits of a population; like a great architect said: … originality consists in returning to the origin.