Japanese architect, Junya Ishigami draws his inspiration from nature. This can be said about a great deal of architects, yet it seems that Ishigami draws more criticism than most. Perhaps it is because he has taken that ideal to its furthest reaches, in paring down a structure to only the most basic elements, and creating a structure that appears to have very little substance at all. This doesn't go down well in a country that writer Alex Kerr accuses of being addicted to concrete. Yet the critics are not the only ones talking about Ishigami. At the young age of 42, he has already won numerous awards, most admirably, the Golden Lion for Best Project at the 12th Venice Architecture Biennale, as well being as the youngest ever recipient of the Architectural Institute of Japan Prize for the Kanagawa Institute of Technology KAIT Workshop in 2009.
Hamrikyu Gardens in the Shimbashi district of Tokyo are yet another example of the exquisite Edo period gardens that still remain today. This park first served as leisure spot for members of the ruling class beginning with the Tokugawa clan. Later, after the Meiji Restoration, the garden became a detached palace for the Imperial family. Over the years it received significant damage from catastrophes like the Great Kanto Earthquake and the fire bombings of Tokyo in WWII. After the war the Imperial family gave the park to the city of Tokyo. This park is notable for the pond, which draws water from the bay. This is the only remaining seawater pond within Tokyo.
If you travel north on Hongo-dori after visiting the enchanting Rikugien Gardens you will encounter another of the Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association’s delightful gardens, Kyu-Furukawa Gardens. This was originally the residence of Meiji era statesman, Mutsu Munemitsu, but when his second son was adopted into the Furukawa family the property changed hands. The original buildings on the property no longer exist, and the current Western-style residence and garden were designed by the famous Meiji era British architect Josiah Condor. The main residence now serves as the Otani Art Museum. The designer of the impressive Japanese-style gardens was Kyoto native Ogawa Jihei, also known as Niwashi-Ueji.
When thinking of Japanese architecture, the word ‘paper’ often comes to mind. We picture long and blemish-free white sheets of shoji on sliding doors, crisp and clean as if ironed. In the work of Akihisa Hirata we too see paper, but in his unique case, it presents as the delicately manipulated folds of origami. And the comparison with origami seems apt somehow, as what is architecture but the manipulation of forms, the manipulations of materials, the manipulation of landscape?