A Japanese-national born in Seoul, Korea during the Second World War, Toyo Ito’s education was all Japanese. After returning to Japan at the age of two, Ito professes to have had no early interest in architecture, and it wasn’t until he was studying at the University of Tokyo that his interest began. He began working for Kikutake Architect and Associates in 1965, until starting his own firm six years later. Ito began initially to design private residences, and from his earliest works, these minimalist homes began to garner him a great deal of attention. He explained that this minimalism was an attempt to develop a lightness in architecture in a way that resembled air, and its movement as wind.
Today we kick off a series of articles on small home designs by our ZenVita associate architects. These designs exemplify the Japanese genius for making the most of a tiny area with a Zen-like focus on what is truly essential for a happy home: space, light, and air. We begin with a look at Love House by Tokyo based architect, Takeshi Hosaka.
With a population of over 120 million people, Japan is one of the 10 most populous countries in the world, but with more than 70% of Japan’s total land mass covered with mountains and forest, the bulk of the population tends to be crowded into large coastal cities. It is for this reason that Japanese architects have become specialists at designing for small areas. The less space you have, the smarter the design should be to make everything fit. What lessons can be learned from this kind of architecture?
One of the most common characteristics of a Japanese house is the adaptability it derives from the use of lightweight partitions. One example of these partitions is noren (暖簾), a traditional split curtain made of cloth that can be easily installed or removed. It can divide the space into bigger or smaller units, or serve as a sign at the entrance to a room or building.
Tokyo is a major metropolitan area that boasts several worthwhile world-renowned museums such as the Tokyo National Museum or the recent National Art Center. However, my favorite Tokyo museum is the privately owned Nezu Museum, which is nestled in at the end of a road studded with recent commercial architectural marvels in the upscale Omotesando district. The main reasons I love this museum are the impressive bamboo approach by notable contemporary architect Kengo Kuma, and the sprawling, verdant Japanese garden hidden behind the main building.