We are back from Japan and the first thing I want to share with you is the portray and some visual work of an amazing Japanese architect: Kengo Kuma,

In Kengo Kuma’s work you may see influences of light, transparency and materiality.

In an interview with Dezeen, Kengo Kuma explained:

The destruction that followed the tsunami triggered by an undersea earthquake off the coast of Tōhoku three years ago made apparent the “extreme imbalance” of power between nature and buildings, said Kuma, leading him to “think that we couldn’t use industrial materials anymore”.

“After the tsunami in March 2011, I changed my definition to nature.”The criteria for architecture after the tsunami is humbleness.”

He feels this view is shared by several of his contemporaries. “After the tsunami, I think many architects think differently about architecture, especially in Japan,” he said. Some architects are saying similar things for example, Toyo Ito. His designs were very contemporary before the tsunami, but after the tsunami, he’s designed some wooden buildings: I feel a change in him.”

Kuma’s intervention uses a minimal bamboo structure, up-lit and impregnated with the smell of tatami mats and hinoki timber. Tatami mats are the woven mats commonly-used as traditional floor coverings in Japan and hinoki is a valuable timber prized for its smell.

The combination of a minimal structure and the strong smell would encourage visitors to focus on themselves and not the surrounding architecture, said Kuma.

“The idea for the pavilion at the Royal Academy came from the traditional Japanese teahouse,” he said. “I decided to use bamboo because it is a natural material and at the same time, it is very strong: it’s like a carbon fibre. It can create a transparent space with the minimum volume of material. I wanted people to focus on the space itself.”

“People [now] find new architecture through media: through books, through drawings, only through visual images,” he explained. “In the twenty-first century they forget the totality of experience. I want to recover that totality in architectural design.”

“For me, the visual effect is only [a small] part of the design,” he continued. “Totality of architectural design includes textures, the soft and hardness of the material, the smell of the material and the acoustic effect of the material.”

For Kuma, the trick to attaining this totality is by working with materials very early in a project: “The secret to my design is that from the beginning of our design process, I’m thinking about what is the material for the building, what is the finish of the building.”

“In the normal process of architecture, the decision of the material is often the last part of the design. I think that causes many mistakes. The decision for the material should come at the beginning of the design”.

Read the full interview on Dezeen website Here

Some pictures of Kengo Kuma work






Kuma was at the Royal Academy of Arts to give a lecture on his Pavilion of Incense installation at the Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined exhibition :
“The concept was to minimise materials but to maximise senses”

Kengo Kuma – photograph by James Harris


Love architecture and Kengo Kuma ? Watch “Knowing Kuma” video

Summary of the architect’s definition of architecture, materials and more: 

From philosophy of nature and materiality to personal taste in film and music, Kuma travels to San Diego to share his influences and insight on the world of architecture with design students from Woodbury School of Architecture.
Directed, Filmed, & Edited by Omar Kakar


Image credits: Kengo Kuma Associates, James Harris
Sources: ArchDaily, Dezeen