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Japanese House



    ´The representation of the house in art, literature,

    and cinema is mostly used as a stage for human drama,

    the composition of the space becoming a mere backdrop

    to the characters lives.´ 


    (Ostende, F. (2016) Architecture and Life: Human Agency and Forms of Living in the Japanese House In: Ciorra, P. & Ostende, F. Eds (2016) The Japanese House: Art and Life after 1945, Marsilio Editori, p37)



    As the first major UK exhibition to focus on Japanese domestic architecture from the end of the Second World War to now, it features over 40 architects ranging from renowned 20th century masters to internationally celebrated contemporary architects.


    The staff were extremely kind and took the time to explain that myself and my children were welcome to interact, sit anywhere and touch items in the show, but that we shouldn´t move anything. Contrary to the usual exhibition, this is a refreshingly different and fundamentally interactive exhibition that positively encourages exploration.


    The layout of the exhibition starts dramatically on the top floor with a work of video art by the Korean artist Kogonada (2016) entitled ´Way of Ozu´ (5.13 mins). A poignant work of art that visually examines similar shots in a triptych format exploring the work of 25-40 films by Jasujiro Ozu. It highlights the repetitive shots from the different films of Ozo with regards to women crying, men siting solitarily, domestic duties, people eating and participation in special events.


    The video can be viewed online here: and stills from the film are shown below.





    The widespread devastation of Tokyo and other Japanese cities resulting from the American bombing of the second world war provided the opportunity for Japan to rapidly rebuild itself whilst questioning the form of a future society, traumatically torn between tradition and modernity. The wake of the war the urgent need for new housing architectural experimentation focused on innovative proposals for the Japanese family house.


    ´The rapid growth of the county in the post-war era was characterised by the transformation of the economic and political structure of the county. As a result of the housing shortage after the war, collective housing rapidly developed in the suburbs of sprawling cites. In contrast, the individual house embodied the last surviving dream of ownership of the land - a conquest of the individual over the government and companies. In his text-manifesto ´A House is a Work of Art´(1962)…Shinohara pioneered a vision of residential design as a form of art, a ´commentary´on the over-mechanisation of society. Shinohara posits the home as being in opposition to the factory. As he explained: ´I believe that it will further become possible of rate homes we create to offer a total view of what it is to be human´.

    (Ostende, F. (2016) Architeccture and Life: Human Agency and Forms of Living in the Japanese House In: Ciorra, P. & Ostende, F. Eds (2016) The Japanese House: Art and Life after 1945, Marsilio Editori, p45)


    The glowing review by Rowen Moore in The Observer 26.03.17 focuses on the variety of architecture in the show, and concludes with describing the Moriyama House as epitomising the spirit of the show (


    ´The presence of the owner ´Mr Moriyama´contributes to the elusive, ungraspable character of the house. While a house usually serves as a mirror of the client´s stauts, profession, or activities, Moriyama House is defined by the antiproductivist attitude of the proprietor.´ (Ostende, F. (2016) Architeccture and Life: Human Agency and Forms of Living in the Japanese House In: Ciorra, P. & Ostende, F. Eds (2016) The Japanese House: Art and Life after 1945, Marsilio Editori, p50)





    The exhibitions features the world premiere of Moriyama-san, an indulgently long film by Beka and Lemoine. It documents the everyday life of Mr Moriyama in which the community surrounding the house is walked through and discussed, as are the 3 family graves of the Moriyama family in the graveyard, directly referencing the importance of honouring ancestors as integral to Japanese culture. Mr Moriyama himself is presented as a 79-year-old solitary eccentric collector who has never left Tokyo and lives in an unusual house, a privileged space for fantasy and his creative expression, in which he is totally immersed in his own private universe; listening to “noise music” and endlessly reading books. As a child born in 1938 he would have grown up in the ruins of war, and his way of living could be described as a distraction from the collective trauma reflecting the age of his birth. With continuous global military conflicts currently discussed in the news, this exhibition can be seen as depicting an inspirational perspective of reconstruction after destruction. The exhibition gives the viewer a rare opportunity to lose track of time, to be immersed in an alternative way of living and presented with a temporary glimpse of Japanese culture. By weaving in and out of the house’s ten individual, fully-furnished rooms and maze-like gardens, the visitor is invited to sit on rabbit chairs, see the magical storage possibilities of the sliding libraries and enjoy an ‘outdoor’ cinema, as the lighting subtly rises and falls in imitation of the cycle of day and night, accelerated to 60 minutes.





    As well as the full-size recreation of the Moriyama House, the exhibition also features a fantastical Japanese teahouse and garden designed by Terunobu Fujimori, with traditional Japanese tea ceremonies offered throughout the exhibition run.


    This transformative exhibition is capable of inspiring a different approach to the concept of what constitutes a home. 


    The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945

    23 March 2017 - 25 June 2017


    Barbican Art Gallery, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS


    Sat–Wed 10am–6pm (bank holiday 12noon–6pm)
    Thu–Fri 10am–9pm (bank holiday 12noon–9pm)



    The Family Day drop in event on the 23 April 2017 from 11am-4pm looks like an inspirational day of activities for children from under-fives until aged 13. Please check out more info here: 


    Please note that ALL bags must be left in the complimentary cloakroom without negociation, as there was quite a fuss when I was there the staff were extremely professional in dealing with an elderly lady who was insisting that she wouldn´t leave her handbag...