What should we do to save postwar modern architecture, which is now in danger? We report on the symposium sponsored jointly by Casa BRUTUS and Bottega Veneta.
Japan’s modern architecture is in danger of disappearing. Casa BRUTUS invited three professionals deeply concerned about preserving this architecture – Fumihiko Maki, Toshiko Mori, and Hiroshi Matsukuma – to appear on stage for a symposium during the “Japan’s Architects” exhibition being held at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa.
The symposium began with a video message from Tomas Maier. Then Fumihiko Maki spoke about his sixty-year career, introducing some of his methods. One example among his own works that he “replayed” was the Nagoya University Toyoda Auditorium (1960), for which he reduced unsheathed concrete surfaces and increased the thickness of high-flow concrete to enhance the building’s weather resistance. Another example he recalled was the Okinawa Aquarium (1975) for which he made a small pavilion that used the same arcade as a demolished building, preserving its memory.
“You can still make use of a building if you take care of it, even if it is fifty or one hundred years old,” he said. “A building is a kind of memory device of its age, so we should consider urban culture in a long time frame.”
Toshiko Mori primarily introduced examples from the United States, such as the Frank Lloyd Wright house whose visitor center was built with funds raised by local residents, and the purchase, renovation and preservation of architect Paul Rudolph’s house. Still another example was the “Glass House” in Paris designed by Pierre Chareau. An American fan of the house bought it and renovated it while preserving its original atmosphere. "A communal building like the Hotel Okura Tokyo is full of people's fond memories," she said. "Tearing it down is barbarous."
Hiroshi Matsukuma, representative of DOCOMOMO Japan, talked about the history of postwar Japanese architecture, stressing the importance of modern architecture from the 1950s. He presented the example of Junzo Sakakura's Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura (1951) in Kanagawa Prefecture, which represents an example of a “palace of art” transforming into an art museum open to people in the community. Also, there was a plan to rebuild Masatsune Matsumura's Hizuchi Elementary School (1956-58) but due to the passion of graduates, it was strengthened against earthquakes.
Finally the three panelists made closing statements. Maki spoke about how, “we are losing modernist buildings connected to people's lives – we need to sound the alarm.” Mori said that, "the job of architect is to link the past and the future, but ordinary citizens should also become involved.” Matsukuma said, "By knowing about architecture you can preserve buildings and expand your world."
Architect. Born in 1928. In 1965 he founded Maki and Associates. Among his principal works are Daikanyama Hillside Terrace and New York World Trade Center Tower 4. Prizes include the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the AIA Gold Medal.
Architect. Founded Toshiko Mori Architects in New York. In 2012 she contributed “Dialogue in Details” to the Venice Biennale. She was also involved in designing Tomas Maier’s Maine retreat. Among her prizes is the Academy Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Born in 1957. His specialty is the history of modern architecture. He is the representative of DOCOMOMO Japan, which records and studies buildings and the environment of the Modern Movement, while working for their preservation. In addition to writing books such as “Remembering Modern Architecture”, he curates architectural exhibitions.