Tag Archives: fame and fortune

The 2’nd Misfits’ Trienniale: WEEK 3

August 18, 2021 – August 18, 2022

This is the third and final week of The 2nd Misfits’ Triennale. It spans the above period and brings us up to the present, or rather, to three and a half weeks ago. If I’ve missed anything worthwhile in those past three weeks then I’ll find out about it in three years’ time. Slow architecture. I’m okay with that. The problem with daily architecture feeds is that it’s all forgotten the next day. It’s already difficult enough to learn from history so what hope is there for yesterday? Still, some good and thoughtful things have happened in the past three years and are deserving of a chance of a few more minutes contemplation. These are my selections from the past year.

[8] August 24, 2021: Xinsha Primary School / 11ARCHITECTURE
I didn’t see many schools in the first two installments of this 2nd Misfits’ Trienalle so I’m glad to see this one in Shenzen. It’s multi-level like many Asian schools, but makes space for a sports field and running track. Space for children to play is found in unlikely places as well as the likely ones. The building isn’t isolated from the street around it. It has several distinct zones. There are plants. Entering it is an event for students. Waiting to take their children home is an event for parents. Impressive.

[8] August 27, 2021: Port-o-Prenz Apartments / J. Mayer H. Architects
It’s nice too see Jurgen Mayer H. keeping busy. The facades have some familiar H. motifs and, come to think of it, so does the site plan. Six dispersed cores provide the maximum number of dual-aspect apartments. More than half the L-shaped apartments on internal corners are also dual-aspect. Nine of the ten one-bedroom single-aspect apartments are on the outer periphery of the project. Importantly, and this is why I include it here, apartments or rooms of apartment facing into the project site all have long views across it. You don’t see this amount of thought very often.

[8] November 2, 2021: 6 tsubo-house / Arte-1 Architects
We’re in Japan of course, where a tsubo is a traditional unit of area measurement equal to 3.3 sq.m, making this house 21 sq.m in area. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to get in two bedrooms plus a separate kitchen. Not having a sunken genkan and getabako (shoe cupboard) must have been a difficult decision. I also like that this micro-house is not for some idyllic countryside location but a functioning house for a tight urban situation. My new criteria for microhouses are skill, audacity and pretentiousness and this one has the lot. That double-height arched window is a masterstroke. Microhouses without shame!

[8] November 15, 2021: Spiral House in Berlin Proposes a New Residential Typology of Homogenous Living Spaces
At last, a project best comprehended in section! The spaces in the apartments step around the central core with a split circular stair, each apartment having a entrance at one end, and an exit at the other end half a floor above or below.

The two sets of stairs are independent and therefore one of them will always serve as a fire escape. I’ve only ever seen this once before in the 1964 Mt. Eliza Apartments, Krantz & Sheldon, 1964 at 3/71 Mount Street, Perth.

[8] November 16, 2021: The Ledge / Wallmakers
This house in Peermade, India made me think. It’s aesthetically pretentious but, at the same time, bordering on a required poetry. The more interesting thing is the lo-res materials and construction by which this has been achieved – not that it’s without contrivance on that level too. There’s no section but the roof and walls seem layered with LED sandwiched there somehow. Despite all that, it’s something unexpected made from dirt, rocks and sticks.

[8] November 26, 2021: Renovation and Transformation of a Norman Jaffe House / Neil Logan Architect
Norman Jaffe is one of those architects destined to be never remembered. Many say he sold out by resigning from Philip Johnson’s office to design many large and expensive houses for rich clients, mostly on Long Island. They’re very much of their time, but what houses! [c.f. Career Case Study #2: Norman Jaffe]

[8] December 2, 2021; Kennels / Atelier GOM
This is the first project I‘ve linked to. It’s a hotel where people and their dogs can stay. The architects have thought about unit entry and eye-heights to make it pleasant for dogs and producing an awareness of other dogs while limiting the opportunity for accidental encounters. The project is well thought-through on all other levels and the documentation is good. It’s not just an idea. I hope it’s successful. I admire that all this was done without any mention of Object Oriented Ontology. It’s just a hotel for dogs and their owners. China.

[8] December 17, 2021; House in Kanazawa / Shota Nakanishi Architects + Ohno Japan
I’m trying to avoid houses of more than 50 sq.m unless they have some compensating feature and this house does. It’s not on a pretty site facing north. The large roof is a light reflector and should generate pleasant microclimates year round. There’s attention paid to every aspect of the internal environment yet the living areas of the house are directly connected to and visible from the street to the benefit of both sides. While not a caricature, the house also has a strong Japaneseness in its construction, its front elevation, and its relation to the street.

This next house should have appeared in the first installment as it was published in April 2020. At first glance it’s another house with a reflector roof and that explains why the living areas are upstairs getting maximum light from the south.

But in light of last week’s post, this house has a very interesting relationship between inside and outside. First, the corner window truncates the volume and lets us see inside like a perspective section. This window will never have a curtain and so the outside will always have a strong presence as the occupants go downstairs to bed or to go take a bath. (Although it’s probably not so common these days, people in yukata walking to the sentō is not a strange sight in Japan. Going to have a bath is a public act.)

Also interesting is the genkan. Here, it is enlarged to become a gallery into which outsiders can enter and keep their outside shoes on and not enter the house proper.

This genkan is a virtual outside space adjacent to the virtual outside space of the truncation/terrace and then on to the outside proper. You can think of the corridor leading to bathroom and bedrooms as an engawa separating the virtual inside and virtual outside. This house wears its art lightly. That single angled truncation on the incline has set up some very pleasant consequences. Nice photographs by Satoshi Takae.

[8] April18, 2022, La Lomita Retreat / ASPJ Arquitectura, Paisaje y Territorio
As I keep saying, it has to be a very special house to make me look deeper if it’s more than 60 sq.m. This one does. It does all the good things and hasn’t gone crazy with the materials and finishes. It’s a shame it’s in such a lovely environment as much of what it does is applicable to Mexico’s larger cities, or even cities anywhere. It’d be good to have a world with more buildings like this instead of 350 sq.m houses with 50 photographs and no plans.

[9] April 21, 2022, House 905 / HARQUITECTES
It’s always good to see a new house by Harquitectes. I’m glad they’re still doing houses well, with their own integration planning logic and construction. Always a pleasure.

[8] May 22, 2022, Sako House / Tomoaki Uno Architects
Yes, the Japanese are still making weird little houses but this one a universe for its owner. I counted nine different spatial experiences in 54 sq.m. There are sufficient plans, sections, construction and detail drawings to fully understand everything about the house apart from what it would be like to inhabit. The allocation and priorities of spaces are unorthodox, weird, and actually a bit disturbing. What I like about this house is that it doesn’t care what anybody anywhere else in the world thinks of it. See for yourself.

[8] June 13, 2022, A New Building by Kazuo Shinohara will be Added to the Vitra Campus
Well well. Technically, it’s not exactly a new building by Kazuo Shinohara. He would have preferred to have been asked by Vitra to design them a new one. Umbrella House is not a large house but the inappropriate “campus” landscaping makes it seem diminutive.

[9] June 22, 2022: Minimum House in Toyota / Nori Architects
I was cheered to see this genuine attempt to do a lot with a minimum amount of inexpensive materials. It can’t be done without a thorough questioning of the role and cost of every construction element. Nice work!


Take-aways

With this third and final week of August 2021 – August 2022, the sheer volume of content from the Far East is apparent. It’s probably a function of volume of construction but also a higher proportion of construction for reasons of their respective economies. Also apparent was the sheer amount of content promoting or asking rhetorical questions such as “How to make the metaverse make money for you?” [sic.] I won’t trouble myself too much over this as someone will make money from the metaverse and it will probably not be you or me. Nevertheless, I’ll have to look deeper into this as it seems like a thing that the media obsesses about until it actually becomes a thing.

Finally, this early December 2021 article, originally on CommonEdge, resonated.

In this three-part review I call the Misfits Triennale, I saw two distinct ways of practicing architecture – a divide. There are the ten or so behemoths who suck up all the huge projects and most of the media oxygen. And then there are all the other architects.We should be grateful to ArchDaily for giving them the opportunity to let other people know they exist. Apart from maybe being on the same page of the feed on any given ArchDaily day, these two ways of practicing architecture have nothing in common. The big practices’ technologies and aesthetics don’t inform those of the smaller ones and there’s definitely no flow of thought and intelligence in the other direction. They’re two separate dimensions.

When we have a situation where the extraordinary is so divorced from the ordinary, any perceived lack of masterpieces is because we no longer have any shared reference by which to identify them. They’re either all masterpieces or none of them is. It’s not as if the masterpieces of the past had that much influence anyway on how architecture is practiced. They may have reinforced the notion that architecture had two distinct levels one higher than the other, but at least there was a connection between them. Smaller practices found inspiration in the work of those more famous than them. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Despite attempts by ArchDaily and others to set certain agendas, I don’t see any shared theory, outlook, or even aspirations. It’s everyone for themselves. In theory, this ought to result in more individuality but for the big practices it seems to be making everything more samey as they compete for the same money. I find the work of the medium- and small-sized practices more genuine.

Out-takes

Some of these are absurd, some are propaganda, some are filler, and some are a combination. Some are to remind me to have something to say later. At the end of the 1st Misfits’ Triennale, I followed up with the post Space Merchants that identified the “trending” topics of 1) Vertical Forests, 2) Automatic Design, 3) 3D Printed Houses, 4) “Data Driven”, and 5) Living on Mars and, over the past three years, I think I’ve returned to all of them more than once either as posts or persistent themes.

Mars is still hot, although not as hot as it used to be.

Perhaps it’s because The Metaverse is now being shoved down our throats.

NFTs are no small part of this.

The reduction of labour in the construction workforce is always being cheerled by someone, if not by Gropius anymore.

As is the reduction of labour in the design workforce. I wonder who’s going to be left to design airports, corporate headquarters, art galleries, high-rise luxury apartment buildings, large-scale infrastructure, coastline revitalization projects and new city masterplanning?

We’ll find out soon enough, by observing architecture’s new business development hotspot, Saudi Arabia.

Houses for Parents

Many architects make a name for themselves when they design their first house and sometimes the house is one for themselves. The first known projects of Kunio Maekawa and Kenzo Tange were houses for themselves but the phenomenon isn’t unique to Japan. For example, there’s Philip Johnson who designed a house for himself as a graduation project. For young architects with less funds, a first commission designing a house for their encouraging and moderately well-off parents is just as good if not better. Here’s a chronological list of some I can think of offhand. There must be others I’ve forgotten or never knew of but these are the ones I used to conclude that designing a house for your parents in the early stages of one’s career doesn’t do it any harm.

Le Corbusier

1912 was the year Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris completed Maison Blance for his parents. It was his fourth house after the 1906 Villa Fallet, the 1908 Villa Stotzer, and the 1908 Villa Jacquemet, but is still thought by many to be his first. 1912 was also the same year he began his first architectural office so he famously charged his parents a fee but we don’t know the details. It’s a nice story but it would be a more informative one if we knew whether the fee was token or the going rate, and at whose insistence it was. In any case, Charles-Édouard was to live and work in the house until he decamped full-time to Paris in 1917. His parents sold the house (at a loss) in 1919, supposedly because they couldn’t afford the upkeep. (The jobs of driver, gardener, housekeeper and cook would have been split between four, three or two people.) It seems like a classic case of The Wrong House.

His parents lived elsewhere until he completed their second much smaller and single level house that they could live in without servants, in 1923, and they were to live there until they died, his father soon in 1926 and his mother in 1960. Charles-Édouard had been calling himself Le Corbusier since 1920 so this little house is, rightly speaking, the first house of Le Corbusier – a position it shares with Villa La Roche completed in Paris the same year.

Gio Ponti

The house Gio Ponti built for his parents is a little Palladian house with a fan-shaped plan you can see here. For 1924, it’s no precursor of the Rationalism that was to come but instead it’s an example of the Milanese neo-classical Novecento Italiano movement that, while not a fascist style per-se, did appeal to the great traditions of Italian art and architecture.

Ponti House, via Randaccio 9, Milan, 1924

Ponti was already artistic director of the historic Italian porcelain company Richard Ginori, and successfully exhibited at the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes where he met of Tony Bouilhet of the French silver company Christofle. Ponti and the man who was to be his next client must have gotten around to talking about architecture and Ponti’ first house for his parents was proof he could deliver. Bouilhet’s friends included Man Ray and Jean Cocteau. Ponti completed his next less-Palladian but larger house, the Villa Bouilhet in Garches, Paris two years later. Gio Ponti was successful at everything he did.

contemporary photograph of the living room of Villa Bouilhet, 1927

Harry Seidler

Harry Seidler had studied at Harverd GSD with Gropius and Breuer and was working for Breuer when his mother who, with her husband, had emigrated to Australia in 1946. His mother called him to come back to Australia and design a house for them. Seidler hadn’t intended to stay but the 1950 house was a sensation as it was the first Bauhausian building in Australia. Other commissions quickly followed and Seidler never went back.

Seidler brought to Australia Gropius’ talent for self-promotion. [c.f. Architecture Myths #25: The Creative Spark] The Rose Seidler House was criticised by some as being “a Harvard house transplanted to Australia” but it was something Australia had never seen before – a classy beach house. 

Ricardo Bofill

Bofill designed a house in Ibiza for his parents when he was 19 in 1962. He’d had no training but his father was an architect, property developer and contractor so he didn’t need to work for anybody else to observe and learn how it was done. His father probably found the client and walked his son through the design and construction of the 1964 El Sargazo Apartments, the 1965 Bach 28 Apartment Building (14 apartments + retail), the 1965 Bach 4 Apartment Building, (12 luxury + 21 rent-controlled apartments) and the 1965 Nicaragua Apartment Building (shops + offices + apartments. It’s what a father would do.

Su and Richard Rogers

This house was designed by Team 4 which comprised Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and their respective wives, Su Rogers and Wendy Foster. This house, their first, is a holiday home in Cornwall, UK, for Su Rogers’ parents, Marcus and Irene Brumwell. I learned that painter Piet Mondrian owed the Brumwells money for some reason, and paid his debt with a painting, the sale of which paid for the construction of this building, completed in 1966. In 1969 the house received an RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Award for work of outstanding quality, even though Rogers confessed in some later memoir that they hadn’t really known what they were doing.

House Creek Vean, Cornwall, UK, 1963–1966

Robert Venturi

Vanna Venturi is arguably the most famous architect mother as her house is still known by her name. She was 70 when the house, Venturi’s first, was completed in 1964, the same year as Guild House, the other well-known early project of Venturi’s. I somehow remembered that all the rooms his mother used were on the ground floor because she had wanted it that way, but I didn’t know that son Robert lived and worked upstairs from 1964 until 1967 when he married Denise Scott Brown.

The house was designed at the same time as Venturi was writing Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture that included descriptions of Vanna Venturi House and Guild House. Without these two buildings to illustrate, Venturi might have been thought of as more of a theorist than a doer. With Vanna Venturi House though, what we’re seeing is a house as a manifesto, much like this next house that was completed in the UK four years later and that started an architectural stylistic movement that was to compete in the UK with what Venturi had just started in the US.

Richard and Su Rogers

Team 4 split in 1967 for some reason nobody’s ever told us, and Norman and Wendy Rogers immediately formed Foster Associates. In 1968 they designed the Humphrey Spender (brother of Stephen) house but little is said about that other than that it was a precursor to the house he and Su designed for Rogers’ parents in Wimbledon, also completed in 1968. Rogers was 35.

Every year, the six winners Richard Rogers Fellowship of the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) get to reside at Wimbledon House at 22 Parkside, Wimbledon, London, UK

After winning the competition for the Pompidou Centre, Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano formed Rogers and Piano, that lasted until 1977 when the Richard Rogers Partnership was formed. Success and greater things followed quickly, but more due to Pompidou Centre than Wimbledon House. The two are probably linked by the Expo ’70 Italian Pavilion that Piano had designed and Rogers had admired. It’s easy to imagine Piano liking Wimbledon House’s combination of steel and colour.

Kiko (Mozuna) Monta

In 1973 Kiko (Mozuna) Monta designed this house for his mother. We don’t know what his mother thought of it but, when I first saw it in Japan Architect magazine, I remember thinking his mother’s row of pot-plants in the first photo was how houses should be lived in.


Career Case Study #12: Antonin Raymond

1888 – 1976

Antonin Raymond is important enough to be called “The father of Modern Architecture in Japan” but he’s not so well known. He’s not “taught”. At first I thought he might be a misfit but this is a career case study. I’ll explain why. First some facts I’ve pieced together from the sources at end.

Raymond was born in 1888 in Bohemia which is now part of the Czech Republic and, in 1906, entered the Czech Polytechnic Institute where, sometime around 1908 he saw a small monograph of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and, in 1910, a copy of Wrights Wasmuth Portfolio just after it was published. On the back of that, he promptly emigrated to the US as soon as he completed his studies. He would have been 22. He worked with Cass Gilbert for three years, doing external architecture details for the Woolworth Building which, when it was completed in 1913, was the world’s tallest skyscraper. He also worked on the Austin, Nichols and Company Warehouse in Brooklyn which, in the way of architectural biographies, is said to have given him “an insight into the structural and textural properties of concrete.[5] It was completed in 1915 so Raymond’s three years with Gilbert began 1910 at the earliest and ended 1915 at the latest. He is now 27.

One source says Raymond began studying painting at New York’s Independent School of Art in 1912 “because he was bored” [which suggests to me that either he or Cass were difficult to work with]. With multiple sources, dates don’t always agree, so he could have still been working for Cass while studying painting, but probably not when he met his future wife on the way back from a painting trip to Italy, marrying her in 1914. He became an American citizen in early 1916 and changed his surname from Reimann to Raymond. Now, his wife was born in France but raised in New York, was introduced to Japanese art and design at Columbia University and studied painting at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Returning to New York, she positioned herself in New York’s avant-garde art circle and ran a successful graphic and illustration studio. I mention this because it was his wife’s New York art connections that, in 1916, led to Raymond working for Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin WI.

Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel was constructed 1919-1923 so Raymond was involved with its design in the US sometime after 1916 but, after a spell in the army, he and his wife relocated to Japan in 1920 to oversee its design and construction. He did this for one year before he was dismissed by Wright. Raymond is said to have been

  1. Bored with the work [for the second time?]
  2. Concerned that Wright’s Mayan-lite “design had nothing in common with Japan, its climate, its traditions, its people and its culture”[8] and
  3. Disagreed with Wright’s preference for encasing concrete in brickwork .

Perhaps they just didn’t get on. It didn’t matter for, one month after his dismissal, Raymond, his wife and Leon Whittaker Slack (?) set up the American Architectural and Engineering Company in Tokyo and their career in Japan began. Their first major building was the Tokyo Women’s Christian College.

It’s a Woolworth Building/Prairie House mashup that, in the way of architecture wikis, is said “to demonstrate Raymond’s interest in Czech cubism and the work of Auguste Perret” and presumably Japan, it’s climate, its traditions, … Construction began in 1924, one year after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that destroyed Raymond’s own house so, in 1924, he designed and built himself a new one out of concrete in Tokyo’s Azabu district. This is it.

Cashflow is always a mystery with architects’ careers. Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t known for paying high salaries but, three years after Wright dismissed him, Raymond builds his own house on land in a central part of Tokyo. Perhaps he arrived in Japan with a big bag of family cash like Serge Chermayeff, or perhaps his wife was the main breadwinner 1921-24 with design and decoration work.

Almost entirely in concrete and with metal windows and steel railings, it’s clearly not inspired by Wright. It’s said the interior had tubular furniture but I can’t see any in this next screenshotted photogtraph. Raymond buildings are very under-photographed.

Mention of tubular furniture inside madesme think of Breuer chairs but they weren’t designed until 1925 so whose could it have been?

Architectural Digest tells me that, since 1919, Milanese company Columbus had been making and marketing a complete range of tubular furniture. It might have been theirs or copies of.

Courtesy of the Columbus Historical Archive, via Architectural Digest

Antonin Raymond is said to have been a very prolific designer with over 300 projects in 50 years of practice. This is selection of his buildings 1924–1932 omits the Hoshi University Building (1924). There are probably others.

Italian Embassy, Nikko (1922)

Raymond had been a member of the Tokyo Golf Club in 1922, two years after his arrival. He designed their new 1932 clubhouse in the new style fashionable from Moscow to London at the time but there was no time to appreciate it because Japan had invaded Manchuria the year before. The building and grounds were almost immediaftely requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Army as part of Japan’s war drive. Leon Whittacker Slack wasn’t around anymore and the practice was renamed Antonin Raymond, Architect.

Tokyo Golf Club, Saitama (1932)

This next paragraph has been copied and pasted around the internet. [In the years 1924-38] “…,

their practice flourished; they built residences, embassies, clubs, universities, churches, schools, and factories. During these years, their work quickly evolved from its Wrightian origins through a period of abstraction and material experimentation in concrete, paralleling the European modernists’ work of August Perret and Robert Mallet-Stevens. By the late 1920s and early 1930s they had perhaps the most avant grade practice in Asia as proponents of the then just emerging International Style. However, they quickly understood the limits of strict Modernist Functionalism as evangelized by Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus and the Purism of Le Corbusier. By the late 1930’s, they evolved their own unique fusion of modernism and vernacular architecture that would portent the Regional Modernism in America and Scandinavia of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. “

There must be more because this list of presumably the major works lists only three houses (one of which – Summer House – was another house for themselves) and an extension for a former client for the period 1933-34 and nothing between 1935 and 1939 when they left for the US because war with the US was imminent. The Sino-Japan war of 1931-32, the occupation of Manchuria and the 1937 Nanjing Massacre had all happened and widely reported in the Japanese press. With increasing friction between the US and Japan, foreign clients and good-paying commissions were almost certainly drying up for non-Japanese civilian architects. Time to leave.

Viscount Soma Residence (1932)
Akeboshi Tetsuma House, Tokyo (1933)
St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Karuizawa (1934)
Raymond Farm remodelling, New Hope, 1939

Back in the US, Raymond took Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship as a model and started the New Hope Experiment for apprentices to do studio and farm work but, in 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and the US immediately declared war.

Research had already been underway to develop new types of napalm-based firebombs for carpet-bombing Japanese and German cities and, in 1943, work began on constructing model villages to field test these new bombs. A German village and a Japanese village were built and rebuilt several times on land at Dugway, near Salt Lake City. Erich Mendelson was responsible for the design of German Village and Antonin Raymond was responsible for the design of Japanese Village. Raymond was chosen because he was in the US, had good knowledge of Japan and its buildings, and had designed the New York headquarters and staff housing in Yokohama for one of the project’s stakeholders, the Standard Oil Company. With the US now at war, saying no probably wasn’t an option. Raymonds task was to ensure the houses were made as authentically as possible.

“The Japanese Village at Dugway Proving Ground: An Unexamined Context to the Firebombing of Japan”, Dylan J. Plung, The Asia-Pacific Journal, April 15, 2018 Volume 16 | Issue 8 | Number 3, Article ID 5136

Some 600 tons of firebombs had already been dropped on Japan prior to March 9-10, 1945 when 2,000 tons were dropped on Tokyo. 100,000 deaths. The testing and subsequent firebombing were considered a success. Nobody comes out of this looking good.

Whether out of remorse or for business opportunity, Raymond obtained special permission from General MacArthur for he and his wife to return to Japan and reopen an office to help with “the rebuilding” of Japan. It was a good move but this list makes no mention of embassies, embassy housing, factories or mass housing.

[US embassy employee housing: Perry Apartments (left, 1952) and Harris Apartments (right, 1953)

The 1951 Reader’s Digest Tokyo Office Building is regarded as an important building in the history of modern Japanese architecture.

https://www.oldtokyo.com/readers-digest-building-tokyo-c-1955/

The use of concrete, the size, the proportions, the slight cantilever, and the implied pilotis remind me of Kenzo Tange’s 1955 Hiroshima Peace Center, commissioned the same year and, by association, the house he designed for himself in 1953.

Kenzo Tange, own house, 1953

Tange and Raymond are both said to have reconciled Western modernism with the Japanese tradition.

St. Anselm’s Church, Tokyo, 1961
Gunma Music Center (1961)
https://journal.rikumo.com/journal/the-work-of-antonin-raymond

What to make of all this? Is Antonin Raymond the Father of Modernism in Japan? He could be. Is he a misfit architect? I don’t think so, although being relatively unknown and not taught is something he shares with most other misfit architects. Not having a single classifiable style isn’t going to build a brand or make an architect a representative of a style or an era but still that’s not enough. The Japanese architect Tōgō Murano is also little known outside Japan. He was born two years before Raymond, died eight years after and also had a career of over 50 years in which he also designed over 300 buildings but Murano designed every building as if he was designing something for the first time. None are similar but amongst them is a very high proportion of truly wonderful buildings. With Murano, I sense a consistent passion across the diverse buildings. With Raymond each one seems like an exercise, especially the post-war ones 1955–1968. They don’t feel like they were designed in the midst of a period of enormous artistic renewal across every field of art in Japan. Raymond was competent and ambitious but I just don’t think he cared that much about buildings.

If people claim that Antonin Raymond is Father of Modern Architecture in Japan it might be less because of his actual output but by his influence on other architects. Raymond was the pre-eminent foreign architecture working in Japan so it was natural for Kunio Maekawa to work for him when he returned from France after a stint in Le Corbusier’s atelier. There was also Junzō Yoshimura who worked in Le Corbusier’s atelier and Antonin’s offices in both Japan and the US. The era of the foreign architect blending Western sensibilities with Japanese traditions was about to end.


Further reading:

  • “The Making of Modern Japanese Architecture: From 1868 to the present”, David B. Stewart, 1987
  • Crafting a Modern World: The Architecture and Design of Antonin and Noemi Raymond“, Mari Sakamoto Nakahara and Ken Tadashi Oshima