Air as Architecture Lecture - Discussion
This is a new section I have created in the hope of sparking off a pubic discourse about Japanese architecture. I am starting here with what Robert Torday has to say about the question he raised after my lecture regarding the contradiction or the “inconsistency” found in Japanese architecture. He raises an important point. Read on:
So - I think my point was this - your fascinating talk touched on the theme of an essentially ‘porous’ architectural ethos intended to be transformative and inherent in traditional Japanese society, stretching back over the centuries. Physical boundaries were deliberately blurred, or absent, perhaps to imbue in the traveller a sense of life as essentially transient, ethereal - the empty rooms at the long temple/shrine you used an illustration being a case in point. While I admire and am intrigued by this notion of absent architecture, I find the idea somewhat at odds with my perhaps misinformed perception of traditional Japanese society/culture, which to the outsider, despite the ad hoc espousal of Western values, seems intrinsically hierarchical and formal. Have you read de Waal’s ‘Hare with the Amber Eyes’? The essence of the book being a collection of netsuke, patiently fashioned over years by craftsmen with exquisite skill and taste, emblematic objects that although small and fragile are also strong, assuming a beauty through their considered detail and practical application. Emblematic in that they seem to capture a more general ethos of private, immutable study and contemplation that runs through all Japanese thought and society, with its compartmentalised perspectives, where a journey - physical or spiritual - is fraught with protocol and ritual, overlaid and constrained by social standing. This is the inconsistency I was trying to indicate, rather clumsily perhaps, on the night of your talk.
In other words, is the ethereal / airy nature of traditional Japanese architecture a conspiracy - a piece of subtle trickery to lull the pilgrim or explorer into a false sense of fluid movement or progress, when in fact real life was specifically designed to impede mobility through an impenetrable maze of social proprieties - from the Imperial family downward?
In a few days, I would like to put my response up. But please feel free to post your comments here…
Photo credit: Ayako Iseki