The evocative power of contemporary Japanese architecture

We could have done less confusing as an introduction to an exhibition devoted to contemporary Japanese architecture than a presentation on the history of the Asile Flotant, the barge that Le Corbusier had rehabilitated in 1929 at the request of the Army. of Hi. It ended at the bottom of the Seine in 2018 following a flooding of the river, was then put back afloat and is now finishing being restored (moored quai d’Austerlitz, it should reopen to the public soon). But this choice is explained. By the fact, first of all, that the exhibition, initially scheduled to open in 2018, was to be held on the barge, and that it is produced by the Architectural Design Association of Nippon (ADAN), the organization that carried out its rescue and who supervises its restoration. In 2008, the Japanese architect Shuhei Endo, his vice-president, also designed a metal structure to wrap it around while a French team was working on it.

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This story is also a roundabout way of historically anchoring the exhibition entitled “When the form speaks.” New architectural trends in Japan (1995-2020) ”. The projects it brings together are presented as being symptomatic of a paradigm shift that would have affected Japanese architecture after the bursting of the speculative bubble of the 1990s, and that would have radicalized in a way the natural disasters of the 21st century.e century, such as the earthquake on the Pacific coast of Tohoku and the tsunami that led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. Forced to come to terms with an impoverished economy, aware of their social and ecological responsibility, Japanese architects born after 1960 broke with the approach of their illustrious elders, these world stars who, from Kenzo Tange to Shigeru Ban, from Toyo Ito to Tadao Ando, ​​brought Japan more Pritzker Prizes than any other country has ever dreamed of winning, for whom Le Corbusier was a totemic reference and Western architecture, more generally, an intellectual matrix.

Ancient know-how

Vaccinated against iconic architecture and the megalomaniacal temptations that go with it, the young guard whose projects are exhibited at the Maison de la culture du Japon (after spending several months at the Frac Center-Val de Loire) turned away from these references to return to the fundamentals of Japanese architecture. Reinterpreting ancient know-how in the light of contemporary uses, combining traditional materials with modern techniques, adapting vernacular forms to the environmental and social conditions of our time, these architects embody a movement that has won over society as a whole. The artisanal character of the models presented in the exhibition, an alloy of astounding precision and a slight tremor that retains the imprint of the manufacturing process, is eloquent expression.

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