After touring abroad since 2014, “Japan, Archipelago of the House” — a current exhibition at the Yale Architecture Gallery housed within the Yale School of Architecture — arrived at its first North American venue this February. The exhibition features 3D models and photographs showcasing the development of Japanese architecture from the 20th-century to the modern day.
The team behind the project consists of curators from overseas, which is not unusual for the gallery’s exhibitions, according to Alison Walsh, the Architecture Gallery’s exhibitions coordinator. The curators include Véronique Hours and Fabien Mauduit from A.P.ARTs, an architecture collective based in France, and Jérémie Souteyrat, a photographer based in the United Kingdom. Manuel Tardits, a French architect who teaches at Meiji University in Tokyo, worked on the exhibition as well.
In addition to its focus on the architecture of houses, the exhibition “shows a modern history of the roots of where these contemporary houses comes from,” said Andrew Benner ARCH ’03, the architecture gallery’s director of exhibitions.
Benner added that the exhibition contextualizes the culture and history that informed these houses’ architectural design. According to Benner, the individual projects displayed in the exhibit, designed by “key modern architects, either Japanese or working in Japan,” tried to balance “traditional ideas of the house with the new concerns of modernism and postmodern construction, and different ideas of space in society that were coming as Japan was coming out of the war and becoming further and further westernized.”
These themes inform the layout of the exhibit which is organized into three sections, titled “Yesterday’s Houses,” “Today’s Houses” and “Houses of Tokyo.”
The first part of the exhibit is “Yesterday’s Houses,” which showcases a series of 15 architectural structures influential to the development of modern Japanese architecture in the 20th century. Each project is conveyed through a panel containing historical information, floor plans and photographs, along with a 3D model of the house. Since all the models are built on the same scale, viewers can make comparisons between the dimensions of one house and the next.
According to Walsh, this section also posed unique challenges for the organizers. Due to the difficulty of securing the models from overseas institutions, several of the models were created in the School of Architecture, marking the first time the gallery produced content for an exhibition.
“It was challenging to hunt down plans for the houses, and of course to translate the plans we had from Japanese! In this case, the curator was extremely helpful in supplying us with most of the information we needed and I was able to find the rest in our Haas library,” Walsh said in an email to the News.
Unlike its predecessor, the second section, “Today’s Houses,” documents the architecture projects it focuses on using freestanding and life-sized panels, which are placed into several rows that span the center of the gallery.
The layout invites visitors to walk through the projects as if they were in a real neighborhood, Benner noted. While the front side of each panel displays summary icons of each design, the back side reveals detailed images and notes. Consisting of a curated selection of twenty modern projects, “Today’s Houses” embodies the efforts of the curatorial team to document the houses through blueprints, photographs and interviews with their architects and inhabitants.
“The most interesting part was visiting the houses because then one can understand how people live in that kind of house, which was the main goal of the project, but also developing the layout for the exhibition so we can offer this understanding to the public,” Hours said.
The final section of the exhibition, “Houses of Tokyo,” displays 36 photographs that depict contemporary houses in their environments. Taken by Souteyrat — who lived in Japan from 2009 to 2018 — the collection captures how these Tokyo homes situate themselves in everyday life, as they interact with “cars, garbages [and] curtains.” Souteyrat emphasized the difference between his perspective and traditional architecture photography.
“I wanted to show to the western audience that Tokyo is much more than a succession of vertical skyscrapers but mainly an horizontal city made of narrow streets, houses, tiny gardens and village lifestyle,” Souteyrat said.
In addition to presentation in the exhibit, the photo series was also published in a book titled “tokyo no ie” in 2017.
Before the exhibition closes on May 4, the Yale Architecture Gallery will host a talk presented by the curatorial team on April 24 at 6 p.m.
“It is a part of the school’s mission to expose the students to a worldwide conversation on Architecture,” Walsh said. “Our gallery is proud to take part.”
Michelle Li | firstname.lastname@example.org