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 [History] Japanese Architecture

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PostSubyek: [History] Japanese Architecture   Tue 22 Jul 2008, 14:45

Japanese Architecture

architecture has a very long history. It is considered to have begun in
the fifth century BC. Some evidences of prehistoric architecture from
this time has survived in the form of terra-cotta houses and pit houses
built by the Japanese neolithic tribe, known as Jomon. Since that time
architecture in Japan has changed considerably, developing a variety
of traditional styles and different types of designs. Japanese
contemporary architecture is exiting and at the same time influential
all over the world.

Traditional architecture in Japan

Because of the mild climate, structures of wooden
timber have traditionally been the basis for Japan's architecture. Most
secular and sacral buildings completed in the past were built by using
wooden materials. Forms and techniques used in this construction does
not only reflect the climate of Japan, but also it is deeply rooted in
the evolution of the Japanese culture. However, other materials, such
as stones, soil and bricks were also commonly used during this time
period. The architecture of wood, known as kansai, was fully developed
during the 8th Century by adding decorative elements and a variety of
design details. In that time Japanese architects gave birth to a
refined architectural style and technique that became unique to their

The rich tradition of Japanese architecture is
best exemplified by the sacral buildings, such as Buddhist temples and
Shinto shrines. The Ise Shrine is probably the most well known of the
Shinto shrines. Its typical features are columns made from cypress and
the traditional thatched roof. This design conveys a sense of purity
and simplicity, which is regarded to be the most important for the
shrine. The other fine example of sacred building in Japan is a
Buddhist temple called the Phoenix Hall. Originally a nobleman's villa,
the building was converted into a temple. It represents the apogee of
Japanese design bearing a new sense of airiness, with its open porch
and lofty central roof.

Between twentieth and fourteenth century
Japanese architectures set standards for domestic buildings. Some of
this basic elements has been maintained to the present day. A
traditional type of Japanese townhouse is known as 'machiya'. These
houses can be mainly found in Kyoto in the Takayama district. To meet
high living standards, building materials for machiya are carefully
selected. The most common material is timber wood, which attributed
considerably to the beauty of the house. The other example of domestic
architecture are farmhouses. To the most distinctive types of Japanese
rural buildings are known as gassho-zukuri. These are small houses with
a cozy and romantic look.

The abundance of feudal warfare and noble class
in Japan resulted in a big amount of palaces and castles. Although many
of these elegant buildings were destroyed in numerous wars, some of
them survived and can be admired nowadays. The most beautiful mansions
worth visiting today are the dramatic Himeji-jo castle and August
Imperial Palace. The former was constructed in 1390 and is also known
as White Egret Castle, the latter was rebuilt ten times due to fire.

Modern Architecture

When Japan opened it doors to the rest of the world
in 1868, Western architecture began to replace traditional Japanese
building. Architects in Japan started to combine traditional methods of
wooden constructions with European design. They also expanded the
materials used for the buildings including concrete and steel.

After World War I, under the influence of Le
Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright, Japanese
architecture began to make their own original contributions to the
modern architecture. Japanese architects such as Tange Kenzo or Arata
Isozaki created a unique style and developed international modern
design. Tange's National Gymnasium completed in 1964, is a fine example
of blending new styles with traditional Japanese characteristics.

In the 1960's Japanese architects such as
Shinohara Kazuo, Kurokawa Kisho and Maki Fumihiko started a new
architectural movement known as Metabolism. This style combines fixed
forms of the buildings with flexible spaces and functions. Shinohara's
Centential Hall at Tokyo's Institute of Technology is a prime example
of contemporary architecture that combines postmodern clashing forms
with elegant Japanese style. Kurokawa blends in his design building traditions with modern influence, while Maki, in his minimal arts, emphasizes the elements of nature.

In the 1980's the second generation of Japanese
architects, exploring both modern and postmodern design, started to
contribute to the development of contemporary architecture. Artists
such as Ando Tadao, Hasegawa Itsuko and Toyo Ito began to gain high
appreciation among worldwide architects. For instance Ando developed a
radically new style and is considered to be one of the most influential
architects today. His buildings often combine geometric simplicity with
unfinished concrete and glass structures to contrast modern society and
urban chaos with clarity that characterize traditional Japanese

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