Architecture enthusiasts, be it those who wish to pursue a degree in the field or are already enrolled in the best architecture courses in Delhi, are bound to be interested in diverse architectural styles from around the world. The Japanese architectural aesthetic holds special importance in the hearts of such enthusiasts, as the Japanese style is reminiscent of eccentric extravagance, mixed with simplistic beauty. Let’s look at these bite-sized facts about Japanese architecture.
The Japanese terrain is prone to natural disasters – be it typhoons, earthquakes, or severe floods and landslides. How would you, a modern-day architect, go about designing buildings that can withstand such destructive forces? History and cultural context play a major role in the life of an architect, wherein one has to take certain geographically innate factors in mind. Eminent architecture schools in India place much-needed emphasis on the cultural history of region-specific architectural trends, and rightly so.
Japan houses the world’s oldest wooden buildings, including the Horyu-ji, which was built around AD 607, and the Todai-ji, which is 165 feet high – leaving a legacy of architectural designs that are sturdy and survive decades. Moreover, the concepts of fluidity and the deft use of light and shadow escalates this style to new heights.
Commencing with the oldest dwellings, one can witness the Neolithic Jomon culture, and trace their way to the Grand Shrines of Ise. These shrines have been ritually rebuilt over 60 times, over a span of every 20 years – this laborious process is challenging to accomplish, replete with the cutting of mountainous cypress trees and intricate carpentry techniques, which require extensive and detailed architectural planning.
Japanese Architecture – Influences
Art is often influenced by socio-cultural repercussions – the same can be said of Japan with the advent of Buddhism in AD 552. This brought about a host of cultural and technical features that ushered continental influences. In the 7th century, Chinese architectural influences became prominent in the form of:
● North-South grid plan in the streets, based on the layout of the Chinese capital.
● Secular and sacred relics were refurbished, wherein palaces were rededicated as temples.
● Heavy use of red-lacquered columns and green roofs with pronounced curves in the eaves.
● Tiled roofs became all the rage during this time.
Heian Period – Edo Period
The villa of Japanese nobleman Fujiwara no Yorimichi (992AD-1074), became the Phoenix Hall of Byodo-in, in Uji near Kyoto. The structure’s style was graceful, known as the shinden-zukuri style, and was characterized by:
● Rectangular structures in symmetry.
● Linked rooms with long corridors, which was later replicated in the Old Imperial Palace.
As the era progressed into the inevitables of war and civil strife, the focus of the architectural style shifted to warrior style bukke-zukuri, which epitomized fortified architecture:
● A number of rooms were placed under one roof and surrounded by a defensive device such as a fence, guard tower, or wall.
● Shingled or thatched roofs were preferred.
● Temples were constructed while following the Zen style, which focused on pillars set on carved stone plinths and hidden roof systems.
Similarly, feudal-era castle towns were schematised, and wooden structures were made more durable with the help of mammoth cut boulders. Reinforcements were done with the help of plaster and clay in order to grant protection against fire and artillery.
The Interior is Exterior – Design Principles
Architecture students can learn a lot by understanding the Japanese design aesthetic of interior vs exterior. This dichotomy is often fluid in Japan, as sliding door panels can be easily removed during humid summers. The veranda becomes a transitional space connecting the inside and the outside. When one wishes to dissect Japanese design principles, they might come across the following:
● Use of limited materials in traditional Japanese rooms, wherein sliding door panels are made of either wood or opaque fusuma paper screens.
● Floors are made of thick, resilient straw mats surfaced with woven tatami mats or plain wood. Wooden surfaces mostly remain unpainted.
Teahouses displayed the epitome of architectural skill, with their lack of surface ornamentation and presence of rustic simplicity. The Japanese dialectic between imported and adapted continental styles speaks volumes, while their preservation ethic has impacted their long-standing legacy. The future holds promising things, in the form of the Humble Capsule Hotel, which has been based on space shuttle accommodation for ambitious astronauts. Architecture being in vogue in present-day Japan, today’s projects promise showmanship, spectacular creativity, and transcendental beauty.
Hence, take inspiration from Japan’s iconic architectural history, and create the city of your dreams with designs that capture and transform the imagination forever.