IMG:Competing Visions of Modernity: Architects who Changed Japan

Image credits:Tange Kenzō, House in Seijō, Tokyo, 1953. Photo by Hirayama Chūji, Shinohara Kazuo, House in Kugayama, Tokyo, 1954. Photo by Hirayama Chūji

Competing Visions of Modernity: Architects who Changed Japan

Like many other nations, Japan has undoubtedly been influenced by and benefited from the modernist movement in architecture, in terms of the societal impact it carried and the position it held as a springboard for technological advancements. Japanese architecture holds a prominent position globally thanks to its aesthetic distinctiveness and design quality pioneered by a coterie of visionary architects. Of these figures, two stand out as particularly significant and influential: TANGE Kenzo and SHINOHARA Kazuo. While each created their own school of thought which took different directions in their ideologies, approaches, materials and views on society, both gained domestic and international notoriety as truly original voices and great contributors to modernism as a global movement.

Focusing on visionaries who shaped the course of Japanese architecture, Dr Seng Kuan – a Japan Foundation Fellow, Project Associate Professor at the University of Tokyo, and Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design – will talk about the achievements of these two towering figures, explaining why he believes that TANGE and SHINOHARA represented two distinct vertices in this uniquely rich and momentous chapter of international modernism. He will then analyse the scope of their influence over subsequent generations of architects, providing his own predictions for how Japan’s architectural landscape might transform going into the future. After Dr Seng Kuan's presentation, there will be a short discussion with Robert BrownProfessor of Architecture and Master of Architecture Program Leader at the University of Plymouth


About the guest speakers

Dr Seng Kuan teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the University of Tokyo. He has written extensively on modern architectural culture in East Asia, most notably on Tange Kenzō, the Metabolists, Shinohara Kazuo as well as on the relationship between architectural design and structural engineering. Seng’s research projects have been recognized with grants from the Graham Foundation, the Japan Foundation, and the Association for Asian Studies. He received a PhD in architecture from Harvard University and serves as chief editorial advisor to the journal a+u.

Robert Brown is Professor of Architecture and Master of Architecture Program Leader at the University of Plymouth. He has taught and lectured in Japan, including at Kobe University, as well as in Austria, Canada, China, Egypt and US. His research interests include socio-cultural identity and place, with publications on Japanese architecture and rituals. He is the author of various entries referencing Japanese architecture for The Encyclopaedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World (forthcoming). He is the recipient of funding from the Daiwa Foundation, Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Japan 21 Foundation, and is chair of the RIBA Research Grants Committee. 

The Japan Foundation Game Changer Series: The World is Changing; What Changed Japan

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