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Japanese residential architecture gets show at Zaha's MAXXI museum

The exhibit traces the Japanese home’s development since 1945

Now on view at the Zaha Hadid-designed MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, a new exhibit traces the development of residential architecture in Japan after World War II. Unable to build large development projects in the wake of the war’s devastation, cities turned instead to creating small, single-family dwellings that were put up as quickly as they were torn down—and then reconstructed. This led to the reimagining of what a home could be, incorporating both innovation and tradition in the modernizing country.

The Japanese House: Architecture and Life After 1945” explores the role of the home and its influence on the culture through three principal themes: The cross-section of tradition and innovation; the continuity of Japanese culture; and the role of the domestic space in everyday life. The exhibit incorporates the work of over 50 architects including that of Kenzo Tange, Toyo Ito, Kazuyo Sejima, and Shigeru Ban, as well as that of their lesser-known masters like Seike Shirai, Kazuo Shinohara, and Kazunari Sakamoto. A group of promising young architects is also represented.

Life-size reproductions of fragments and sections of significant buildings such as the House U by Toyo Ito and Shigeru Ban’s emergency shelter are shown alongside drawings, models, photography, videos, interviews, film clips, mangas, and other works that are meant to expand the visitor’s view of a home and its relationship with the inhabitant while simultaneously extending it Japanese culture at large. In fact, the layout attempts to reproduce the spatiality of some of the buildings in the show.

The exhibit, which is on view until February, was born from an idea by Kenjiro Hosaka of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto of Atelier Bow-Wow (which designed the installation), and is curated by MAXXI’s senior architecture curator Pippo Ciorra. It is produced in part with the Japan Foundation, the Barbican Centre, and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.