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Kengo Kuma's exhibition in Krakow!

04 of January '22

Experiment. Material.Architecture - is the title of an exhibition dedicated to the work of Kengo Kuma, one of Japan's most important contemporary architects. The exhibit will be on display at the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Krakow until May 3, 2022.

Kengo Kuma's architecture is distinguished primarily by his attempt to combine modern technologies with traditional building materials. The exhibition will feature experimental projects that best reflect Kengo Kuma's understanding of architecture. In his view, it is supposed to be user-friendly, drawing inspiration from nature and the local environment, suppressing any tendency for the building to dominate the natural surroundings.

The exhibition was complemented by the presentation of a unique wooden installation, an abstract form entitled Cloud, which was designed by Kengo Kuma's studio, in cooperation with the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts at Krakow's Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Academy. The installation was also created with the support of the Association for Architectural Education, the Kyoto-Krakow Foundation of Andrzej Wajda and Krystyna Zachwatowicz, and Krzysztof Ingarden.

The exhibition will also be accompanied by lectures and discussions on the architecture of Kengo Kuma, Japanese architecture or universal problems of contemporary architecture.

The Victoria&Albert Museum branch building in Dundee by Kengo Kuma

photo by Alex Liiver © CC BY-2.0

Krzysztof Ingarden, the curator of the exhibition, talks about the process of creating the exhibition and the biggest problems with its creation.

Wiktor Bochenek: How did you get the idea to organize an exhibition dedicated to Kengo Kuma?

Krzysztof Ingarden: I am very happy that we were able to realize Kuma's exhibition in the Europe Far East Gallery of the Manggha Museum in Krakow. This is the first major solo presentation of this outstanding architect's works in Poland, although earlier in 2004 his two projects were presented at the group exhibition "3-2-1 New Architecture in Japan and Poland" organized on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Manggha, which I also originated and co-curated.

Kengo Kuma is now one of the most recognized Japanese architects in the world. He is an heir and continues the tradition of several generations of great Japanese artists. Starting with Junzo Sakakura and Kunio Maekawa, still pre-war modernists, disciples of Le Corbusier, then Kenzo Tange, who took over Le Corbusier's techniques from them, then follows the generation of Tange's disciples - these are the metabolicists headed by Kurokawa, Kikutake and Fumihiko Maki, this generation also includes Arata Isozaki. The next generation, the current six at the peak of their careers, are Kazuyo Sejima, Shigeru Ban and just Kengo Kuma. His position in not only Japanese but also world architecture is unassailable and growing. The U.S. Times counted him as the only architect among the narrow elite of the world 's 100 most influential people in 2021. Kuma is an architect of great sensitivity and imagination. He constantly experiments and seeks innovative material solutions, using the tradition of Japanese craftsmanship. He currently has offices in France and China, employs more than three hundred people, and is working on about a hundred projects around the world.

Kengo Kuma has brought to architecture an original treatment of architectural form. Particularly interesting is his idea of erasing architecture - creating architecture that is non-confrontational, subordinate to nature and close to humanity. He believes that architecture should melt into the natural landscape, and in this process an important task is to return to natural materials and techniques. Architecture is to become a link between nature and the human senses. On the one hand, it reduces its scale to that of a human being; on the other, it continues to seek unconventional ways of using stone, wood, bamboo, glass, water, paper, etc. Experimentation with materials and imagination, as well as the haptic nature of architecture, is a distinguishing element of Kengo Kuma's designs. This is what determines the originality of his work.

Wiktor Bochenek: What was the process of creating the exhibition and working with Kengo Kuma's office like?

Krzysztof Ingarden: Ittook almost three years for the Manggha Museum team, the Tokyo office of KKAA, with the participation of the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts of the Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow Academy and the Association for Architectural Education operating at our Faculty, toprepare this exhibition and its realization. The exhibition consists of two parts - the first is a presentation of more than thirty projects of the KKAA office in the form of models and mock-ups in 1:1 scale, all illustrating the experimental nature of this architecture. This part was sent to Krakow from Tokyo in a container. The second part is a project made in Krakow. It is the result of a student workshop with Kengo Kuma's office. The Department of Architecture and Fine Arts has been working closely with Kuma's office for several years . In 2019. we organized a workshop together at the master's program, during which students developed a semester-long project involving the analysis of traditional carpentry methods in Poland and Japan, to later design a wooden pavilion based on selected carpentry connections. The workshop resulted in the design of an installation entitled Cloud. The workshop was led by Professor Artur Jasinski, and from the Japanese side by a partner in Kengo Kuma's office, Marcin Sapeta, thanks to whom we have managed to continue this wonderful cooperation over the years. I would like to add that Kuma has established an annual Kengo Kuma Student Award for the best graduate student in our Department in the form of an internship in his office, and this year, during the opening of the exhibition at the Manggha Museum, Marcin Sapeta and I announced the name of the first winner, who will fly to Tokyo as soon as the pandemic situation allows.

The Cloud installation occupies the entire upper floor in the Far East Gallery and is a very important part of this exhibition. This is a project that was created in parallel with the students' work and at the end of the workshop a piece of it was produced in a carpenter's shop near Krakow and assembled by the students on the university campus. The form of the pavilion is built by two types of wooden elements, both of which are jammed at 45-degree angles in two directions, respectively. These two simple components create an extremely complex and unexpected spatial form, which was modeled and generated using parametric software. It exemplifies the combination of skillful application of indigenous carpentry traditions with advanced computer design technology, which was an important teaching task of the workshop.



© Manggha Museum press materials

Wiktor Bochenek: The exhibition will be accompanied by lectures, what will you talk about?

Krzysztof Ingarden: I have been asked to give a lecture on Kengo Kuma, in which I will want to present the silhouette of Kengo Kuma against the background of the works of other prominent Japanese architects. At the same time as presenting Kuma's works, I would like to present the problem of the clash and mixing of different cultural threads in Japanese architecture. The history of modern Japanese architecture provides us with unusually interesting material for analysis of the course of modernization processes and the essence of modernity, especially architectural tradition. These processes are fluctuating in nature - periods of adoption of international influences are interspersed with periods of recurrence and drawing on local traditions.Japanese architecture is in this respect not a unique phenomenon, but certainly uniquely interesting on a global scale due to the insularity and history of periodic isolation of Japan, as well as due to the sophistication of Japanese aesthetics.

The purpose of the lecture will also be to present selected diverse creative attitudes represented by three selected profiles of great artists of Japanese architecture, representing three different generations: Kenzo Tange, Arata Isozaki, Kengo Kuma. These are architects creating groundbreaking works during three different periods in Japanese history - modernism after World War II, postmodernism from 1970-1990, and the post-1990 period associated with the economic downturn after a period of rapid economic growth. The unifying feature of the selected trio, Tange - Isozaki - Kuma, is their shared passion for creating and charting the paths of Japanese architecture between modernity and tradition, but what is interesting in this case is that it is also a characteristic rebellion, a break with continuity in relation to the creative attitudes of architects representing the previous generation, the generation of their fathers and great teachers.

Wiktor Bochenek: Thank you for the interview!

For more information, visit the Manggha Museum website.

interviewed and compiled by: Wiktor Bochenek

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