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The Japanese architecture September 10, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture.

Modern houses are supposed to have brought us a steady succession of benefits and comforts. Yet, they often do not seem to arouse any deep emotions that can move us. And our residential lifestyle has been modernised at the expense of many things that we were fond of.

Japanese traditional domestic architecture has had a large vocabulary of symbolism, respect for nature and natural material. A characteristic of traditional Japanese architecture is that spaces on different floors are homogenous and equal in their status and meaning, differing only in their functional relations, such as their positions relative to one another.

In residential architecture, space is at a premium. Sometimes though, one can more than compensate for the disadvantages of an inevitable lack of space by the use of symbolic devices, decoration and light.

Space is made up of transitory units. Each unit serves in essence as a bridge between the foreground and the deeper interior and the space consists of a series of such units, like the links of a chain.

In Japanese houses, there are often rooms which can be thought as ‘settings’ as each is permeated by a certain mood. It can be an outwardly clean and simple functional space. Even a bare room containing a single ornament or piece of furniture, but with a certain quality about it that cannot be reduced to external appearances. Ambiences like these have emerged where daily life has been permeated by an aesthetic charged with symbolism and tension like that of the tea ceremony or ikebana.

Tatami mats serve as a kind of yardstick for Japanese behaviour patterns and living space. Tatami originally refers to a floor covering made by sewing together several layers of a thin material (straw, cloth, etc.).

Many houses built today in a traditional Japanese style adopt an earthern floor in the entryway, a practice being followed by modern architects, making the feel of earth an important element of the living space.

The verandah connects the interior and exterior spaces. Viewing the moon from a verandah has elements of both an indoor and an outdoor experience at the same time.

The garden has always occupied an important position in relation to traditional Japanese living space. Thus a dynamic deployment of interior space interacted with the deep-rooted Japanese desire to bring nature from outdoors into the living space, and together they gave us the distinctive area we know as the dobisachi.

Traditionally, Japanese houses were built of wood. Of late, lacquer and tiles have also lent beauty and power to wooden architecture. Despite the expense, there are houses today where lacquered interior surfaces have been maintained or newly created.

An important feature of the Japanese houses is their tiled roof. The tiles through their texture, shape, and colour pattern give the houses a characteristic atmosphere.

Understanding of Japanese domestic architecture will help us identify design solutions relevant to contemporary needs globally.

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