Japanese Architecture Constellation Comes to AAP
In early March, the Department of Architecture hosted two internationally acclaimed contemporary Japanese architects, Junya Ishigami and Sou Fujimoto, as part of the 2016 Spring Architecture Lecture Series. Both lectures took place in front of standing-room-only crowds in the Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium in Milstein Hall.
Ishigami and Fujimoto belong to a small group of architects that follow in the lineage of the Pritzker Prize winners Toyo Ito and Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates (SANAA). The lectures at Cornell coincided with Ishigami and Fujimoto's participation in an exhibition at MoMA, titled A Japanese Constellation: Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond, that explores the extensive work of three generations of notable designers from Japan.
"We were fortunate to be able to have these two renowned architects from Japan lecture back-to-back to full houses here in at AAP," says Mark Cruvellier, architecture department chair and the Nathaniel and Margaret Owings Professor of Architecture. "Both Ishigami and Fujimoto experiment with the boundary between the natural and built environment, explore building materials and framing systems, and investigate through their built work how seeming simple concepts and their variations can yield remarkable spatial and formal complexity."
Ishigami founded his office, junya.ishigami+associates, in 2004. The office has won several awards, including the Golden Lion for the best project of the 12th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in 2010. His lecture was a retrospective of his firm's prominent works from its founding to today.
"I have always been interested in Japanese architects' approach to design," says Alireza Shojakhani (M.Arch. '18). "Junya Ishigami's KAIT Workshop was a great example of creating spaces that are defined by how the user experiences them and requires them to perform."
"I was excited to hear Ishigami talk about his  Table," adds Yichen Jia (B.Arch. '18). "Through this project I could see how elegant form is achieved through a deep understanding of material and structure, and also how it's possible to establish a sense of fragileness and reliability at the same time."
Fujimoto, who established Sou Fujimoto Architects in 2000, also focused his lecture on his process as demonstrated through several of his more important works including the 2013 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, and 2011's House NA.
"Sou Fujimoto gave a particularly profound and inspiring lecture," says Stephanie Cheung (B.Arch. '18). "When describing his work, particularly House NA, the public toilet in Ichihara, Serpentine Pavilion, and the unbuilt project in Dubai, he demonstrated that his concept was the driving force of his design decisions throughout the entire project. It's amazing to see an architect of such high caliber speak so humbly about his achievements, how he works, and how he reacts to clients and makes design decisions. He made me feel that producing such experimental work is somewhat accessible and possible for an aspiring architect like me."
A Japanese Constellation: Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond will be on display at MoMA until July 4. The exhibition highlights the global impact and innovation of contemporary architecture from Japan since the 1990s.
By Rebecca Bowes