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Kengo Kuma
  • Architect (1954)

Since the late 1980s, Kengo Kuma has been reinventing traditional Japanese architecture by reexamining the structural and aesthetic potential of using local construction materials. His many completed projects attest to his quest for lightness and erasure as well as to his research into ecological and economical construction methods, in which the heaviest materials become translucent. His works are characterized by their wide formal variety and the perfect match of the building materials with the location of the site. In his early projects (1986-1991), Kuma developed architecture inspired by chaos, like the image of the Japanese city, which tends to dissolve into its context (M2, Tokyo, 1991). In contrast to the monumentality of buildings, in the early 1990s he shifted his focus towards architecture composed of spaces specifically designed to be “perceived.” He bases this approach on four key concepts: the capacity of roofs and floors to establish links between nature and edifice; the assembly of small elements (“particles”) that fraction space; the organization of the built environment with mobile partitions; and the innovative use of vernacular construction materials.

Following his studies at the University of Tokyo and Columbia University in New York, Kengo Kuma (Nakagawa, 1954) collaborated for several years with Arata Isozaki. In 1987, he founded the Spatial Design Studio, and then his own firm in 1990, Kengo Kuma & Associates, in Tokyo. A professor in several universities, he is also the winner of numerous prizes in Japan and abroad. Author of many cultural facilities (Ando Hiroshige Museum, 2001; Stone Museum, 2000), commercial, administrative buildings (LVMH, Osaka, 2004), residential buildings (Lotus House, 2005) and industrial and mixed-use facilities (One Omotesando, Tokyo, 2003), he also designs installations, sets and shop interiors, restaurants and tearooms. Kengo Kuma is also the project manager for the building of the FRAC PACA (2012) and the FRAC Franche-Comté (2013).

Nadine Labedade