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6 cubes in Light House, Minamata, Kunamoto

©Olivier Martin-Gambier

6 cubes in Light House, Minamata, Kunamoto, 1992-1994

Shoei Yoh
  • Architect (1940)

In his early work, Shoei Yoh experimented with the various ways light can be used to qualify a space. In 1980, he began a series of houses on the island of Kyushu. He made many different types of incisions in the volumes of these houses, creating a kind of spatial arrangement orchestrated by the impact of the penetrating rays of light. Stainless Steel House with Light Lattice (1981); Glass House with Breathing Grating (1983); Cross of Light House (1985); Another Glass House Between Sea and Sky (1991); and Six Cubes in Light (1994). These are all receptacle-houses for light used to affirm the individuality of the plans and sometimes to suspend them between earth and sky. In addition to houses, Yoh develops his ideas in larger-scale building. He experiments with wide variety of materials and techniques, both artisanal and industrial, which have enabled him to achieve architectural feats such as the immense mattices of the undulating bamboo cover of the Municipal Home for the Aged in Uchino (1994-95), and the one in wood for the Elementary School of Fukuoka (1994). Shoei Yoh creates “elastic” architecture designed to meet multiple programmatic constraints but also able to express the energy, fluidity and dynamism of a world in a state of flux. The desire to plunge the building into the heart of the elements has led him to utilize new technologies and materials to rethink the relationship between the natural world and the technological world. In fact, for him, technology is the only way to borrow something from nature and to move as close to it as possible. 

A self-taught architect and designer, and economist by training, Shoei Yoh (1940, Kumamoto) was born in Japan to Chinese parents. In 1962 he entered the School of Applied Arts in Wittenberg, Ohio and began his career in 1964 working for International Design Associates in Tokyo. In 1970, he founded his own firm, Shoei Yoh + Architects, in Fukuoka and began his career as a designer by creating, among other things, elements of transparent furnishings. In the mid 1970s, he began to focus on architecture, confirming the rigor of his approach in housing and public building programs (clinic, museum, tearoom, etc.). He has taught architecture and urbanism since 1986 at the Universities of Keio, of Kyushu and at Columbia University in New York.

Nadine Labedade