From 16 October 2020 to 7 March 2021, the Frac Centre-Val de Loire hosts the exhibition Quand la forme parle. Nouveaux courants architecturaux au Japon (1995–2020) [When Form Speaks: New Architectural Movements in Japan (1995–2020)], in collaboration with The Architectural Design Association of Nippon (ADAN) and produced by the architect Shuhei Endo.
The exhibition Quand la forme parle does not focus on Tokyo, as is usually the case. Bringing together many active architects from across the archipelago, it presents the reality of today’s architecture in Japan in a new and original way, writing a fresh page in the history of architectural exchanges between France and Japan.
Shuhei Endo, productor of the exhibition, architect, professsor at Kobe University
The reception of this exhibition falls within the brief of the new orientations of the Frac Centre-Val de Loire: an interpretation of architecture in the time of the ‘fragile skin of the world’, to use Jean-Luc Nancy’s turn of phrase. The exhibition presents an architecture that expresses the proximity that became, after the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and that in eastern Japan in 2011, the only way of approaching architecture attentive to the world. How can architecture attract attention, pay attention, or draw attention to something? This is how the spoken word invites itself into the exhibition title and its circuit.
Abdelkader Damani, director of the Frac Centre-Val de Loire
The exhibition pays particular attention to the architects whose careers began after the speculative bubble in Japan burst (from 1995), as well as to young emerging talents. It strives to define the expression of a contemporary Japanese architectural form covering all of the island, by presenting 35 architectural agencies (with 13 women architects) including 64 projects with original and creative forms harmoniously integrating diverse environments while remaining attuned to local communities.
Without abandoning the interest in form, architects born after 1960 focus their efforts on a sensitive expression of the environment and the design of an architecture for the community and with a new relationship between public and private.
It is a matter of responding to the abundance of the local natural world, with particular climactic constraints, or to the complex environment of the metropolises and their residential neighbourhoods. This deep reading of the context influences the forms, which strike up a real dialogue with the environment that also interacts with the architecture.
The concept of community plays an important role in the current context of Japanese architecture. Modern architects were already considering that the role allocated to form was that of ‘enlightening’ citizens. Some post-war Japanese architects saw in modernism an expression of democracy. With the transition into the twenty-first century, the organisation of participatory workshops bringing residents and users together spawned an increase in high-calibre public architectural projects. After the major earthquake in eastern Japan in 2011, all eyes were turned to these provincial cities that had been ravaged. Post-disaster architecture became aware of this community dimension that calls for greater complexity. Beyond the search for beautiful spaces, it is a question of creating living areas in which people can come together and spend pleasant moments in each other’s company.
While in the post-war period the individual home was developed in particular and in the second half of the 1970s, introverted homes, closed off to urban space were emerging. There has since been a progressive trend of housing opening up to the city: a home associated with a collective restaurant, a dojo, or a shop, a communal residence… Architects handle the original formulations of these functional and complex programmes. Furthermore, new kinds of public spaces are appearing, accompanying a social transformation and liberated of traditional models – such as, for instance, a complex encouraging intergenerational relationships or a crèche that connects with the local community.
Taro Igarashi, curator of the exhibition, architecture historian, professor at Tohoku university