STIRring Together: Reimagining the life-cycle of home at the Japan Pavilion

STIR speaks with Kozo Kadowaki, the curator of the Japanese Pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale, about the importance of adapting vacant structures in creative and innovative ways.

by Devanshi ShahPublished on : Jun 10, 2021

Titled Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements, the installation housed at the Japan Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 can be viewed as one that breaks down a building into a sum of its parts. But what it is implying is far more potent. While the aesthetics of the exhibition seem to focus on the fact that a structure from Tokyo was dismantled, its elements archived and transported to Venice, where these elements were reconstituted into different objects, there is in fact something deeper embedded in this act. As part of the archiving process, the researchers and architects who worked on this project uncovered the time bound stratification embedded in the building’s architecture. This is something that can be seen in every element which is then extracted and documented.

Japan Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition  –  La Biennale di Venezia | Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements |Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 | Japan Pavilion| Kozo Kadowaki | STIRworld
Japan Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia | Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements Image: Alberto Strada, Courtesy of the Japan Foundation

In an exclusive interview with STIR, curator Kozo Kadowaki explains the various concepts of the installation. While the idea aesthetically manifests as a dismantled old home presented as deconstructed elements of what constitutes the physical form of a house, the installation actually addresses multiple themes, including the growing number of vacant houses in Japan which according to Kadowaki, “is said to be more than 13 per cent of all houses”.

Japan Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition –  La Biennale di Venezia | Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements |Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 | Japan Pavilion| Kozo Kadowaki | STIRworld
Japan Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition –La Biennale di Venezia | Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements Image: Alberto Strada, Courtesy of the Japan Foundation

The home that was finally selected to undergo this process was the Takamizawa House. This particular situation is also linked to the population decline currently manifesting in Japan, which has led to a surplus of buildings. Kadowaki emphasises on the importance of adapting these structures saying, it is important to use these “vacant buildings in creative ways”. The idea of repurposing and adapting vacant structures is a globally prominent trend, this year’s Pritzker laureates were commended for it as well.

Japan Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition  –  La Biennale di Venezia | Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements |Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 | Japan Pavilion| Kozo Kadowaki | STIRworld
Japan Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia | Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements Image: Alberto Strada, Courtesy of the Japan Foundation

The idea disseminated by the Japan Pavilion and Kadowaki is far more radical. They are postulating the possibility of extracting raw material for construction from our built environment and not our natural world. This is particularly demonstrated by the fact that the life-cycle of this Tokyo building does not end in the Giardini. The parts will continue on in its journey to Oslo where they will be once again reformulated as part of a community installation. Kadowaki explains this phase saying, “The house will be dismantled again after the Biennale and go to the outskirts of Oslo. The materials will be used to build a facility where the residents can gather by themselves. Here, we plan to keep the original form of the house and use it in a different way, which should be a good match with the design with the participation of the residents.”

Japan Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition  –  La Biennale di Venezia | Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements |Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 | Japan Pavilion| Kozo Kadowaki | STIRworld
Japan Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia | Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements Image: Alberto Strada, Courtesy of the Japan Foundation

The installation in Venice is reformatted into what the team considered ‘objects appropriate for the Venice site’. Kadowaki explains how he maneuvered this expression saying, “It is a little difficult to explain the appropriateness. For example, the roof was converted into a bench because we thought it would be better for the exhibition to have a place to sit, but we did not use functionalism as an alibi. I would venture to say that our way of thinking seems to be closer to contextualism. For example, the façade of the house was impressive because of its green colour, but the green wall now sits in the forest of Giardini. When you visit the venue, you will find that these objects, strange as they may seem at first glance, are actually fitting in each place very well”.

Japan Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition –  La Biennale di Venezia | Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements |Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 | Japan Pavilion| Kozo Kadowaki | STIRworld
Japan Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia | Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements Image: Alberto Strada, Courtesy of the Japan Foundation

When talking about the value of keeping the idea of keeping the Takamizawa House alive in different forms, Kadowaki summarizes the pavilion's intention with this compelling and poetic quote, “This house has been renovated many times by many people. We are just the last in a series of these events. But this series of events is shared by many people. So we felt that it would be unacceptable for us to end this series of events".

STIRring Together:
Curated as a series of thoughtful engagements that enhance the contemporary debate and discussion on architecture, the STIRring Together series introduces readers to the many facets of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021. Tracing the various adaptations and following the multitude of perspectives, the series carefully showcases some incredible projects and exhibits, highlighting the diversity and many discourses of the show.

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