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Architect Junya Ishigami’s projects exhibited at Shanghai’s Power Station of Art

Winner of the Venice Architecture Biennale’s Golden Lion Award, Ishigami dived into his processes, approach and style for his first solo exhibition in China, Freeing Architecture.

by Sukanya Garg Nov 04, 2019

Architectural scale and convention is something that does not apply to the practice of Japanese architect Junya Ishigami. Winner of the Venice Architecture Biennale’s Golden Lion Award, Ishigami’s practice is centred around environment, both natural and human. His architectural creations are a perfect blend of intricate complex design, and yet, simple final renderings, transforming spaces to create an alternate imagery that, even still, is in harmony with the surroundings.

Botanical Farm Art Biotop /Water Garden, Photograph, 2013-18, Tochigi, Japan | Junya Ishigami: Freeing Architecture | Junya Ishigami| STIRworld
Botanical Farm Art Biotop /Water Garden, photograph, 2013-18, Tochigi, Japan Image Credit: Courtesy of junya.ishigami+associates

The exhibition Junya Ishigami: Freeing Architecture was a deep dive into the world of the architect through an exploration of the processes and details of Ishigami’s approach and style. On display were large-scale models, drawings, design manuscripts and films of about 20 of his architectural projects.

KAIT Workshop, Photograph, 2004-08, Kanagawa, Japan | Junya Ishigami: Freeing Architecture | Junya Ishigami | STIRworld
The KAIT Workshop, photograph, 2004-08, Kanagawa, Japan Image Credit: Courtesy of junya.ishigami+associates

The exhibition, which was organised by Shanghai’s Power Station of Art (PSA) and the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, was the first solo exhibition of the Japanese artist in China. The exhibition was originally created at the initiative of the Fondation Cartier, where it was originally exhibited in Paris in 2018. For the exhibition at PSA, Ishigami redesigned the display. 

Home for the Elderly, Photograph of Physical Model, 2012, Tohoku, Japan | Junya Ishigami: Freeing Architecture | Junya Ishigami | STIRworld
Home for the Elderly, photograph of physical model, 2012, Tohoku, Japan Image Credit: Courtesy of junya.ishigami+associates

Some of the architectural projects on display included House of Peace, The KAIT (Kanagawa Institute of Technology) Workshop, Home for the Elderly, House & Restaurant, Forest Kindergarten, and Chapel of Valley.

Japanese architect Junya Ishigami | Junya Ishigami: Freeing Architecture | Junya Ishigami | STIRworld
Japanese architect Junya Ishigami Image Credit: Raymond Depardon

Ishigami believes that buildings today are no longer just simple shelters, but diverse ‘sceneries’ that make up the vast space of this world. He uses his mastery of the environment, nature and scale to transform buildings into entirely new sceneries, and thereby discovering entirely new worlds. In The KAIT Workshop, his first independent project, Ishigami used 305 unevenly distributed columns of different shapes to create ambiguity within the scenery. If people enter a forest, they can freely wander, get lost, and explore unique private spaces. In a design for a French chef, titled House & Restaurant, Ishigami dug holes into the ground, filled them with concrete, and later removed excess soil etc. to recreate the impression of a primitive cave. Beneath the thick and rigid undulated surface, the building represented multiplicity and complexity.

University Multipurpose Plaza, Rendering, 2008, Kanagawa, Japan | Junya Ishigami: Freeing Architecture | Junya Ishigami | STIRworld
University Multipurpose Plaza, rendering, 2008, Kanagawa, Japan Image Credit: Courtesy of junya.ishigami+associates

Ishigami’s practice derives inspiration from the delicate modernist architecture of Japan, exploring the relationship between nature and landscape, as well as the balance of local and global architectural influence. While he likes to explore the transparency of space, his architectural approach also makes a deliberate attempt to preserve the natural elements of the place or space he is designing.

Forest Kindergarten, Drawing, 2015, Shandong, China | Junya Ishigami: Freeing Architecture | Junya Ishigami | STIRworld
Forest Kindergarten, drawing, 2015, Shandong, China Image Credit: Courtesy of junya.ishigami+associates

In many of his projects, Ishigami demonstrates an amazing capacity to conceive his practice as being outside the boundaries of architectural ‘scale’ thinking, adding an element of intimacy with the humans who may come to inhabit or visit the designed space.

Ishigami, who hails from Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan, has been recognised for this architectural style the world over. The first independent project he pursued under his official practice - junya.ishigami+associates – was The KAIT Workshop, which won him the AIJ Prize in 2009. Further, he represented his country in the International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in 2008 and 2010. In the latter year, he was awarded the Golden Lion for the best project for “Architecture as Air: Study for Chateau la Coste”. More recently, he designed the Serpentine Pavilion this year.

House & Restaurant, Photograph of Physical Model, 2013, Yamaguchi, Japan | Junya Ishigami: Freeing Architecture | Junya Ishigami| STIRworld
House & Restaurant, photograph of physical model, 2013, Yamaguchi, Japan Image Credit: Courtesy of junya.ishigami+associates

This exhibition was a continuation of PSA's themed programme - Architecture & City Exhibitions and Researches. PSA now focuses on a new generation of architects to explore their hidden heritage and development process. The exhibition was on display till October 7, 2019.

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About Author

Sukanya Garg

Sukanya Garg

Garg is an artist and writer with a Master's degree in Public Policy from Duke University, USA. She has been involved in research, planning and execution of gallery exhibitions and external projects in collaboration with curators. Her writing has been published in several art magazines, journals and as part of curatorial notes and catalogues, and her work has been showcased at multiple exhibitions.

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