• Kazuo Shinohara: Traversing the House and the City
    Seng Kuan
    Lars Müller Publishers; Harvard Graduate School of Design, 2021
    Seng Kuan

Taki Kōji, house in Uehara (Shinohara Kazuo, architect), 1976, Tokyo. Photo: Taki Kōji.

Shinohara Kazuo (1925–2006) was one of Japan’s most influential and original architects of the postwar generation. As one surveys the state of Japanese architecture today, his influence appears greater and more relevant than ever, as evidenced in the work of Itō Toyo, SANAA, Atelier Bow-Wow, and Hasegawa Go. A mathematician turned architect, Shinohara achieved cult-figure status with his series of sublimely beautiful, purist houses designed over a thirty-year period, from the mid-1950s to the 1980s. Shinohara was also a rigorous polemicist, and through both writings and architecture he scrutinized and reframed fundamental architectural conventions. His slogan “A house is a work of art” encapsulates his belief in the potential of quotidian design. His resistance to a technological approach to architectural design, one that had dominated Japan’s architectural profession since the 1920s, caused him to break away from established forms of the single-family house ubiquitous in Japan’s postwar suburbia. The volume also features extended interviews with three of Shinohara’s remarkable clients, involving a painter, a poet, and a photographer, all of whom commissioned Shinohara with both a house in the city and one in the country.

Seng Kuan is assistant professor of architecture at the University of Tokyo and lecturer at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). He has written extensively on Japan’s postwar architectural culture, on the Metabolists, and on collaborations between structural engineering and architecture. He was co-editor, with Yukio Lippit, of Kenzō Tange: Architecture for the World, the first volume in this series from Lars Müller and Harvard GSD on modern Japanese architecture. Among the exhibitions Seng has curated are Utopia Across Scales: Highlights from the Kenzō Tange Archive (Harvard Graduate School of Design, 2009); Metabolism: City of Tomorrow (Mori Art Museum, 2011); On the Thresholds of Space-Making: Shinohara Kazuo (Kemper Art Museum, 2014; ETH Zürich, 2016). He received his PhD in architecture from the Harvard GSD.