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4 Emerging Japanese Architects To Watch

Joanna Kawecki looks at the next generation of promising practices, namely Jo Nagasaka / Schemata Architects, Nobuo Araki / The Archetype, Onishi Maki and Hyakuda Yuki / O + H, and Fumihiko Sano / studio PHENOMENON.

4 Emerging Japanese Architects To Watch

Top image: Fumihiko Sano

The Pool Aoyama by Nobuo Araki / The Archetype

With all eyes on Japan for craftsmanship and design, the country is producing some of the most unique thinking and approaches to architecture by the current generation; the new visionaries of space. In an industry where Japan’s senior architectural leaders retain dominance in terms of workload and the corporate market, there’s an emergence of younger practices that are transforming the current architectural landscape, bridging cultural aspects to retail, commercial space and private residences.

House in Daizawa by Nobuo Araki / The Archetype

With a deeper consideration for the greater landscape and surrounding locale, while retaining traditional Japanese elements that complement contemporary design and lifestyles, four young Tokyo-based practices are standing out from the rest with a clear vision and unconventional approach: Jo Nagasaka / Schemata Architects, Nobuo Araki / The ArchetypeOnishi Maki and Hyakuda Yuki / O + H, and Fumihiko Sano / Studio PHENOMENON.

Nobuo Araki

Younger Japanese practices are using a more innovative and creative approach, transforming existing spaces with an emphasis on sustainable yet contemporary design. Nobuo Araki employs a modern sense of cool with partition-less open spaces heavily influenced by natural light, such as private residence ‘House in Daizawa’, or the recently renovated concept store, ‘The Pool Aoyama’, a disused 1970’s private residence swimming pool turned unique retail destination in Tokyo.

Fuji Sangyo by Jo Nagasaka / Schemata Architects

A key difference is the hands-on approach to covering all aspects of spatial design, and questioning the true necessity of design – from the architectural structure, to the functional products and furniture inside, most commonly using the same materials and complementary aesthetic. Product, furniture and lighting design for an interior space is just as important as the exterior, particularly for Jo Nagasaka, resulting in a visually consistent space.

Aesop Ginza by Jo Nagasaka / Schemata Architects

Complemented by a common trend of integrating traditional Japanese materials, an interest to use new technology and materials is emerging, resulting in a unique fusion of traditional elements, ‘tategoshi’ (vertical latticework) or ‘neritsuke’ (thinly shaved bamboo combine with plywood), or Jo Nagasaka’s common pairing of wood and resin for ‘udukuri’ (traditional cypress wood craft technique exposing the grain lines).

House in Okusawa by Jo Nagasaka / Schemata Architects

Jo Nagasaka. Photography: Hiro Shiozaki

Coming from an unconventional background in Japanese ‘sukiya’ carpentry, Fumihiko Sano’s untrained yet skilled knowledge provides a unique advantage. “Not only did it allow me to see a variety of materials and important cultural assets, it also let me undergo many inimitable experiences. For example I learned how strict the apprentice system is, and how it is like to be trained for specific techniques. It enables you to live the experience, beyond academic knowledge.” Pride and nationalism hold strong, as Fumihiko Sano explains the importance “to hold a distinct personality as a Japanese architect, in order to ascertain true cultural identity.”

Enyu-An by Fumihiko Sano / Studio PHENOMENON

Moya Moya by Fumihiko Sano / Studio PHENOMENON

From an existing national architectural enthusiasm, it’s no surprise then that architects today see a new value in an emotionally-driven approach with a strong consideration to be linked naturally with immediate surroundings. A focus on how the design can make them feel comfortable and happy in a space is an integral part in the thought-process asked initially in most briefs. O + H express, “We believe architecture has the power to change people’s lives. We think that creativity is one of the most important things for a home and also the work environment, and we would like to make a space in which people need to use their creative mind and enjoy the space by themselves.”

Onishi Maki and Hyakuda Yuki

Double Helix House by Onishi Maki and Hyakuda Yuki / O + H

The emerging younger generation of Japanese architects continue to challenge with traditional and modern innovations, as Jo Nagasaka explains, “This generation works hard [to be] more creative.” The heavyweights, such as senior architects Kengo Kuma, Toyo Ito or Atelier Bow-Wow, continue to realise larger-scale, more corporate local and international projects. O + H explains there is no competition, “…we are influenced by them very much. As young architects, we think the role of architects is changing and the process of making architecture will become more important. Architecture should not be an exclusive thing which only limited people can understand, but which everyone can enjoy and join in the process.”

Home for all in Higashimatsushima by Onishi Maki and Hyakuda Yuki / O + H

Jo Nagasaka / Schemata Architects

Nobuo Araki / The Archetype

Onishi Maki and Hyakuda Yuki / O + H

Fumihiko Sano / Studio PHENOMENON

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