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ARCHITECT CHASING THE TREE: KENGO KUMA

07 August 2020

One of the most important representatives of contemporary Japanese architecture, Kengo Kuma is internationally renowned for creating complex structures using pieces of wood in different geometrical shapes. Kuma has the vision of reconstructing elements exclusive to traditional Japanese architecture such as the use of natural materials, light and lightness and so he creates structures that are in harmony with their surroundings instead of structures that dominate them. Kuma’s way of pairing traditional with hi-tech keeps on extending its range both in and out of Japan.

Born in 1954 in Yokohoma, Kengo Kuma received his architecture degree from the University of Tokyo. He started his career Nihon Sekkei and Toda Corporation. He opened his own architecture firm Kengo Kuma and Associates (KKAA) in 1990. The economic crisis drained Tokyo’s interest for reinforced concrete constructions and paved the way for Kuma’s new beginning. Realizing beauty of nature at the suburbs and coming face to face the fact that wood workers were able to create products that are both affordable and aesthetic, Kuma turned to traditional methods. He moved to Europe and opened an office in Paris in 2008. He is now renowned for his structures that use bambu, glass, steel and wood.

This month, we welcome Kengo Kuma and two of his projects that are inspired by nature: Eskişehir’s new popular spot Odunpazarı Modern Museum (Turkey) and Sunny Hills (Tokyo, Japan) with its wooden facade that looks like an interwoven bambu basket.

ODUNPAZARI MODERN MUSEUM

A museum that is open to dialogue with its surroundings. A museum that is alive.

Kengo Kuma describes his vision for Odunpazarı Modern Museum (OMM) building as to developing a strong bond between nature and architecture by creating a structure that is in perfect harmony with its surroundings. The outcome was a structure that is alive and open to dialogue with the surrounding buildings and streets.

Inspired by Odunpazarı civil architecture, Ottoman domed structures and traditional Japanese architecture, OMM’s main architectural elements are geometry, light and timber. Basic geometrical form of the structure creates complex images. The wide roof window situated in the center allows daylight into the atrium and creates an ever-changing atmosphere depending on the seasons. The non-linear cluster of wooden material looks as if it’s an extension of the historical fabric of the area.

Reminiscent of Odunpazarı’s past, this wooden structure has a unique characteristic. Stacked in various volumes, these wooden clusters include a rich variety of exhibition spaces. Cafe, museum store, and workshops are all included in the total space of 4500 square meters. The museum stands out as a unique attraction that has become a symbol in Odunpazarı where historic fabric has been kept intact.

https://omm.art/tr

SUNNY HILLS

Inspired by interwoven bambu baskets.

Constructed in Tokyo in 2013 by Kengo Kuma and Associates (KKAA), named as Sunny Hills, famed for its traditional Taiwanese pineapple cake. Reminiscent of interwoven bambu baskets, the unique wooden facade was put together using jiigoki-gumi, a method which allows wooden pieces to be assembled in various angles and in various places.

For this structure which incorporates interwoven wooden elements, Kengo Kuma was inspired by traditional Japanese architecture and the result was successful in creating a dialogue between the structure and its surroundings. Over 5000 meters of wooden strips wrap around the three-storey building and create an organic form. Created by weaving wooden pieces in 30 and 60 degree angles, this dynamic form resembles a cloud in Sunny Hills. The light entering through hundreds of pieces of woven wood, gives life to the structure.

Kuma’s way of pairing traditional with hi-tech keeps on extending its range both in and out of Japan.