Japanese architect Arata Isozaki sees buildings not as dead objects but as events that encompass the social and historical context — not to be defined forever by their “everlasting materiality” but as texts to be interpreted and reread continually. In Japan-ness in Architecture, he identifies what is essentially Japanese in architecture from the seventh to the twentieth century. In the opening essay, Isozaki analyzes the struggles of modern Japanese architects, including himself, to create something uniquely Japanese out of modernity. He then circles back in history to find what he calls Japan-ness in the seventh-century Ise shrine, reconstruction of the twelfth-century Todai-ji Temple, and the seventeenth-century Katsura Imperial Villa. He finds the periodic ritual relocation of Ise’s precincts a counter to the West’s concept of architectural permanence, and the repetition of the ritual an alternative to modernity’s anxious quest for origins.
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