Kengo Kuma: My Life as an Architect in Tokyo

Thames & Hudson. tr. from Japanese by Polly Barton. Feb. 2021. 128p. ISBN 9780500343616. $24.95. ARCH
Not as well known in the U.S. as Kenzo Tange or Fumihiko Maki, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma here adds to our understanding of contemporary Japanese architecture with his deft drawing technique, which highlights the imaginative integration of natural materials into his built work. Autobiographical in tone and self-referential in perspective, this blend of portfolio and Tokyo guidebook channels Louis Kahn’s metaphorical prose. As the designer of the new Japan National Stadium for the 2021 Olympics, Kuma pays tribute to the profound influence of Tange’s expressionist National Stadium for the 1964 Tokyo games. Other references include philosophers Max Weber and Roland Barthes and architects Maki, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Yoshichika Uchida. Interwoven with observations about Tokyo neighborhoods, the book presents 14 of Kuma’s buildings: museums, a railway station, the Olympic stadium, and even a shop, wrapped in a diagrid of woven cypress, that sells Taiwanese pineapple cake.
VERDICT With observations on urbanism that are more inspiring than those in the late, peripatetic architect Michael Sorkin’s Twenty Minutes in Manhattan, this text benefits from monochromatic photographs and delicate, understated, textural pencil sketches, which will inspire design students to express their ideas more abstractly. For all architecture libraries.
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