Sou Fujimoto speculates future architecture at Japan House London

‘Creating architecture is like planting seeds of the future,’ according to Sou Fujimoto. The architect’s ideas for the future are speculative. He does not believe in offering a concrete vision, but rather open a conversation on the potentials of buildings, civic, commercial or residential, in shaping our future. This philosophy forms the basis of a fascinating show and the inaugural exhibition at Japan House London. Curated in collaboration with Tokyo’s Toto Gallery, ‘Future of the Futures’ presents the work of Fujimoto, the influential contemporary architects who is a leading figure amongst Japan’s new generation of creatives.

Opened last month in a gloriously restored deco building on Kensington High Street – the former home of soulless US brand Gap – the basement gallery at Japan House feels the perfect space to contemplate the world of Fujimoto. This is a quiet space of pristine white walls where Fujimoto’s intricately-crafted models, so delicate you worry your breath may topple them over, are surrounded by large-scale photographs of his finished buildings. There is little text to accompany ‘Future of the Futures’, for the curators want us to delve into the imagination of the architect, and for this to be more of an open dialogue than a fixed set of answers.

On the day I visit, the crowd are a mixed group. There are well-healed Kensington residents returning from grocery shopping at the nearby Whole Foods. Children on their summer break marvel at the architectural models made of everyday objects – foam, clay, paper. There is the odd tourist who must have happened here by chance.

Born in Hokkaido in 1971, a graduate of the University of Tokyo department of architecture, Fujimoto established Sou Fujimoto Architects in 2000 before creating his most celebrated works – the Final Wooden House and House N, Musashino Art University Museum & Library and the brilliant House NA here on show with what I’m told are the actual residents of this modular Tokyo private residents, and in the UK, the 2013 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.

Fujimoto’s work is completely site-specific. ‘When we design, we pay close attention to the context of the site, the requests of our clients, and the cultural and historical backgrounds of each local community,’ he explains, adding it inspires him to create ‘actual places’ where people want to occupy. There is a definite blurring of inside and out in his work. He says, ‘a residence is the integration of interior and exterior, nature and architecture.’

Working within a context allows his work to open ideas that may be hidden in societies. Fujimoto explains: ‘If what we call future is defined as a series of manifestation of possibilities, I would say that small architectural proposals that stimulate them are seeds of the future.’ His philosophy is to use these so-called seeds, cast them into the hypothetical future and witness the possibilities.

‘Futures of the Future’ runs for one last week at Japan House London.

Nargess Banks

All images featured here are for editorial use only and © Adrian Brooks/Imagewise for Japan House London

Read about The Japan House, Architecture and Life after 1945 at the Barbican Gallery here

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Serpentine Pavilion by Sou Fujimoto

This is the latest Serpentine Gallery Pavilion designed by Sou Fujimoto and unveiled yesterday. At 41, the Japanese architect is the youngest creative to participate in the design of this temporary structure that resides in London’s Kensington Garden for four months.

His creation is a delicate, three-dimensional latticed structure made of 20mm fine steel poles that forms a lightweight and semi-transparent sculpture almost blending in with the surrounding landscape. The flexible, multi-purpose social space has a café inside to encourage park visitors to enter and interact with the Pavilion.

Fujimoto is very much part of an exciting generation of avant-garde artists who are re-inventing our relationship with the built environment. Inspired by organic structures, such as the forest, the nest and the cave, his signature buildings inhabit a space between nature and artificiality.

He describes his design concept: ‘The delicate quality of the structure, enhanced by its semi-transparency, creates a geometric, cloud-like form, as if it were mist rising from the undulations of the park. From certain vantage points, the Pavilion appears to merge with the classical structure of the Serpentine Gallery, with visitors suspended in space.’

Fujimoto is the third Japanese architect to design the Pavilion, following Toyo Ito in 2002 and Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA in 2009. He has completed the majority of his buildings in Japan, with commissions ranging from the domestic, such as Final Wooden House, T House and House N, to the institutional, such as the Musashino Art Museum and Library at Musashino Art University.

The Pavilion is an exciting project that is organised by the Serpentine Gallery. Past work have included designs by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei (2012), Frank Gehry (2008), the late Oscar Niemeyer (2003) and Zaha Hadid, who designed the inaugural structure in 2000.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read our previous reports on the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion projects here.

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