Page N1.1 . 17 July 2002                     
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    Spirit of Wood

    by ArchitectureWeek

    The Wood in Culture Association of Finland has announced that it will confer the 2002 "Spirit of Nature" Wood Architecture Award to Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. The award recognizes the achievements of a person or group whose work exemplifies architectural excellence and a progressive and creative use of wood. The association hopes that the award will both increase international respect for wood buildings and building components and improve their quality by fostering traditions and inspiring young architects.

    According to the Spirit of Nature awards jury, Kuma is an architect who understands the significance and possibilities of a skillful use of materials in his work. Many of his buildings, they write, "are characterized by a refined use of wood and a profound understanding of the nature of wood as a building material. He has successfully combined new and traditional elements to produce architecture that is completely modern while still being sensitively and carefully adjusted to its existing surroundings." This year's international award is also a tribute to the centuries-long tradition of Japanese wood architecture and craft.

    One of Kuma's projects cited by the jurors is the Noh Stage in the Forest, in Toyoma, Tome-gun, Miyagi ken. This is part of the Toyoma Noh School, which continues a theatrical tradition that dates from the 16th century. Original Noh performances were in the open air, and Kuma's intention was to make his architecture, through it's wood detailing, fuse with the surrounding natural forest.

    Another cited project, the Museum of Hiroshige Ando, in Batou, Nasu-gun, Tochigi Prefecture, is a space for displaying Ukiyoe paintings by the Japanese artist Hiroshige Ando. Just as Ando used particles to abstractly express natural phenomena such as rain, fog, and mist, Kuma used light filtering through a grid of Japanese Cedar to resemble an accumulation of particles, creating a "cloud" floating in the landscape.

    The awards jury includes architects Gunnel Adlercreutz, Unto Siikanen, and Jan Söderlund from Finland, Olga Quintanilha from Portugal, and Roland Schweitzer from France. The award will be conferred in September 2002 in Lahti, Finland. This is the association's second biannual award; the first was given to Italian architect Renzo Piano in 2000. The award is supported by the Finnish Forest Foundation.

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    ArchWeek Image

    The Noh theatre stage (1996) by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who has won the 2002 "Spirit of Nature" Wood Architecture Award.
    Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka/ HELICO Co. Ltd.

    ArchWeek Image

    The Ginzan Bath House (2001) in Obanazawa-shi, Ysmagata Prefecture, uses wooden louvers to create an ambiguous boundary between public and private.
    Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka/ HELICO Co. Ltd.

    ArchWeek Image

    The Museum of Hiroshige Ando (2000) by Kengo Kuma.
    Photo: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka/ HELICO Co. Ltd.


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