Page D1.1 . 21 September 2005                     
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    House of Plastic

    by Botond Bognar

    The designs of Japanese architect Kengo Kuma critically engage the materiality of architecture in order to challenge its usual meanings, and in so doing, to thwart the emergence of architecture as an object. As he has shown in many of his projects, Kuma is determined to "dissolve" the materials that he uses, or to choose materials that are less substantial, stating, "If materials are thoroughly particlized, they are transient, like rainbows."

    The application of new materials and the uncommon use of old materials are not limited to Japan, but both have been so extensive here that much of the recent success achieved by Japanese architects can be attributed in large part to those devices.

    Among the growing number of new materials architects have experimented with are: Teflon fiber fabric, polycarbonate, liquid crystal glass, cardboard, paper, corrugated metal, and perforated aluminum, in order to configure lighter structures and more fluid and ambiguous spatial matrices.

    Shigeru Ban has long been advocating the use of large cardboard tubes, which he used for his Paper Church in Kobe (1995) and the Japanese Pavilion at the Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany, among other examples of his "paper architecture." Shuhei Endo, on the other hand, has started to use ordinary corrugated metal sheets in unusual, fluidly curving, and often spiral shapes.

    Following the general trend, Kuma has over the years investigated many new and old materials, including plastic, translucent polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), bamboo, plastered straw, dried vines, paper, and, to a lesser extent, brick and concrete.

    Luminous House

    Kuma's Plastic House (2002), a small private residence in Tokyo, is built almost entirely of glass fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP). Kuma used this material both in the form of long slats and thin sheets, using in either case its inherent translucent qualities.   >>>

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    This article is excerpted from Kengo Kuma: Selected Works by Botond Bognar, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.



    ArchWeek Image

    The Plastic House in Tokyo, designed by Kengo Kuma.
    Photo: Fujitsuka Mitsumasa

    ArchWeek Image

    First-floor living, dining, and kitchen/ studio areas.
    Photo: Fujitsuka Mitsumasa


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