Beyond the bubble. The new japanese architecture, by Botond Bognar, a review

Continuing my series of readings with the intent to give it a bit of body, I suggest  this book. It is has been published in 2008 by Phaidon Press.

The writer, says the back cover, teaches at University of Illinois(here) . Every time, you take a book that says New …something and it is dated says 10 years ago, you already knows that , at his best, it can give you some hindsight of what is happening now.

The great merit of this book it is in its short essay.

Mr. Bognar explained very well to me, the crazyness of the bubble era to which, until I read this book, I just heard about but I did not realize exactly how it was.

When he describes the real building of architect Masaharu Takasaki, Crystal Light guest House, built in 1986 and demolished in 1989…it says a lot about the folie/madness of the Bubble and he also explains why. My question, of course, arise: are we heading toward another bubble? Olympic itself is triggering it? Those are not in the book, they are my personal doubts about he current situation while stock market is rocketing…instead the book is composed by 4 sections:

1 – Introduction

2- The bubble years – The epitome of Japanese Postmodernism

3 – After the bubble – New Realities, new priorities

4- Beyond the bubble ‐The Architects

The first three sections are terrific. They are well documented and well explained and if you think that one of the most venerate architects, mr Toyo Ito, has Taichung Metropolitan Opera (Taiwan) mentioned and illustrated, when in reality  the construction just finished last year, you have the idea that even if it is written before 2008 it is not yet a dated book.

At the end of the third section he write a paragraph called lightly “Assessing the future – in lieu of a Conclusion” when it reports words from a philosopher Koji Taki, that basically does not suprise.

The 4th section is a commented Gallery, closer to a well illustrated magazine that sports works from 18 Architects studio such as:

Tele-Design, Koji Yagi, Kazunari Sakamoto, Atelier Bow-Wow, Kazuyo Sejima, Shigeru Ban, Waro Kishi, Nikken Sekkei Ltd, SANAA, Jun Aoki, Ryoji Suzuki, Yasumitsu Matsunaga, Riken Yamamoto, Obayashi Corporation, Yoshio Taniguchi, Kengo Kuma, Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito.

If you do not know half of those people than the book it may worth the acquire or if you like architecture large pictures as well. The proposed works are also well explained in their main features. One merit of the book also is to mention some foreigners who are working in Tokyo competing within the tight market.









24 Architects in Japan, Roland Hagenberg, May 2011

this post is abouta book I recently finished.

he list of architets interviewed by mr. Hagenberg you can find in this book, is here below:

  1. Tadao Ando, 2002-2004 and 2011

  2. Jun Aoki, 2001-2007, 2010

  3. Shigeru Ban, 2001-2003,

  4. Terunobu Fujimori, 2005

  5. Sou Fujimoto, 2009

  6. Hiroshi Hara, 2000-2007, 2010

  7. Hitsuko Hasegawa, 2000,

  8. Naoki Iijima, 2009

  9. Arata Isozaki, 2000,

  10. Toyo Ito, 2000, 2010

  11. Kiyonori Kikutake, 2008

  12. Astrid Klein Mark Dytham, Kda, 2010

  13. Kengo Kuma, 2000-2007, 2010

  14. Kisho Kurokawa, 2000

  15. Fumihiko Maki, 2001, 2011

  16. Hiroshi Naito, 2000-2007, 2011

  17. Kazunari Sakamoto, 2007

  18. Kazuyo Sejima, Ryue Nishizawa /SANAA, 2000, 2010

  19. Kenzo Tange, Noritaka Tange, 1998, 2007,

  20. Takaharu Tezuka, 2011,

  21. Yasuhiro Yamashita, 2008, 2010


I did put the time the author wrote in this book because some of these interviews are not so fresh (how could the author had write to some of them such Kurokawa, Kikutake or Tange father who are already buried?). None of them seem to be done after the Tohoku earthquake and this could be a good point from a certain view.

The plan was to publish the book on March 2011 and because of the earthquake has been postponed. Before this book others were published on the same matter. The author list them. In 2001 there was a film documentary called surFACE, co-directed by Karl Neubert and Hagenber also a bilingual version was released by Uplink in dvd. In 2004 Kashiwa Shobo wrote, 14 Japanese Architects. In 2009, Garden City Publishers, in Taiwan, 20 Japanese Architects.

Other exhibitions were held by the author, and the project in Austria called Japan-Listz-Raiding, were some of the interviewed took part seems to be the background fo the book.

To my side it has been interesting to read such opposite thoughts about architecture here, and discover some personalities, such for instance Hiroshi Hara, I didn’t be aware of furthermore it was fun reading about mr. Isozaki is almost a chinese man nowadays!

This is the first book I read in english who report the architect voices and reading was interesting despite the fact I believe it’s better study their works than read their words.

The author says that all his earnings from this book will be devoluted to the Japanese Red Cross. That’s fare enough to publish this post and also it is a necesssary element of this blog.