Houses Are Art: Kazuo Shinohara

Although I know nothing more of architecture than an average layman, my roommate is an architecture enthusiast. Our visit to the solo exhibition of architect Kazuo Shinohara was a serendipitous experience full of pleasant surprises. In addition to enjoying the simplicity and rationality in his designs, it was very intellectually interesting to see the architect’s highly abstract “philosophical” thoughts quoted next to the designs.

Kazuo Shinohara (1925-2006) is one of the most influential post-war Japanese architect. Different from many other architects in the modern era, Kazuo Shinohara was not involved in public architecture until his later years. Instead of public buildings, he chose houses as his main subjects and designed over thirty houses in his entire career, proposing that “houses are art”.

The houses he designed often reflected a unique taste of traditional Japanese homes. Even though Kazuo Shinohara did value traditions by stating that “Tradition is where creation begins, not where it ends”, he valued changes at the mean time by announcing that “tradition provides a starting point for creation but must not be viewed as its final goal.”

While keeping some of the traditional Japanese elements in his houses, such as minimalism, Kazuo Shinohara abstracted certain elements into geometric objects. As he said, “I love the panoply of primary geometric solids, as their hard edges shimmer weightlessly, in the light. From such an apparition, I expect a brilliant, luminous power to emerge.” In his designs, one can see a lot of squares, triangles, lines, as well as cubes. Perhaps the root of his fascination with geometric objects lies in the fact that he was once an excellent student in mathematics.

For instance, the column in the middle of House in White almost looks abrupt, yet there still exists a subtle balance beyond my words. I suppose that the column might represent some symbolic meaning, which I am currently not yet able to understand.


As another example, the seemingly cold and unemotional triangular structure in House in Itoshima sets up a visual “photo frame” for the ocean view.


In the following project named House under High Voltage Lines, Kazuo Shinohara artfully turned the high voltage lines as part of his design.


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