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Kengo Kuma - A special report by Aya Sekine

Walking around Minami Aoyama in Tokyo on a sunny winters day. I was drawn to the distinctive looking buildings designed by Kengo Kuma who is one of the leading contemporary architects in Japan. His design for the new National Stadium will be the linchpin for the 2020 Olympics.

Awkward and complex yet perfectly proportioned buildings with multiple vertical and horizontal strips of wood are Kuma’s trademark. This renowned architect does not restrain himself to the banal and superficial use of ‘light’ materials. Instead, he goes much deeper, extending to the mechanisms of composition to expand the possibilities of materiality. He utilizes technological advancements, which can challenge unexpected natural materials, such as stone, into providing the same sense of lightness and softness as glass or wood. Kuma attempts to attain a sense of spatial immateriality as a consequence of the ‘particulate nature’ of the light and establishing a relationship between a space and the natural round around it.

Kuma masterfully uses imaginative and unexpected materials like bamboo, timber, steel and concrete that frame their natural surroundings, and for me this resonates with the spirit of Studio Nicholson’s use of considered fabrics and yarn specifically chosen for their unique qualities and surprising elements. Much like Studio Nicholson’s pieces Kuma’s dignified structures quietly stand out from the crowd with no need to shout.

 

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