Japanese architecture in the 20th century
In a remarkably eclectic city, the forms, the materials, and the site plans of their houses bear no resemblance to those of other structures. Among the clean Modernist lines and planes of their neighbors, Ushida Findlay houses twist and bulge bizarrely. In a country where every architect hopes to create an ideal form, Findlay and Ushida prefer to blur the distinctions between their creations and the natural landscape."They're special," says Peter Cook, chairman of architecture at the Bartlett School in London, and Findlay's former tutor at the Architectural Association (AA).
"They may be the most special architects of their generation. They're getting quite a lot of mileage in England -- they're getting onto competition lists, into publications, they pull in large crowds at lectures." Along with the praise has come work in Britain. They recently finished designing an apartment building for the Homes for the Future project, part of Glasgow 1999 -- the central focus of the city's yearlong celebration of architecture and design -- which is their largest commission to date in any country.
They were also among six finalists (a shortlist that included Frank Gehry and Norman Foster) in one of the most prestigious British design competitions of the past decade, for the 1996 Financial Times Millennium Bridge spanning the Thames in the center of London.But as their fame has grown outside Japan, they have been treated more and more like unwanted strangers in their hometown. Tokyo commissions, which were never plentiful, are now almost nonexistent. Their work is dismissed as a chaotic mixture of styles in most of the important architectural journals, and their ideas are mocked as foreign and immature.
Even worse, they say, are the constant reminders at social events -- always delivered kindly, with a smile -- that they're not truly Japanese. "Japanese architects inevitably ask the same question: How long are you visiting?" Findlay says. "I've lived in Tokyo for 20 years." But in the past year or two, she has been spending more time in Britain, and had started to think she couldn't take the ostracism much longer and would soon have to leave Japan.One day last July, though, all that changed. To her astonishment, Kathryn Findlay was named a professor of architecture at Tokyo University, the highest professional honor that can be bestowed on an architect in Japan.
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