Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum, Yusuhara, Kochi, Japan, 2010 Copyright: © Takumi Ota Photography
Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum, Yusuhara, Kochi, Japan, 2010 Photography: © Takumi Ota

All eyes are on Japan this week as its capital finally hosts the much delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. But while athletics fans will be tuning in for the sports, architecture fans can feast their eyes on the woven nest-like stadium, designed by Japanese ‘starchitect’ Kengo Kuma,in collaboration with Taisei Corporation and Azusa Sekkei.

Born just outside of Tokyo, Kengo Kuma has used his hometown to test his ideas. Its streetscape reads like a map of his career, starting with the early Great (Bamboo) Wall House and culminating with the US$1.4bn, 68,000-seater Japan National Stadium, which Kuma hopes will be ‘the catalyst that will transform Tokyo back from a concrete city. I want it to set an example that will help alter the direction of Japanese architectural design.’

While the scale and geography of his projects have grown over the years, a red thread connecting the most humble intervention to his grandest is how Kuma’s architecture merges with nature.

The Whitestone Gallery Taipei Taipei, Taiwan, 2017. Copyright: © Studio Millspace
Whitestone Gallery Taipei Taipei, Taiwan, 2017. Photography: © Studio Millspace

Taschen’s upcoming tome, titled ‘Kuma, Complete works 1988 – Today’, offers a richly illustrated overview of Kuma’s oeuvre, delving into his complete archive of built landmarks across the globe in XXL format, via 500 photographs, plans and drawings.

Whereas many architects have experimented with high-futurist forms and dominating the landscape, Kuma’s buildings tread lightly on the environment, constructed largely with natural, sustainable materials. They have a ‘Kuma style’ that’s specific to their location from the silvery hues of V&A Dundee’s riverbank museum to the cedar shingles of his University of Tokyo addition.

As we approach the Olympics opening ceremony, we delve into a handful of our favourite Kengo Kuma-designed buildings in Japan and beyond.

‘Kuma, Complete works 1988 – Today’ is published  in September 2021 via Taschen, priced at $200

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