Kengo Kuma

Japanese architect. Born 1954.

When I first started out to think of a sculptural cube made of translucent concrete for Roland Hagenberg’s “Raiding Project” I considered that walls were the controlling force behind architecture. But now I know it’s actually a collection of empty spaces. With Cube 6 I tried to visualize the force of space in a three-dimensional model. It relates to my understanding of Japanese society, which looks flat from the outside but is very complicated inside – filled with uneven holes and curved pockets. This hidden complexity controls the densely packed society from inside. From the outside the hierarchy is invisible -- the flatness of the cube’s surface communicates that. For me, Cube 6 has become a metaphor for hidden controlling forces anywhere in the world. Urban planning has been mostly concerned with “zones”, whereas I think of cities as a collection of holes. Holes take humans to other places. The street is a hole too. Architectural work, including city planning, would be impossible for me without visualizing holes.

I think that in the future we will see more tatami rooms, shoji screens and engawa, simply because they make the body feel good. Paper screens create such nice shades of light, and engawa connect so wonderfully to the outside, which is something a solid wall can never achieve. That’s why I believe these traditional elements will not disappear, but rather increase in popularity in Japan. Also, I don’t think the Japanese want to live in larger spaces. The basic feeling here is that designing a small space according to your own detailed preferences is a desirable luxury. So, a decreasing Japanese population will not automatically make people want to live in larger spaces when they become available. When living space shrinks in other cultures and countries, we Japanese can be there to offer our solutions and know-how.