interview with kengo kuma: 'the world is in a completely different era'

Jul 11, 2021

the acclaimed work of japanese architect kengo kuma is illustrated in kuma. complete works 1988–today, a new career-spanning monograph published by taschen. available in europe from july 11, the 460 page publication spans kuma’s entire career, informed by japanese tradition but grounded in the present. the XXL monograph collects the architect’s celebrated oeuvre including dynamic surfaces, innovative structures, and fluid forms that invited a reconnection with nature. from the twisted and layered V&A dundee in scotland, to a chapel built of birch and moss in nagano, kuma maintains a sustainable approach and translates local craftsmanship and resources into buildings that are timeily and site-specific.

in a recent interview, designboom speaks with kengo kuma in time for the release of kuma. complete works 1988–today.

designboom (DB): the publication of this monograph coincides with the opening of the 2021 olympic games in tokyo, for which you designed the new national stadium alongside taisei corporation and azusa sekkei. what message does the new stadium express to the world?

kengo kuma (KK): we would like to show that the world is in a completely different era. the last tokyo olympics in 1964 was held at the height of industrialized society. I hope that the stadium shows how crucial it is to be in harmony with the environment.

(DB): you’ve said that you wanted to place a strong emphasis on environmental awareness with the new stadium. how have you achieved this?

(KK): I think we succeeded particularly in designing natural ventilation — it is possible to control ventilation without relying on artificial air conditioning.

(DB): summer 2021 also sees the opening of your hans christian andersen museum in denmark. what inspired the design for this magical project?

(KK): I’ve visited the site — andersen’s birthplace in a town of odense — and was moved by the house he was born in. it was a small, sober, low-story place full of warm and intimate atmosphere, so I thought a cozy little building would be most appropriate for the museum.

(DB): looking back over your career with this new monograph, what have been some of your most memorable projects?

(KK): great bamboo wall in the outskirts of beijing was the epoch-making project for me. it was our very first project outside japan, and was challenging in many ways — difficult location, different materials (different type of bamboo), different way of working with the client and local carpenters — but all worked well in the end and the building still looks to be popular. I learned a lot from this experience.

(DB): and looking forward, what do you think will be the biggest issues shaping architecture in the next 10 to 20 years?

(KK): given the pandemic, architects must consider even more carefully the way in which a city is lived in. it has given us a great opportunity to see how humans should work, and architecture should change in response to people’s new lifestyles.

(DB): what future projects are in the pipeline for your firm?

(KK): it is not a building, but we are going through a major and an ambitious experiment. I am trying to scatter staff members of KKAA a into various towns and villages throughout not only japan but also abroad. we now have three major offices outside of japan — paris, beijing, and shanghai — but you know these are all mega cities. my ideal is to set up small KKAA satellite offices where our projects are going on, usually small villages and towns, and ask my colleagues to live and work there — or even be rooted there — and establish a network among those little places. the plan is already moving forward.

book info:

book title: kuma. complete works 1988–today

publisher: taschen

features: full color, hardcover, stitch bound, 460 pages

format: 30.8 x 39 cm, 4.71 kg (10.36 lb.)

price: €150 / £ 150 / $ 200

european publication date: july 11, 2021

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