THE JAPANESE HOUSE

Preface


The following study covers basically two domains of interest:

Architecture

The "discovery" of Japanese architecture and, in particular, the Japanese house (or villa, or palace) played an important role in the formation of modernism. Many architects of the time were fascinated by the modular character of Japanese architecture, they admired the Japanese house particularly for its high degree of flexibility in regard to the definition of inside and outside spaces. It thus became one of the most 'cited' architectural arrangements of modernism.

In the meantime our familiarity with "Things Japanese" has increased considerably and this former veneration of the Japanese house reveals as 'Katsura-ism' of a rather museal character. It was produced by a double reductionism:

The present study reverses this aesthetic birdsview into its opposite. It considerably enlarges the theoretical basis of the phenomenon 'Japanese house' into the agrarian 'housescapes' of Japan and constructs its perspective from the bottom up. An entirely different picture results! The Japanese houseform is the product of an age old traditional evolution. As architectural form it is not a unit. It is composed of very different elements. We discover that its essence, its harmonious arrangement of 'rooms' into 'upper-ceremonial' and 'lower-functional' is related to a very ancient tradition of securing the inhabitants' spatial existence, a fibroconstructive system of territorial demarcation.

Japanology

As a micro-system of the Western macro-humanities' disciplinary system Japanology naturally integrates the Western architect's and art historian's views into its own system. In this classification the term 'Japanese architecture' has - except serving it in some cases - nothing to do with religion, nor with Japanese folklore studies.

The present article differs from this view. Its approach is phenomenologically motivated. In describing the Japanese House as a phenomenon any observer immediately realises the high fragmentation of conventional views. The architect or art historian has no view of religious practices performed in the house nor of the social structures related to it. In the view of those who study religion, the house is of no importance, all is explained from the spiritual concept of 'belief'. The same can be said, if social structure is described. The objective conditions of the house are not integrated into theoretical visions in spite of the fact that the basic term of Japanese social structure - what we call familiy - is ie, 'house' and functions like a 'built genealogy' in Japan.

In this wider sense the present study can be taken as a critical model of Eurocentric projections in Japanology. The distortions these projections produce could not be documented more impressively: a group of Western scientists doing research on Japanese housing. Result: Do Japanese live in 'rabbit cages'?


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