Non-typological Architecture: Deterritorialising Interiors in Contemporary Japan

Carlin, Brendon Nikolas (2022). Non-typological Architecture: Deterritorialising Interiors in Contemporary Japan. PhD thesis The Open University.



Typology in architecture will be defined here as a system of knowledge or as a ‘deep structure’ for the composition of space and construction of types. Housing, through new divisions of labour, became a ‘professional’ architectural and typological project when the strategically managed reproduction of labour emerged as a cultural project and the focus of political strategies in mid-19th-century England, and in late 19th- to early 20th-century Japan.

The term ‘non-typological architecture’ is put forward in this thesis to read, consider and theorise examples of architecture and housing which tend – in a way that is plainly self-evident – towards a lack of spatial division, differentiation and composition, and which therefore tend towards the absence of history, lineage and indeed even any ‘plan’ for or idea of future; housing which has been reduced to a simple container of blank space. Examples of architecture and housing that tend towards the non-typological can be said to have emerged in Europe and the Soviet Union in the 1910s and 20s, and more widely in Japan and the US in the 1940s and 50s. Clear examples include Phillip Johnson’s 1947 Glass House and Kiyonori Kikutake’s 1958 Sky House. In late 20th-century examples such as Shigeru Baan’s 1997 Nine Square Grid House, another of Baan’s projects (Curtain House) and Kazuyo Sejima’s early 1990s Platform Houses, we even see the tendency of architecture to push towards rejecting the container (or at least its visibility); rejecting walls and façade. These examples are simply composed of two planes – floor and roof.

This thesis seeks to build a genealogy – and along with an Atlas of Shameless Interiors, theorise for future architectural practice – of famous examples of late 20th- and 21st-century Japanese architecture and housing that tend towards the non-typological by globally influential Japanese architects, including Toyo Itō, Kazuyo Sejima and their collaborators and decorated colleagues. Examples will be theorised in relation to a history of the politics of the organisation of life for production and economy in Japan since the end of the Second World War. Examples to be read include works by some of the aforementioned architects’ key influences of the 1950s and 70s in the West and Japan, including Kenzō Tange, Kiyonori Kikutake (and, to a lesser extent, Le Corbusier and Mies van Der Rohe), Hiromi Fujii and Takefumi Aida (and some of Itō’s and their influences, including Adolph Loos, Hans Hollien and Superstudio). Examples of ‘mainstream’ commercial housing architecture which these architects influenced and contested will be considered in their entanglement, indexicality and influence on the organisation of life for economy, the destruction of historical forms of life and the consequences of these tendencies. Finally, having surveyed the historical ground, the thesis will theorise examples of Japanese urban living space of the past 10 years which could be considered da-me (no good, shameless, or architecture without ‘high’ architects – to borrow a term from Atelier Bow Wow used in Made in Tokyo, their 2001 guidebook or atlas).

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