Caption: Office of Ryue Nishizawa, Moriyama House, 2005 © Tak_a shi Homma
Barbican Art Gallery in London is currently hosting The Japanese House, a major exhibition focusing on how human environment and identities are intrinsically linked nowhere more so than in Nipponese architecture. The exhibit’s cornerstone is the full-size recreation of the Moriyama House (2005), designed in Tokyo by Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA), accompanied by a video that shows life extracts of the singular owner Yasuo Moriyama.
This radical decomposition of the conventional house is the epitome of Japanese architectural ingenuity and innovation, and it is objectively a masterpiece; but the European widespread love for this style actually hides something.
As studied at high school, in the 20th century the theories of Sigmund Freud ceased to consider the human psyche only in its abstract dimension, and started to break it into many distinct parts. Freudian psychoanalysis revolutionized modern philosophy and marked the beginning of the introspective analysis of human life subdivided in its multiple aspects.
Similarly Italian writer Luigi Pirandello, driven by the desire of exploring and understanding the Cartesian’s ‘res cogitans’ (psychic reality), explored the different sides of human beings, showing how they act in different ways depending on character facets and different situations. The individual was put in crisis, and the previous Illuminist hope and positivity was gradually forgotten.
The dramatic condition of men and the endless search for himself are amongst the legacy that Gen Z leaves to the Millennials, whether they want it or not. As a result, the reason that makes the European public appreciate Japanese creative language could be unexpectedly related with Freud and the Pirandellian fragmentation of the ‘I’.
‘THE REAL SOLITUDE IS IN A PLACE THAT LIVES FOR ITSELF, THAT HAS NO TRACK OR VOICE FOR YOU; IT IS IN THE END WHERE THE FOREIGNER IS YOU’
(Pirandello, L., 1925)
To me, this is the creation of meaning. The praise and charm produced by Nishizawa’s architecture, synthesis of tradition and modernism, symbol of simplicity and easiness, is unconsciously consequential to the projection of the philosophical heritage that Europeans see in it.
Why do we love so much the Moriyama House? Because it is fragmented. Every space is connected, yet disjointed; it gives the impression of unity, but One is actually made out of several distinct and separated components, as every human being.
Moriyama House is the projection of the fragmentation of ourselves into a physical space, broken into pieces but still one. The final creature is pure and serene, but it hides hard work and it also translates the urgent need for new housing due to the total devastation of Tokyo after the war, as well as radical critiques of society.
In the end, the public forgot on purpose the arduous aspects behind the Nishizawa’s project, thinking only about the final peaceful result.
Freud, S(1923) The Ego and the Id. Internationaler Psycho- analytischer Verlag (Wien), W. W. Norton & Company.
Pirandello, L (1925) Uno, nessuno centomila. Italy: Edizioni Einaudi.