The book is a successful achievement of an attempt to research the concepts and works accomplished by the master architect Kengo Kuma, during 1994 and 2004.

By Luigi Alini with an essay by Kengo Kuma 

Reviewed by Archt. Jayantha Domingo

The book includes an Introduction to the subject by the author, Luigi Alini, who is a researcher in the Technology of Architecture. The introduction is followed by a very clear narration by the Architect himself of the background that induced him to research into the architectural works realised in Japan during the 1990s and the traditional architecture that prevailed in Japan, prior to the destruction by the Kanto earthquake in 1923 and the defeat from the Second World War in 1945. They formed the background in formulating the philosophy and language he employed in shaping his architectural work within a duration of a decade. This is followed by a presentation of the well known examples of works created by Architect Kengo Kuma, mainly through photographs, sketches, drawings and very short subjective descriptions by the author.

The book contains good reading material for architects who are attempting to formulate an architectural vocabulary that can be employed in creating built forms which are straight forward, sustainable, true to nature and of timeless quality, while being functional at the same time.

The availability of a vast range of new building materials and technologies and the sensible use of the same selectively to make successful interventions in the built environment, is an increasing challenge faced by the architects in all parts of the world today. The slavery to computer graphics has further contributed to widen the gap between the true to nature architecture of the past and the dominant anonymous concrete structures being added to the built environment at present.

Describing the approach employed by Kengo Kuma in one of his famous works of architecture, the author says, “In the Stone Museum,
Ashino stone , volcanic stone, is used to build both heavy-light and continuous-discontinuous structures, giving shape to a broad repertoire of architectural figures: screens, grilles, walkways, brise-soleils, paved surfaces, and cladding, to which correspond a similar number of stone finishes: smooth, bush-hammered, honed, treated with acid, flamed, etc. The traditional solid and continuous masonry is articulated through the design of the material, thinned; the walls lose that sense of heaviness typical of traditional buildings. Although Kuma uses the stone in heavy layers, he makes its perception ambiguous by dematerializing it; he de-solidifies the material, creating porous “stone enclosures”.

This book is a good starting point to do further research into the theories and works of the master architect Kengo Kuma…

Reviewing the works of Kengo Kuma, architectural critique Botond Bognar says, “increasing the focus of international attention today, Kengo Kuma’s work is characterised by a delicate simplicity and minimalism, incorporating a wide range of transparencies and other ephemeral qualities. With the ineffable vibrancy of his buildings, Kuma aims at creating architecture as an ‘anti-object.’ He achieves this largely by the extensive and skillful application of membranes, screens, louvers or slates, and the innovative use of a wide variety of materials: metal, wood, bamboo, paper, plastic, stone, and glass. By virtue of his reliance on new, sophisticated, and efficient technologies, natural and artificial lighting, his sensitivity to site, and his attention to the ecological and prevailing social context, his projects recognise both Japanese traditions and contemporary modes of design on an exceedingly high artistic level.”

This book is a good starting point to those who wish to probe deeper into this subject area as well as to those who want to  further research into the theories and  works of the master architect   Kengo Kuma.