The borders of living: Sou Fujimoto

Man and nature, interior and exterior, past and future, solids and voids: elements apparently in contraposition whose relationship however, defined by K. Kurokawa as the “philosophy of symbiosis”, out to be complementary, having played a pivotal role in Japanese architecture for many centuries.  Today this vision is being redefined thanks to the works by Sou Fujimoto, in which a personal ability to articulate interrogatory dialogues leads to the discovery of new paradigms.  

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credits: Iwan Baan Photo
Sou-Foujimoto-p1-dx
credits: Iwan Baan Photo

While it is certainly true that a childhood spent in the woodlands of Hokkaido has made nature an integral design element typical of Sou Fujimoto, it can also be said that a metropolis like Tokyo supplies plenty of inspiration for a human dimension of space. The House NA conceals this well balanced relationship, backed up by further research on the boundary theme, which sparks a "cross-over" between the city and a conceptually redesigned private home, whose spaces are reinterpreted to reflect new contemporary lifestyles and an ever changing skyline.   The structure looks like an altimetric glass and steel version of the tree house, in which rooms exploit the different levels to shake off impositions and pre-set functions.

Sou-Foujimoto-Serpentine Gallery
credits: Iwan Baan Photo

In 2013, Sou Fujimoto presented his Cloud Pavillion project designed for the Serpentine Gallery in London, which made him the youngest architect ever to take part in the event and the third Japanese-born architect, following in the footsteps of ToyoIto and Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA. A lattice of white steel poles, each one no more than 2 mm thick, constitute a structure of 325 sq m which harmonizes poetically with the surrounding gardens in which it stands. A sort of three-dimensional scenario in which the space takes on the appearance of a soft fabric where an intriguing dialogue between transparency and opacity, open and closed, nature and artificiality, comes into play.

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credits: SFA+NLA+OXO+RSI
Sou-Foujimoto-p3-sx(1)
credits: SFA+NLA+OXO+RSI

In the works of this Japanese architect, sustainability assumes a meaning that goes well beyond the mere presence of plants and eco-compatible systems. Indeed, in Arbre Blanc at Montpellier the relationship between the context, from a physical and social viewpoint, and architecture enriches the meaning of "sustainable". The Mediterranean climate defines the inhabitants’ lifestyle, determining the guidelines of the project, so much so that the 17-floor multifunctional tower is endowed with terraces more than 8 metres long to facilitate contact with the open air during the daytime. "The way in which life is celebrated inside a building is more important than the building itself."  

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Whether engaged in designing a bookshop or a bookcase, Sou Fujimoto is a masterful interpreter with a people-friendly approach. Implicit in the Bookchair project for Alias, there is a strive for harmony between the architectural space and the human body, in which the mimetic presence of a chair incorporated in the structure questions the function of a conceptually static object, by translating its use under the form of movement in the surrounding space. To explore the equilibrium between our surrounding nature and artificiality is yet another way to imagine future scenarios, an on-going research which, with each new project, manages to transform the meaning of architecture into an abstract and metamorphic concept.  

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