Sou Fujimoto | Primitive Domestic Future at the Museu do Oriente

“The act of considering the innovative architecture of the future is the unexpected equivalent of reflecting on primitive architecture.”


The first sentence of the book entitled Primitive Future by the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto introduces the proposed reflection through a set of 14 houses of his authorship, presented through videos, photographs, mock-ups and other elements in the exhibition Sou Fujimoto | Primitive Domestic Future curated by João Almeida e Silva, inaugurated on 21 February at the Museu do Oriente in Lisbon.

A future of architecture attached to its roots, therefore to its most elementary circumstances, defines the work of the Japanese architect and suggests a reinvention of our relationship with space, with objects and their scale.A bench that is a closet, a wall that is a bench, a window that is a step, these are just a few examples that announce the dilution of an architectural element.The idea of returning to the most primitive as a proposal to reach the future unfurls a reinterpretation of the architectural archetypes.

According to João Almeida e Silva, the option to display Sou Fujimoto’s work through the houses, is, in addition to a way of reaching a wider audience, a way of thinking and asking questions related to dwelling and the western and eastern domestic realms, leading the audience to question its own way of dwelling.

At 29 years old, Sou Fujimoto has declared his intention to conduct a “weak architecture”.An architectureconceivednot as part of a global order, but from the relations between each of theparties, thus reaching an order that incorporates uncertainty and disorder, which surprises the user and proposes a reflection on the conventional uses of the spaces.

He compares these relationships between parties with the present-day relationships between the different elements of the natural world, in which, before the existence of roofs or walls, only the several distances between these elements were recognizable.Therefore, through the distortion and modulation of space, he creates what he deems an “architecture with a sense of distance”.

Not a physical distance, but an experiential distance, since “architecturehappens where people exist” and “the distance establishes the different degrees of interaction between people and objects”. House T is an example, where the relations between the different spaces, fluidly organized around a center according to specific angles, establish precise distances that create tensions and incite the animal instinct of its inhabitants.Their spaces are simultaneously interdependent, separate and attached, allowing the emerge of infinite appropriations.

On the other hand, in a project of a Tokyo apartment, in the interstices deriving from the overlapping of different house archetypes, unexpected areas are created that promote their occupation in the most varied manners.The space between a house’s roof and the floor of another house becomes a space a sitting area, as well as a transition between two interior spaces.This surprising effect challenges the daily use of the domestic space by stimulating the creativity of the person who inhabits it.

Sou Fujimoto takes these principles even further by delving into a city as a house and the house as a city. In “network by walk”, he reveals how a house in a Tokyo neighborhood extends itself beyond the domestic realm, from its interior to the city, ​​through the establishment of a network of relationships measured by taking into account the time needed to move from one point to the other.

The small-scaled twisty streets, defined by rows of wooden houses, represent a different kind of domestic space that enlivens the city and transports it to the domain of the house and vice versa.Therefore, he questions whether architecture can sustain the complexities of everyday life rather than conforming to the rules of functionalism, declaring that the moment a city becomes a house, simultaneously becoming neither a city nor a house, a new architecture will arise.

This logic of proximity may be found in a house before it is a house, where the different volumes establish different proposals of livingness in their interstices and in their combination in several levels, or in house NA, where several organized platforms at height create spaces that organically relate to each other. The principle that “living in a house is like living in a tree” becomes clear, which consists of every spatial interrelationship, in which the spaces are not hermetically isolated, they are connected instead and redefine each other continuously.

According to Sou Fujimoto, “people will be able to find a new system of coordinates, in a space filled with chaotic and uncertain elements, analogous to the trees and forests” where “each tree trunk is a unique place as they relate to each other”, being able to find “spatial expressions in the network of interactions, and not in the structure of the branches”.

This reflection is defined by the way the exterior and interior relate to each other.In house N, the spaces created between the three boxes inside each other provide visual elements through the openings in their surfaces that establish a full-fledged connection between the interior and the exterior. The admiration for Le Corbusier’s work is obvious, particularly the project of the Notre-Dame-du-Haut chapel in Ronchamp, whose sculptural solidity and the space created by the thick walls, interleaved with the composition of colored openings with different shapes, aroused a special interest in Sou Fujimoto.

This reflection on dwelling and the relationships house-city, interior-exterior, and implicit space-absolute space through the “house of the future” of Sou Fujimoto, as part of an Eastern context and now shown in Lisbon, encourages the questioning about the Western way of dwelling, one of several reasons that justifies a visit. The exhibition Sou Fujimoto | Primitive Domestic Future, curated by João Almeida e Silva, is on display until 26 May at the Museu do Oriente, in Lisbon.

Joana Duarte (Lisbon, 1988), architect and curator, lives and works in Lisbon. She concluded her master in architecture at Faculdade de Arquitectura of Universidade de Lisboa in 2011, she attended the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands and did her professional internship in Shanghai, China. She collaborated with several national and international architects and artists developing a practice between architecture and art. In 2018 she founds her own studio, concludes the postgraduate degree in curatorial studies at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas of Universidade Nova de Lisboa and starts collaborating with Umbigo magazine.

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