Sou Fujimoto: Between nature and architecture

The Japanese architect discusses three early conceptual works and six recent projects.

August 25, 2014

Recorded on April 15, 2014.

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

Sou Fujimoto established his Tokyo firm in 2000. His practice seeks to challenge the definition of architecture by blending interior and exterior, structure and furniture, natural landscape and architecture. Based primarily in his home country of Japan, Fujimoto draws architectural inspiration from nature and embraces openness, flexibility, and transparency across his work.

In this Current Work lecture, Fujimoto presents three conceptual early works and six recent projects. The early unbuilt projects, conceived of following his graduation from the University of Tokyo in 1994, illustrate the formation of principles that have carried through to today, including abandonment of solid walls and the design of spaces without fixed function. Finding inspiration in the traditional Japanese engawa, a narrow veranda that serves as passageway between house and garden, Fujimoto translates these “ambiguous, in-between spaces” into his contemporary buildings.

The six completed and current projects he discusses are:

  • The Serpentine Pavilion 2013 (London), a cloud-like temporary structure built for the Serpentine Gallery’s annual series
  • House NA (Tokyo), a small, transparent house composed of many individual floor plates at varied heights
  • Toilet in Nature (Ichihara, Chiba, Japan), a public toilet situated in a landscaped garden
  • House N (Oita, Japan), a private house built as a “box in a box in a box” with large openings to the outdoors
  • Musashino Art University Library (Kodaira, Tokyo, Japan), composed entirely of bookshelves to create the impression of an endless library
  • L’Arbre Blanc (Montpellier, France), a high-rise apartment building with large balconies of varied size and placement.

These projects demonstrate how Sou Fujimoto Architects translates uniform systems—a grid of steel tube, 3.5-by-1.5 meter floor plates, repeating bookshelves—into structures that eliminate traditional divisions between indoor and outdoor and challenge perceptions of space and form.


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