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Junzô Sakakura exhibition poster in MCJP, Paris

Junzô Sakakura, une architecture pour l’homme

Admittedly, I am a little late to the Junzô Sakakura fest in Paris. The current exhibition of the major modernist japanese architect, titled une architecture pour l’homme and held in the Maison de la Culture du Japon à Paris until July 8, 2017 is a must see. It is a retrospective of Sakakura’s carrier, which started when he joined Le Corbusier’s studio in Paris and then brilliantly continued in Japan when World War II started.

Sakakura, like many of his japanese piers, had an expansive production which contains a certain number of major pieces. To name just a few: the Japanese Pavilion for Expo 1937, the Museum of Modern Art in Kamakura, and the West Plaza of Shinjuku Station. But his craft expressed in many ways forming a continuum of an impressive integrity. Sakakura did not dive fully into what has been called International Style, he incorporated local and often personal elements into his creations. By having an eye on every detail of the buildings his company, Sakakura Associates architects and engineers, designed, he ensured that the designs were consistent with his philosophy.

Axonometry Japanese Pavilion Expo 1937 Paris

Axonometric view of the Japanese Pavilion for Expo 1937 in Paris.

His relationship with Le Corbusier is visible, but he is not the only one to have inspired Sakakura. A visual and conceptual bond appears between Sakakura and both Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé. His attention to details, the shapes and materials he used throughout his buildings tend to show a similarity in concepts developed by Sakakura and Perriand. Sakakura worked on several demountable housing and his War homes feature a Prouvé-esque A-frame. Overall, a skilful art of joinery, simple yet distinguished finishes and detail is completed by a common capacity to retain roundness and curvature while using straight main lines. A mix so typical of the Modernist architecture and design period.

Furniture designed by Junzô Sakakura

A sample of furnitures pieces designed by Junzô Sakakura.

Typologies of war homes by Junzô Sakakura

A typology chart for post WWII war homes by Junzô Sakakura. Note the central A-frames inspired from Prouvé.

Overall, it is an excellent exhibition about an architect that is too often shadowed by other contemporary names, but whose architectural prowess can not be neglected. His constant personal expression and search for the proper design for people who would live or use the places he conceives is admirable. The buildings he erected, which some of them have already dismantled in Japan because of the rapid real estate cycle, are noted pieces of the Modernist movement.

The exhibition Junzô Sakakura: une architecture pour l’homme runs until next weekend at MCJP in Paris. Note that despite not being available in English, the exhibition is very visual and some English language catalogues from the exhibition held in Tokyo in 2013-2014 are available.

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