Japan is a country where creativity and design permeate in every aspect. Utter respect and reverence for the past intertwine with the present and the Japanese devotion to precision, beauty and craft fuses the two. In a country with so much creative genius and so many skilled artisans, it takes great talent to be a successful designer. Here are a few must-know contemporary faces that have had (and continue to have) a major impact on Japan’s architecture.
Kengo Kuma (隈研吾): Bringing traditions to life
Possibly the most significant Japanese contemporary architect, Kengo Kuma continues to push boundaries with his every touch. Known for work that aims to hold on to traditions whilst reinterpreting them for the 21st century, Kuma challenges the process of creation in everything he does.
His first practice, Spatial Design Studio, was founded in 1987, followed in 1990 by Kengo Kuma & Associates that today employs over 150 architects with at least 100 projects on the go at any time around the world.
As one of the world’s most recognized and lauded architects, his works include the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum (2005), a Commune by the Great Wall of China (2002), Tokyo’s Asakusa Culture and Tourism Centre (2012), base camp at Mont Blanc, the Hongkou Soho building in Shanghai, 1550 Alberni Street Westbank in Vancouver, Gare Saint-Denis Pleyel metro station in Paris, the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense, the Museum of Indigenous Knowledge in Manila and the recently opened V&A Museum in Scotland.
His latest building is the radical Starbucks store (pictured above) made of twenty-nine upcycled shipping containers previously used by Starbucks to ship its coffee around the world. The structure overlooks the Pacific Ocean in Taiwan and is the brands’ 40th shipping container store but Taiwan’s first to be designed by Kengo Kuma. Fully equipped with a drive-through, the containers are arranged into an angular two-story building. Kuma is also behind the design of Starbucks’ stores in Fukuoka and the stunning Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Tokyo set to open in Nakameguro this spring, as well as the latest addition to the JR Yamanote Line, the Takanawa Gateway Station, set to open in 2020.
Kuma’s three-tiered 80,000-seat wooden lattice stadium for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics, will further push the boundaries of nature and art with the stadium design becoming part of a forest, and the building becoming yet another Kuma