I no longer work in heritage or museums and am not even a volunteer in one anymore – full time project and programme management and life has taken over and I’ve barely had a chance to write a blog, but as a project management conference at the Barbican Centre brought me into contact with the Japanese House exhibition I suddenly felt inspired!
And if you go too you will understand why.
The centrepiece to the exhibition is a full size Tokyo house split into small apartments, mixed in with the concrete building of the Barbican itself allowing you to walk in and out and see from side and above. And as you exit the house you move into a crazy garden and a tree house type hut which you can also go and explore.
So, yes, it is fun, it is a spectacle for eyes and for the explorer venturing into other people’s spaces. But around all of this is also a very well curated, very accessibly narrated exhibition which takes you on a journey from post-war Japan that doesn’t just consider it’s architecture, but puts it in a wider social context.
It explores the mass ‘modernisation’ after the war during its occupation and the subsequent urge towards traditionalism on its independence. It explores the need for imaginative use of space, building materials and construction techniques responding to lack of housing (50% of Tokyo was destroyed in WWII), need for earthquake proof materials (concrete vs wood) and population explosion and economic success and growth (capsule living).
Aside from the physical constructions on show, it was the use of film that impressed me – I often have a very short attention span for films or they get lost in the background as I look elsewhere, but I came out of this exhibition with a whole list of films I wanted to find out more about as their two minute snippets intrigued me such as family going into complete meltdown at the dinner table – but I have a feeling they won’t be available on Netflix…
The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945
Until 25 June 2017