Architecture Program


Date of this Version



In: A Community of Diverse Interests: Proceedings of the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Montréal, Quebec. March 12-15, 1994. Pp 280-285.


© 1994 ACSA Press & Rumiko Handa.


Although the idea of what architectural details should be varies among the entries in our survey, a common thread runs through them: they all implicitly agree that the form of an architectural detail represents a particular idea of what the detail should be, or, in the negative, that when details are to be excluded or ignored for either ideological or practical considerations, they have no particular form. This seems quite rationa~ even obvious. But in some contemporary Japanese an:hitecture there is anothercase altogether, of details that paradoxically, embody an intention to represent but at the same time to present no form. An examination of recent works by several influential Japanese architects reveals a tendency to make the joint, in the phrase of the Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida, "a place of Nothingness." Since the joint is rendered invisible, at a glance it appears that the architect did not give it much consideration. However, an analysis based on the close observation of the site and drawings proves otherwise. In one instance, where a wall and a floor are expected to meet the two look detached: The joint is hidden from the Sight. In another example a roof appears to float above columns that are in fact supporting it. In "voiding," the ultimate goal of the architect is to make detail a void space that represents an idea. That idea is mu, or nothingness, the philosophical and aestheticvaluethatonefindsthroughouttheJapaneseway of life and in physical artifacts. What this means to Japanese aesthetics may be judged from the following comment on Nishida's philosophy: "Japanese Buddhism emphasizes the point that its nothingness is alive with infinite content, that it does not negate life. Nishida's philosophy is based on this positive Japanese philosophy of , life and comprehends Being as selfunfolding of formless, eternal nothingness."