Paris has always fascinated Japanese architects, giving rise to multiple exhibitions, installations, design projects and iconic buildings. For the first time this exhibition and the accompanying book showcase the dialogue between the two cultures, which started at the end of the 19th century and which continues today in 10 major building projects – recently completed or still under way – around Paris, including the Collection Pinault-Paris in the Bourse de Commerce, the Learning Centre in Saclay, the Mille Arbres project, the Pont-Aurore “bridge-building”, La Seine Musicale performing arts centre at Boulogne-Billancourt and the transformation of La Samaritaine department store.
The cultural dialogue between Japan and France has existed since the Meiji era (1868-1912), commencing with the creation of temporary pavilions for various international exhibitions, and intensifying from 1928 onwards with the arrival in Paris of Japanese architects Kunio Maekawa and Junzo Sakakura to study Modernism architecture under Le Corbusier. The attraction then turned into mutual curiosity, as evidenced by the allure of Japanese culture to French intellectuals, in particular Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. Supported by Jacques Chirac, the Japanophile mayor of Paris, the founding figures of modern Japanese architecture, Kisho Kurokawa, Kenzo Tange and Tadao Ando, created their first Parisian edifices from 1980-1990, including Le Gaumont Grand Écran Italie, La Défense and the UNESCO Meditation Space. These architectural works paved the way for the emerging generation of Japanese architects at the end of the twentieth century, including Toyo Ito, Kazuyo Sejima, Ryue Nishizawa, Shigeru Ban and Kengo Kuma. Their modus operandi, already widely praised at the highest international design levels, soon appeared in major metropolitan projects.
The show uses and transforms the setting of the earlier “Paris-Haussmann” exhibition, with natural daylight highlighting the 50 models, design sketches, historical documents and films, which are as much about the story of Japanese architecture in Paris as the urban development of the greater Parisian region itself.
With 70 iconic projects on display, “Architectures Japonaises À Paris, 1867-2017” explores historic and contemporary Paris through the prism of a dual-culture dialogue, initiated 150 years ago.
Pavillon de l’Arsenal 21, Bd Morland, Paris 4e from Tuesday to Sunday from 11.00am to 7.00pm until 24 September 2017. Free admission.