Visiting Nagoya City Art Museum

As getting more familiar with Nagoya now, I have made use of sometime at weekends to go exploring around Nagoya.
I have read a book about Japanese famous architect Kisho Kurokawa (黒川紀章) and his architecture when I was studying in the U.K. The first impression to me of his design was very much of Post-Modernism, where numerous geometry forms were applied to express his own abstract symbolic style in somewhat a similar manner of James Stirling’s. After viewing the photos and drawings of Kurokawa’s design, in particular Nagoya City Art Museum, those powerful geometry compositions had given me profound visual impact that I imaged the real building would be grand and masculine.

Last weekend, I have got the chance to visit Nagoya City Art Museum, which is completed in 1987. Rather than coming from the main entrance, I somehow got to the back of the building (south side) first. However, I could almost instantly recognise the building. The geometrical forms continue all the way around the entire building. “Oh! That must designed by Kisho Kurokawa. It must be that museum!”
To my surprise, the entire building of Nagoya City Art Museum is not as large as I imaged but actually in a good humble size to be considered elegant. The museum is also sunken a level down into the ground so as to better settle within Shirakawa Park. As a museum master who has designed 27 museums in his life, Kurokawa said that the focus would better to be placed upon exhibiting artworks more over the museum building. Without doubt, the architecture can also be seen as one kind of the exhibition arts that we can look and admire. Nevertheless, it is essential for architects to think carefully about how to deal with the relationship between a museum itself and its exhibition works.
Subsequently, the factor of scale comes in. Among all, scale is one of the most important aspects in architecture design. In my opinion, a completely same design in different scales would even become two different designs; different scales could express different kinds of emotions. It reveals the relationship between the building and a human figure.
One interesting thing to point out is that how Kurokawa designed the modern version of torii (鳥居), a Japanese traditional gate situated before entering Japanese shrine, out of shiny metal. A torii to Japan is like a column to Western countries. While in Postmodernism, architects re-interpreted and manipulated classical architectural language (such as symbols and elements) as ornaments. As shown in one of iconic Postmodernism examples, classical orders (as well as other classical elements like arches and entablature) are re-created in a pictorial approach with modern materials by Charles Moore on Piazza d’Italia in New Orleans.
piazza_de_italia by charles moore
Piazza d’Italia, Charles Moore, 1978 (online source)
South Side
South Side
West Side
West Side
North Main Entrance
North Main Entrance
In a similar way, Kurokawa modified and blended the torii into with the museum to give new meanings of torii that it became one of the ornamental art elements to the building. Additionally, the concept of torii (as a symbol of gate) is implied in the beam and post stands, which represent and moreover emphasise the entrance gate. The re-interpretation of Japanese traditional torii gate, I think, shows how Kurokawa’s attempts of re-connecting the losing traditions with its ‘over-westernised’ situation of the time.
特筆すべき面白いことは建物の入り口前に金属で出来た鳥居があることです。 鳥居とは日本の神社の前に有る伝統的な形の柱の様なものです。 黒川氏は、これをモダンに表現し、美術館の前に配置していました。建築家はクラシックな建造物の一部を材料に、新たな想像を加え、創造します。例えば、古代ローマなどで見られるアーチやエンタブラチュアを起用したアメリカ、ニューオーリンズにあるチャールズ・モアの『ピアッツァ デ イタリア』のように、古いものを新しく作り上げた例があります。