Who is Sou FUJIMOTO?

藤本 壮介

Sou Fujimoto FUTURES OF THE FUTURE at Japan House London image by Akira Suemori

One of the most creative and influential Japanese architects today, Sou FUJIMOTO opened the exhibition season at Japan House London with his first UK solo exhibition 'SOU FUJIMOTO: FUTURES OF THE FUTURE' in collaboration with TOTO GALLERY • MA. This show featured Fujimoto’s current projects and his experimental projects for the future. Simultaneously, 'Architecture is Everywhere' in The Shop at Japan House London, playfully re-imagined everyday objects as architectural spaces as Fujimoto investigated the concept of ‘Found Architecture’.

Born in Hokkaido in 1971, Fujimoto graduated from the University of Tokyo’s Department of Architecture in 1994. He went on to establish Sou Fujimoto Architects in 2000.
Since then, Fujimoto has worked on a broad list of commissions, ranging from domestic to institutional works.

Inspired by organic structures such as the nest, the cave and the forest, Fujimoto’s signature buildings often discuss the relationship between architecture and the built environment. He views the relationship between architecture and nature as complementary and sees that integrating the two can create a higher quality of design. Such coherence, together with a well-conceived idea, contributes to the spatial quality of a designed space.

His work demonstrates how architectural design does not necessarily need to intervene, but can respect and work with what already exists, as seen in an exploration below of his most well-known works which point toward the potential architecture of the future.

Find out more about the exhibition.

Children’s Centre for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Hokkaido, Japan (2006) 

This was Fujimoto’s first project as a young architect. For the first time, he introduced the concept of ‘openness and protection’ which has been present in most of his later projects. In the Children’s Centre, patients and doctors share the space in a relationship without hierarchy, and, although the whole space is entirely open, it also includes areas that are out of sight and quiet places to escape for privacy.

T House, Gunma, Japan (2006-2010)  

T House was Fujimoto's first residential project: a single-story house for a family of four with bedrooms, a living room and a Japanese-style room in a semi-open space. The rooms are facing each other but the entries are staggered, so not possible to see into the opposite room. The house design has created private areas, while still imparting a sense of community by reminding the family living there of each other’s presence.

Final Wooden House, Kumamoto, Japan (2005-2008)

A wooden bungalow with no definite line between each of the structural components: this project is a tribute to the versatility of lumber, expressed by using it in the construction of the floors, ceiling and built-in furniture.

Musashino Art University Museum & Library, Tokyo, Japan (2010)

The library imagined by Fujimoto – for one of the most distinguished art universities in Japan – is a place encircled by a single bookshelf in the form of a spiral which investigates a new relationship between the users and the books. An infinite forest of books is created from the layering of 9m high walls. This work makes one aware of very subtle things like the meaning of personal space and what happens when other people get involved in the same space.

House N, Tokyo, Japan (2008)

Fujimoto designed Radical House N for a young couple in a quiet Tokyo neighbourhood. The structure reflects the combination of three independent boxes and explores the relationship between inside and outside. The garden is featured as a semi-indoor space and creates a place similar to a veranda. Adding another box inside, Fujimoto has created a nested situation and blurs the line between indoors and outdoors.

House NA, Tokyo, Japan (2011)

Described as ‘the ultimate new type of Japanese house’, House NA creates an elaborate relationship between planes and heights on a small site. Even though there is a difference in levels between floors, the absence of walls and the high ceilings makes the entire space feel connected and expansive.

Serpentine Pavilion, London, UK (2013)

A three-dimensional cloud-like translucent architecture built with an irregular shape and complex effects that play with depth, light and the surrounding landscape. The structure encourages people to explore the site in new and diverse ways, with a constructed geometry blending the organic and the abstract. At the time, Fujimoto was the youngest architect commissioned by the Serpentine Gallery to create the famous summer Pavilion.

L’Arbre Blanc (The White Tree), Montpellier, France (2013 – to be completed 2018)

This project is a striking housing development in Montpellier: a building with a unique shape that suggests continuous movement and hosts 120 apartments spread over 70 floors. The hundreds of balconies, combined with the curved form of the structure, give the overall building a distinctive appearance like a huge tree. Each apartment has large terraces, which are double the indoor area, perfect for this Mediterranean city with a mild climate, where the locals can enjoy an outdoor lifestyle blended with Japanese references and a new, contemporary architectural form.

Forest of Music, Budapest, Hungary (2018 - due to be completed 2020) 

The House of Hungarian Music, in the City Park of Budapest, “is not only a museum but an architectural vision encompassing past and future, people and culture, nature and the sciences of music,” said Fujimoto. Visitors can wander freely through the museum, between the trees, up and down the large spiral staircase, cradled by the vibrations of the spaces, and by the soft variations of the sunlight. Surprising encounters punctuate one’s route, just as the unexpected notes of a melody, making the visitor’s experience unique.

 

Toilet in Nature, Chiba, Japan (2012) 

Built in Ichihara in Chiba Prefecture, this project consists of an unusual public toilet sited in a cherry blossom garden with a glass-walled cubicle. Fujimoto said that the idea behind this project is to reflect on “the notion of public and private space, open and closed, nature and built architecture”. The garden is surrounded by a suitably high wooden fence to ensure privacy.

Mille Arbres (A Thousand Trees), Paris, France  (2016 – to be completed 2022)

 Mille Arbres is a new mixed-use project located above a busy ring road on the historical axis linking the heart of Paris to La Défense. The inverted pyramid shape of the structure gives it a minimal footprint and maximises the public space and the planted areas on the ground floor. It is designed to be a ‘park in the sky’ and encompasses 127 apartments, a hotel and a bus station. The houses, organized around pedestrian paths, merge with nature.

Naoshima Pavilion, Kagawa, Japan (2014 - 2015)

One of the most recent additions to the renowned ‘art island’ in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, the Naoshima Pavilion was conceived for the 2016 Setouchi Triennial. A seven-metre polyhedron built using a white, lightweight, stainless steel mesh, from the outside it resembles as an irregularly-shaped floating stone. From the inside, the structure creates a soft translucent membrane that plays with visitors’ senses and invites them to enter the irregular frame to find a place where they feel comfortable and relaxed.

Souk Mirage - Particles of light

“Inspired by the silhouette of harmonious Bedouin tents”, this project is composed of a modular structural system of arches with the purpose of creating a “unique and timeless architectural expression.” By combining the transparency of the arches with the stepping waterfalls, a dynamic play with light and shadow is created, while appearing mirage-like,” said Sou Fujimoto.

Admission is free to the exhibitions by Sou Fujimoto at Japan House London from 22 June until 5 August 2018. Visit our events page to find out more.