Chinchu Art Museum

Trip Start Sep 08, 2010
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Flag of Japan  , Shikoku,
Thursday, October 28, 2010

One of the most intense gallery experiences I have ever been subjected to. I say subjected because although I went willingly, the utterly purist nature of the client's vision & of Tadao Ando's realisation of that vision in architectural form is entirely overpowering and demands to be engaged with in set way. It is entirely uncompromising on this point.
It was an unnerving experience as a former architectural student. Ando's work was/is held up as exemplar and here was a scheme so pure, so unrestricted by budget or the usual structural constraints, and with a client so progressive and eager to push architectural boundaries. It is the perfect commission. It is the brief handed by a generous tutor for a student's theoretical project. The sequencing of spaces, the use of materials and the craftsmanship of the execution are exquisite. The use of light (and the use of shadow) is masterly. The detailing is divine and the sliced 'window' that cuts through two sides of a triangular cloister leaving tonnes of concrete hovering unsupported above a courtyard is simply staggering. It is the type of thing you would do as a 2nd Year without understanding or caring about the limits of materials, of structure, of budget, of the reality of building buildings. To see it made real just left me shaking my head in disbelief. The whole building is the kind of thing you think you would want to do. Given an unlimited budget, an open brief, a perfect site, a raft of skilled engineers, contractors and craftsmen at your disposal. This is what you would do. This is what you could only dream you would have done.
And yet the whole experience left me feeling cold and a little disgusted. It was so pure, so uncompromising, so 'perfect' that it did not leave room for the occupier to experience it on their own terms. It was, in this sense, a micro-cosmic condensation of Japan as a whole - it was entirely prescribed.
There was no warmth, no room for frivolity or error, no room to run around with your pants off. What do I mean by this? I don't know. It just seems funny and human and impulsive - all the things that this gallery, this country, are not and, you get the feeling, all the things they would gladly see stamped out completely.
I think it sees itself as a vision of the future; how - one day - all art will, in a secular age, be worshipped. But what is the point of worship if the soul has been stripped out? erased by perfection? What is the point of prayer if there is no joy left to be had?
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