LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Kengo Kuma's Temples of Light


Kengo Kuma's evanescent architecture brings new meaning to understated elegance.

As Kengo Kuma's new temple of light is unveiled, the award-winning Eastern architect is finally heading West.

"I create architecture not as outstanding objects; I want the architecture to melt into the environment. That is what I call 'erasing architecture" explains the internationally renowned architect Kengo Kuma. It is his unique approach to creating simple, restrained structures that meld with nature, which sets him apart as a leading figure in contemporary Japanese architecture.

While Kuma's predecessors looked to create outstanding oeuvres, his work stands apart as a quiet, modern homage to nature. He masterfully utilizes fundamental elements such as light, wood and water, creating restrained, ethereal spaces that seem to disappear into the landscape. His highly acclaimed Bamboo House, which earned him the Finnish Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award in 2002 is exemplary of his ability to create the most exceptional spaces from widespread, unexceptional materials.

Utilizing digital technologies, Kengo Kuma's work is a successful fusion of natural materials and ancient Japanese craftsmanship with a modern edge. The digitization process allows him to go beyond the form, as rather than merely creating buildings, he acts as a mediator between man and nature. "Digital technologies are not a tool called to separate men and nature, but to bring them closer. Architecture is a tool which functions to separate nature and man, but since the 20th century, man and nature is becoming closer, this is thanks to the spread of digital technologies" he states.

His latest project, Z58 is a beautiful glass structure, set in a former watch factory in the heart of Shanghai's French Quarter. When Zhongtai Lighting, China's foremost lighting specialist, commissioned the architect to create "a box of light" Kengo Kuma took a unique angle, focusing not on the company's impressive lighting capabilities, but playing with natural daylight "I met Zhongtai's President on a hot day. He was always thinking about light. However, I was completely wrong in thinking that he was only interested in artificial light. Rather, he had a very surprising level of sensitivity towards natural light. Therefore, he was not interested in the shape of my structure, but instead, the special phenomenon created when natural light hits the structure. This consists of how the light interacts with the water feature, the shadows that are created when it hits the louvers and the celestial light when the evening sun hits the Japanese paper... it is a laboratory to examine the relationship between buildings and light, and at the same time, it is a 'Cathedral for the phenomenon of light" he explains.

At the pinnacle of the four storey company headquarter stands the crowning glory – two uber-exclusive guest rooms. With a touch-button metal louvred ceiling, offering unrivaled views of the shanghai night sky; Z58 is guaranteed to be the hottest bolthole in Shanghai.

As the creator of the prestigious Tokyo headquarters of Louis Vuitton, Kuma is no stranger to the glorified world of glamour; evident in the exquisitely edited choice of furnishing of Z58. Eames' iconic loungers grouped within a glass walled room offer sophisticated solace and relaxation for visitors.

Until now the 51 year old's architecture has been almost exclusive to Asia, but this is changing, as he embarks on his latest commissions, a spa project in the Caribbean Sea, a new(?) London restaurant and plans for a new museum in Sardinia, as part of a competition to build a new centre dedicated to Nuragic and contemporary art. If Kuma's tender wins, this will not only be his architectural debut in Italy, it will also be his first collaboration with an Italian company, OBR Architetti "Italian companies are passionate about architecture, so working with them will be a very exciting experience," he enthuses. Finally, Kengo Kuma goes West.

What is your definition of luxury?
It is the crossover relationship between men and material.

If luxury were an object, what would it be?
Something like water, with no body, always flowing, something that has to be present in the human body.

If it were a place, where would it be?
A place like a beach, which is the interface between water and the human body.

If it were a person, who would it be?
A person that inspires calm when you are by his side.

Related Articles

Takashita's Revolutionary Restir
NYC's New Starchitect Skyline
Store Wars
Uncommon commune