A Japanese Constellation

13 Mar — 4 Jul 2016 at the MoMA in New York, United States

SANAA. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan. 1999–2004. © SANAA
SANAA. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan. 1999–2004. © SANAA
20 FEB 2016

A Japanese Constellation: Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond focuses on the work of architects and designers orbiting Pritzker Prize winners Toyo Ito and SANAA. Providing an overview of Ito’s career and his influence as a mentor to a new generation of Japanese architects, the exhibition offers a retrospective of recent works by three generations of internationally acclaimed designers, including Kazuyo Sejima, Ryue Nishizawa, Sou Fujimoto, Akihisa Hirata, and Junya Ishigami. Displaying models, drawings, and images of more than 40 architectural designs, the exhibition highlights the renewed prominence and innovation of contemporary architecture from Japan since the 1990s.

A Japanese Constellation presents a survey of architectural production since 2000, and reveals a network of influence and cross-pollination that has become particularly relevant at the start of the 21st century. Departing from one of Ito’s pivotal works, the Sendai Mediatheque, completed in 2001 (and part of MoMA’s collection), as well as SANAA’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, the exhibition is organized through intersecting spaces separated by translucent curtains on which multimedia presentations are projected. This layout echoes the different connections and levels of influence among the selected architects.

With its idea of a network of luminaries at work, A Japanese Constellation is intended as a reflection on the transmission of an architectural sensibility, and suggests an alternative model to what has been commonly described as an individuality-based “star-system” in contemporary architecture. Offering a panorama of established and up-and-coming architects, the exhibition reveals how shared architectural themes travel across generations of architects, creating a strong identity for a regional practice with global impact.

As many of the featured architects have been involved in the reconstruction of Japan after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the exhibition will also reflect how the architecture field is responding to current societal change with a combination of strong aesthetic positions and a commitment to users’ emotional needs. Given the experimental and avant-garde character of these architects’ work, the exhibition will confront the current role of architecture in a context in which mainstream practices are increasingly constrained by economic, legal, and functional considerations.