KUMA, Kengo

Natural Architecture and Small Architecture

Series: Evening Lecture and Book Launch
Date: Tuesday 17 November 2015
Time: 18:00
Venue: Lecture Hall
Running time: 97 mins

The title of this lecture came from the two volumes of essays published recently by Architectural Association. The two adjectives, “natural” and “small,” are essential in both real and metaphoric senses to describe Kengo Kuma’s approach to design.


In Kuma’s work, “natural” does not always refer to materials or landscape. It is a statement of objection to modern archi- tecture dominated by concrete throughout the 20th century, which severed ties between human beings and their locations. Inspired by his own experience of working with craftsmen in provincial Japan, and with hints from the radical design philosophies of Bruno Taut and Frank Lloyd Wright, Kuma continues to seek potentials in the uses of water, stone, wood, earth, and paper. Then in “small” architecture, the expression is used as an antithesis to giant, forceful, and inflexible systems and constructions that Kuma found desperately powerless in the wake of Japan’s 3.11 disaster in 2011. He encourages the public to look back at the environment they are given, and to then consider architecture from a personal level. Through basic acts such as stacking, weaving, or inflating, human-friendly units can rebuild spaces that are truly safe and comfortable. In effect, Kuma suggests that “small” and “natural” mean being indepen- dent and democratic in our time.


Kengo Kuma was born in 1954. He completed his master’s degree at the University of Tokyo in 1979. After studying at Columbia University as Visiting Scholar, he established Kengo Kuma & Associates 1990. In 2009, he was installed as Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Tokyo.


Among Kuma’s major works are Kirosan Observatory (1995), Water/Glass (1995, received AIA Benedictus Award), Stage in Forest, Toyoma Center for Performance Arts (received 1997 Architectural Institute of Japan Annual Award), Bato-machi Hiroshige Museum (received The Murano Prize). Recent works include Nezu Museum (2009, Tokyo), Yusuhara Marche and Wooden Bridge Museum (2010), Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center (2012), Nagaoka City Hall Aore. (2012), and Kabukiza (2013). Outside Japan, Besancon Music Center, FRAC Marseilles Aix-en-Provence Conservatoire, and China Academy of Arts’ Folk Art Museum have been completed recently, with lots of major projects being underway, including V&A at Dundee, UK.


Kuma is also a prolific writer and his books have been translated into English, Chinese and Korean, obtaining wide readership from around the world. The latest titles are Natural Architecture and Small Architecture, published from Architectural Association.


PLEASE NOTE: This lecture will be ticketed with priority given to AA Students, Members & Staff. 


AA Students can collect a ticket on Monday, 16 November at 9.30am from Reception in No.36 Bedford Square. Tickets must be collected in person on production of your current AA Membership card. Tickets cannot be collected on behalf of other students.


AA Staff requiring a ticket should contact Keira Callaghan (Keira.Callaghan@aaschool.ac.uk) in person or by email on Monday, 16 November at 11.00am to get a ticket.


AA Members requiring a ticket should collect theirs in person from the Membership Office (33 Bedford Square Ground Floor) or by calling 020 7887 4076 on Monday,16 November at 10.00am.


The lecture will be relayed to the Rear Second Presentation Space and the New Soft Room. Tickets are NOT required for these areas but access will be on a first-come-first-served basis and once the areas are full access will be denied.



All lectures are open to members of the public, staff and students unless otherwise stated.


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