It is a very Japanese trait to distil complex ideas into a simple statement or metaphor. What is left unsaid is often more meaningful than the simple concept itself. Toyo Ito and many other Japanese architects exemplify this. Sou Fujimoto is one such example and yet he has pushed this conceptual basis and amplified the dichotomy, perhaps allowing for even further understanding or [mis]understanding, as the case may be. He starts with a series of very simple binary oppositions: nature versus architecture, inside versus outside, complexity versus simplicity, and then pushes those oppositions to the extreme – just short of parody – where they become almost absurd. Then, he makes them work.
This extreme of opposition is made clear in Fujimoto’s Toilet in Ichihara, Japan (2013), which explores the conflict between public and private, openness and enclosure. A simple toilet cubicle, constructed entirely from steel-framed glass, is placed in a garden. The garden has then been enclosed by a high timber fence and one lockable gate. The project is confronting: one is placed “on show,” as a private activity becomes almost performative. […]