Taniguchi, Ando, and the allure of Japanese Architecture

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The exterior of the museum’s new wing, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi
The exterior of the museum’s new wing, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi / © Sebastian Smee

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The exterior of the museum’s new wing, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi
The exterior of the museum’s new wing, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi / © Sebastian Smee

I also wanted to see the island settlement of Naoshima on the Seto Inland Sea, where another of Japan’s world-famous architects, Tadao Ando, has built an extraordinary series of museums over two decades.

Ando has also designed museums in the US — most recently in the Berkshires, where he revamped the campus of the Clark Art Institute. But unlike Taniguchi, who is all nuanced minimalism and understated elegance, Ando is easy to dislike. His preference for unadorned concrete and long, relentlessly straight walls can seem fanatically severe and unyielding, his buildings like an ultra-modernist dream turned dismal, ruinous nightmare.

But you can’t really comprehend Ando, or so I’d been told, until you see what he has done at Naoshima, where he has added a new building every few years since 1992. These projects have been commissioned by Soichiro Fukutake, the head of a publishing company his father established and the founder, in 2004, of the Naoshima Fukutake Art Museum Foundation.

Fukutake got to know the islands of the Seto Inland Sea after his father’s sudden death in 1986. He moved from Tokyo to the company’s headquarters in nearby Okayama, and fell in love with the area. He came to see it as a potential antidote to Tokyo, which had begun to seem to him “a monstrous place,” as recounted in “Insular Insight,” an anthology published in 2011 — a competitive, neon-lit, over-stimulated dystopia, where children are neglected and denied access to nature. ….

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