Spirit Hidden in the Trees

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  • Sunday, June 19, 2022, 12:00 PM - Sunday, October 16, 2022

With the advent of revolutionary changes brought on by the Meiji period (1868-1912), after centuries of being veiled in mystery, Japanese culture finally became accessible and instantly fascinated the West with its profoundly thought-out beauty. Soaked with philosophy, the island country’s models of aesthetics irreversibly filtered into the awareness of those creating European art, and the birth of modern thought on shaping the human environment turned Westerners’ attention toward Far Eastern building construction.

The great fathers of modernism, Frank Lloyd Wright (1905), Bruno Taut (1933), Walter Gropius (1954), and Le Corbusier (1955), successively visited the interiors of the Katsura Imperial Villa (Katsura Rikyū) near Kyoto to take an admiring look at the proportions, the organization of the plan, and the modular structure of the building. Those designers of the modern order subsequently utilized the formal and spatial solutions that they had observed there by integrating them into their sometimes utopian visions of new ways of residing. By contrast, however, what was decisive for the essence of Japanese architecture did not derive from a fascination with modernity or a desire for revolutionary change. Carefully cultivated, the centuries-old tradition of Japanese carpentry, which is filled with reverence for the material and its natural source, as well as the work itself, guaranteed a quality of the craft that had no match anywhere else in the world.

The Japanese idea of sustaining the tradition that is constitutive for national identity has its excellent institutional concretization in the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum in Kobe. It is the exquisitely fulfilled mission of this institution that enables the current generations of Japanese people not just to learn about and admire methods from the past but also to understand their staggering potential for planning a more sustainable environment, both today and in the future. With vigorous momentum, a local institution concerned with a narrowly defined, specialized field has been successfully disseminating the craft’s achievements in the West as well. It is the collaboration between the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum and the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology that has afforded the public in Poland an opportunity to admire the extraordinary craftsmanship of this unique carpentry. (...)

Tangible materiality commands tremendous respect in Japan, and is often associated with the sacred sphere, as it derives from nature, whose world has for centuries been filled with supernatural deities. The amalgamation of the purely technical with the spiritual and ritual aspects of the knowledge that has been passed from generation to generation has ensured the continuance of this splendid tradition, which today we, the people of the West, can draw upon as well. (Dominik Lisik)

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