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should be used to accent or enhance their special qualities, and how
architecture could best be directed toward humanistic rather than dehumanizing ends.
Probably the most important issue approached by Japanese architects
during the period of World War I and its aftermath was how Japan’s traditional tastes in building could be combined with the modern architectural values of the West. Among the most obvious of these traditional
tastes were: the natural use of materials, such as unpainted wood and
rough, earthen-type walls; the handling of space—essentially by means
of thin, adjustable partitioning—to create a sense of continuity or flow
between one part of the interior of a building and another and even between interior and exterior; and an emphasis on geometrically arranged
straight lines in design, deriving mainly from retention of the ancient
post-and-beam style of construction. All of these qualities are perfectly
represented in that most flawless of traditional Japanese architectural
masterpieces, the Tokugawa-period Katsura Detached Palace in Kyoto.
Yet the modern Japanese themselves remained almost totally oblivious to
Katsura’s virtues until prodded into reflecting upon them in the 1930s
by an expatriate from Nazi Germany, Bruno Taut (1880–1938).
Shortly after Taut’s arrival in Japan in 1933, a Japanese architectural
authority noted, “Fifty years ago Europeans came and told us, ‘Nikkò is
the most valuable,’ and we thought so too; now Bruno Taut has come
and told us, ‘It is Ise and Katsura which are the most valuable,’ and
again we believe.”28 In a speech in 1936 to the Society for International
Cultural Relations (Kokusai Bunka Shinkòkai) in Tokyo, Taut had this
to say about the Ise Shrine:
Everything in Ise is artistic, nothing is artificial. There are no peculiarities:
the natural wood is faultless and marvellously polished, and the straw roof is
equally perfect in its gorgeous curve, without the upcurve of the ridge or of
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13