Green Architecture in Japan: a Reflection of Societal Values
Defining Green Architecture
Man has been building structures since shortly after they began to emerge from caves and to explore areas outside his immediate vicinity. Many animals build structures, such as birds and beaver. Many of these structures are functional and serve only to offer protection from predators and the elements, and so it was with the first structures built by man. They were made from the limited building materials locally available and the emphasis was on functionality, little, if any thought was given to artistic form.
As society developed, so did his technology. Advances in technology allowed him more time to do other things than those related to survival. As this happened, man began to express his emotions through art. Architectural design encompasses more than simply piecing together a few I-beams and concrete. It involves building for humankind. No where is this idea more pronounced than in Japan.
In Eastern cultures there is more of an emphasis on the interconnectivity between everything in the universe. They believe that all things, both ethereal and concrete, are interdependent in a complex symbiosis that only the Gods can understand. This harmony is reflected in every social aspect of life, including their architecture. Many now refer to this concept as "green architecture" which simply means building in a way that is in harmony to nature, as opposed to being superimposed on it. This research will demonstrate through example how green architecture in Japan is a direct result of traditional elements found in Japanese religion and culture.
Defining Green Architecture
The Eisaku Ushida and Kathryn Findlay studio is known for its work in the field of architecture as a reflection of regional landscape elements and influences of habitat, nature and technology on human psychology1 This studio takes the idea of green architecture to the next level. Many consider themselves to be "green architects" simply because they encompass a few elements of energy conservation and curved lines. Many architects try to "tame nature." The Ushida-Findlay studio takes the opposite approach and tries to tame technology instead.2 They have given a new definition the term green architecture.
As in Japanese gardening, Japanese architecture now seeks to create a miniature version of the nature surrounding it. A building in the city stays with this same principle and represents a miniature version of the city surrounding it. Like the city, each house has personal, more intimate spaces like the bedroom, where the person can envelope themselves in a protective cocoon, free from the outside world. It also contains public spaces, where the larger ideals of society can be captured. Modern designers tend to ignore these principles and see a building or wall, simply as an interruption to the smooth flow of traffic.3
In America, cities grew in sections, often thought was given only to that particular section and the immediate planned use. Anyone who has ever tried to drive to the various disjointed grid sections of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will attest to this. This same principle was also reflected in the building styles as well. Buildings were designed from the outside in, instead of from the inside out, taking into consideration the surrounding area. According to Wines, giving
1. James Wines. Two Houses from Green Architecture. Architecture Week. 2001. http://www.architectureweek.com/2001/0516/environment_1-1.html (October,2002).
2. Wines. Two Houses from Green Architecture.2001.
3. Wines. Two Houses from Green Architecture.2001.
A consideration to the microcosm of the building will give the occupants more control to design their working and living environments to meet their particular needs.
The highlight of the Ushida-Findlay design studio encompasses the ideals that they are trying to convey. In 1994, the built the "soft and hairy" (Warm and Fuzzy) house for a young couple in Tsukuba City near Tokyo.5 This house was quite unconventional in design and causes one to step back and ponder for a moment. Gone are the harsh wall corners and square rooms. Instead one finds themselves in a world of curves that resemble biology more than geometry. It is difficult to describe in terms familiar to architecture. "Organic" is the best description that can be used to describe it. The floor plan of the "Soft and Fuzzy"(pictured below) says it best. Notice the shapes that remind us of conch shells, or perhaps ocean waves. There is even a shape the looks like human fetus is the womb, reminding us of the protection of the mother. To call this design a diversion from the concepts of Modern Western architectural design would be an 5. Wines. Two Houses from Green Architecture.2001.
Not only does this design appeal to the human psyche in a primal way, it also has elements that reflect environmental responsibility as well such as an extensive roof garden, that provides a better quality of life for the occupants, and also helps to maintain inside temperature. 6 The "Soft and Hairy" house is a radical example of the green architecture concept.. This description would not be complete without the following photo of the courtyard of the "Soft and Hairy" house.
Asia has not been known for placing environmental concerns first when it comes to functional space.7 Attention to harmony with the environment was only for temples and shrines. In the city, function and efficiency were the primary concerns. Recently, however, the public has been placing pressure on Japanese architects to design building that are in harmony with nature, or at the very least, show some concern for the environment.8 Ben Nakamura was a pioneer in 6. Wines. Two Houses from Green Architecture.2001.
7. Julian Gearing and Maria Cheng. Green Seeds. AsiaWeek. May 11, 2001 (27) 18. http://www.asiaweek.com/asiaweek/magazine/nations/0,8782,108626,00.html (October2002).
8. Gearing and Cheng, 2001.
A using this concept when he designed a complex that featured effective insulation, non-toxic materials, and a design that blended with the local site and climate.9 Nakamura pioneered the concept that green architecture and a "people friendly" building meant more than putting more plants in the lobby. He integrated the idea of building a more humanly appealing building into the entire building design. His designs are still state of the art as far as environmental building materials, and design.
At the head of this "green" movement in Japan is the Japanese energy research institute (CRIEPI). This institute has created its own eco-village. This is the country's most extensive green housing project. It is a 110-flat complex in the Tokyo suburb of Matsudo. It was built of institute employees.10 This is the largest project of this type to date. The apartments come complete with a machine that makes ice during the night, when electricity is low cost, to help cool the apartment during the day. Heat generated by air-compressors is recycled to supply hot water. Kitchen waste is composted to feed the communal garden and the grass covered roof that acts as insulation. Rain is collected into landscaped ponds in a courtyard11. Lessening the impact on the environment is the main objective of this building concept and the project by CREIPI is the most complete design thus far.
This design emphasizes that green architecture not only encompasses the look and outward appearance of the building, but also includes attention to mechanical systems as well. Mechanical systems must lessen the impact of the building on the environment. The must also 9. Gearing and Cheng, 2001
10. Gearing and Cheng, 2001
11. Gearing and Cheng, 2001 not detract from the aesthetics of the building. The concept of green architecture allows more options than conventional architectural design. With green architecture, gone are the days of "just throw up a few pieces of plywood around that pipechase." Those same pipes can become an important design element that adds to, instead of detract from the building design.
The examples given above serve to define what we mean by "green architecture." Green architecture encompasses all design elements of architecture from the aesthetics of the building to making the mechanical systems a part of the feel of the building. Green architecture means considering the environmental impact of the building and taking measures to minimize this impact. It means designing in harmony nature not in-spite of it. Buildings are for human inhabitants and it is these inhabitants that should be the primary concern for architectural designers.
An Overview of Japanese Philosophy
As the primary focus of the building design is on the human occupants, it is necessary to understand these human occupants as thoroughly as possible. In order to study the effects of how Japanese philosophy has influenced the green architecture movement it is necessary to understand Japanese philosophy. It is difficult to explain Japanese philosophy in English as there are no truly adequate words in the English language to describe the concepts. Comparison and contrast will be used in an attempt to bring the two worlds together.
Japanese religious history is complex and sometimes even held contradictory views. These differing views often existed side by side in peace, an idea completely foreign to the Western mind.12 (Watt, 1996). Shinto is…