Design and architecture are – like it or not – profoundly twined to the place in which these disciplines are practiced, to the point that analyzing how objects are made is one of the best methods to outline people’s habits.
Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, in his essay on Japanese aesthetics “In Praise Of Shadows”, commented on the profound cultural gap that was present between the western countries, where at the time the book was written were undergoing the Industrial Revolution and the proliferation of electricity and electric lighting, and the eastern countries, where these innovations were yet to come.
Tanizaki describes his people as lovers of darkness and shadows, referring to the beauty of the undefined, the ambiguous and of what he calls “patina of time”, meaning the darker color worn out objects assume with time, making it (on the contrary of popular belief) more precious, more valuable.
The clearest example of this can be seen in the different bathroom designs. While Western bathrooms are covered in shiny white ceramic tiles and fixtures, Japanese ones are often constituted by wooden cabinets, set apart from the main body of the house and left unlit because “in such places the distinction between the clean and the unclean is best left obscure, shrouded in a dusky haze”.
What Tanizaki verbalized in the early XX century is clearly visible in Daigo Ishii + Future-scape Architects “House of Toilet”, a public toilet which was completed in Ibukijima Island of Setouchi Inner Sea for Art Setouchi Triennale 2013.
The structural reinforced concrete blocks are finished with an impression of burnt cedar wood, a typical finish of the houses on Ibukijima Island, and are covered with a fiber-reinforced plastic, whose color is based on researching external facades of more than 100 local houses.
There is a break space, covered in typical cypress wood, where people can take their shoes off and relax for a while, after the steep walk needed to reach the top of the hill where this House is placed.
While during the night there is a dim orange electric lighting, during the day sunlight passes through slits in the structure to give enough light for visitors to see, but preserving that sacred feel of intimacy that only the shadows praised by Tanizaki are capable to give.
Images Copyright Future-scape Architects