Sunday, November 1, 2009


China profoundly influenced Japanese design, along with Korea, Europe, and Polynesia. With that said Japan imbued the foreign styles and forms with their own character. In Japanese design one will find that they liked things impromptu and off centre; in contrast with China's axiality (everything placed around the perimetre of the room) and formality.

**NOTE: A.D. 593 - 1867. Design determinants: distinctive character of plainness, attention to minute detail, and the signature material is wood and bamboo because of their plentiful forests. Wooden structures are safer than heavy masonry ones, however granites and volcanic rocks are often used for foundations.

***Geography- Japan is made up of 4,000 small islands with volcanoes that crowd the main islands, which are intensively cultivated and densly populated.

***Religion- Shinto meaning "the way of those above". They were not worshipped with icons or images. You will see the structures of the temples below. Another; Zen Buddhism which fostered its own style of worship and of art. These religions have definitely affected Japanese design.

Now onto some images of their work:

Folding Screen: just like China but with their own flare. 1821 Sakai Hoitsu. Ink, gold and silver on paper. 6 ft.

*Japanese Architecture and Interiors:

Contains rows of columns infilled with thin rice paper movable panels, mainly because there are no hallways. Framing is orthogonal (vertical and horizontal) or known as post and lintel like Greek and Chinese architecture. Graceful curves are introduced in column outlines, rafters, roof brackets, and great overhanging roofs.

The wood construction is incapable of long spans, meaning the buildings include repetitions of bays that are in odd numbers like 3, 5 and 7.

The chief element of the exterior wall is called the shoji, a sliding panel made of light wood lattice with panels of translucent paper, functioning either as a door or window. This was often covered a sturdier sliding wood shutter called a amado.

Katsura Imperial Palace: is made up of 3 main buildings: Old Shoin (below), Middle Shoin and New Shoin, located in Kyoto, Japan around 1615 AD. Known for their gardens and teahouses. Katsura was once owned by the princes of the Edo period (Hachijo-no-miya family).

Katsura's Old Shoin

Interior of Old Shoin: reception room with fusuma (movable screens) above them are panels of open wood lattice. The slightly raised niche is called a tokonoma for flower arrangements, scrolls, or other works of art.

Tatami Mats: placed over (the floor) wooden planks and made from rice straw (modern times is now reproduced in vinyl), its edges bound with black tape. 2 inches thick and slightly larger than 3 by 6 feet.

*Japanese Ornamentation: Just like Chinese design with ornamental metal fittings including: locks, latches, escutcheons around keyholes, pulls, hinges, and handles. They were made of brass, iron, copper, and silver. The motifs are designed by the influence of nature.

Different ornamentation's for the nail heads to add ornamentation and flare.

*Furniture: In Japanese Interiors the centre of gravity is low and the focus is on the floor. The furniture is minimal and flexible to move around so spaces can be transformed.

Footed Tray Table: Lacquered and 8 inches high with a top of 12 inches square.
Pedestal Tray Table: Lacquered and made in the 16th century which is 7 inches high.

Reading Desk: lacquered desk for religious purposes. 17th century 8 inches high.

Merchant's Chest: used for storage and made of zelkova wood that has been polished with rice bran to accentuate its grain. The 19th century,piece is 34 inches high and regularly called tansu.

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