have been studying traditional Japanese dwellings (minka) since 1962, particularly in the Kansai, Chubu, and Tohoku regions, and have continued to follow the transformations in these homes with great interest over the years. My motivation was very simple—I was interested in the question of why these buildings had survived in Japan. Were minka the only example of buildings that had retained their original wood-frame skeletal structure from their construction in the Edo period, through the Meiji and Taisho eras and the turbulent Showa period into postwar, modern Japan? And if so, why? My interest stemmed from a fundamental doubt about modern methods of designing and building homes, especially the methods used in multi-storied housing complexes, which are not designed with a mechanism to allow for later renovation.
While conducting successive field surveys of Japanese minka dwellings, I also began to look into the history of housing. The method which I used, of searching not only for the underlying structural framework but also its origins, inevitably led me to adopt another methodology—investigation of the historical background to the design of residences. It occurred to me that, by combining the results of these two different paths of investigation, I might be able to spark an “awareness about housing conditions.” My design survey initially focused on the “interactions and correlations between people, their possessions, and their homes.” This inevitably resulted in my conducting thorough unit surveys of homes. The home is something that exists on the basis of the relationships between a person and the people around him, as well as the many others beyond them. Thus, it goes without saying that each home exists on the basis of its relationship with its immediate neighbors on either side and its more distant neighbors on either side of them.
In 1977, Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music’s Department of Design instituted a new course in environmental design, and I was chosen to be in charge of the lectures. One day, during the process of gathering materials for the course, it struck me that I was unaware of any research published on the relationship between interior design and exterior design—between, for example, a rural home and its garden, or a row of houses in a town and the street outside, or an abbot’s quarters in a Zen temple and the garden adjacent. I hurriedly searched through my own limited library, but the books on architecture were concerned solely with buildings, and the books on gardens solely with gardens. I could not find a single plan or photo depicting the nature of the relationship between buildings and gardens.
With this, I decided to revisit the many residences and temples I had visited in the past. In spring, I was overwhelmed by the profusion of blossoms, and in summer everything was swathed in lush green. The season when the form of the gardens was revealed at its most distinct was in the depth of winter, when ice formed on ponds and the Zen temples extended an especially warm welcome to the unexpected early morning visitor. I went from place to place to see how gardens had been juxtaposed with shoin audience halls and abbot’s quarters—both the rooms inside and their verandas—to try to understand the relation between the way the garden was seen and the way it was displayed.
Perhaps it is best to say a word here about an aspect of the Japanese design process—prototypes and their interpretations—that is critical to understanding the composition of Japanese gardens, so critical, in fact, that it is the basis upon which I have structured my research.
In general, creation is based on individual originality that is not subject to external constraints. But in the historical development of the Japanese arts, and particularly in the development of garden design, the existence of an “ideal form” takes precedence, thus originality and individuality manifest within a predetermined framework. The
ideal form is a “conceptual prototype” that is divorced from a real, physical form.
The process that leads to the creator’s “interpretation,” or design solution, involves observing and recreating a model, regulated by site conditions and the intended functions of the space. Over time an endless variety of interpretations develop for a single prototype.
The prototype and corresponding interpretations found in the relationship between gardens and architecture also evolved with tremendous variety. Throughout most of Japanese garden history, gardens were intended purely for contemplation, to be viewed from a fixed vantage point seated at floor-level inside an adjoining building. (The stroll garden, which the viewer physically enters and moves through the space, is a relatively late development in the art.) Accordingly, the relationship between the seated view and garden composition are integrally linked, and changed in accordance with changes in the building’s attributes, function and site conditions through the ages. This relationship is unparalleled in the history of gardens of other countries and perhaps the most important characteristic in the evolution of Japanese garden forms.
Differing ideological, political and economic conditions from period to period in Japanese history imposed new constraints on these interpretations, while the prototype remained essentially unchanged. Functional aspects of the architecture and garden along with site conditions and other constraints of a given period gave rise to “period” interpretations and led to the formation of “period garden types.” When the techniques created to express these interpretations outlived the periods in which they first appeared, they came to be termed characteristically Japanese garden-making techniques.
The Japanese garden, which, for the most part is not a place to stroll but a living picture to be viewed by people sitting inside a building, occupies a special place in the annals of world gardens. Indeed, its true significance is best understood if we consider it as part of a whole that also includes any paintings, pottery, flower arrangements, and other crafts displayed in the room from which the garden is viewed. Together they form a unified space. This is a unique characteristic without analogy anywhere else in the world.
The many papers which I wrote on these topics came to form the basis for the first section of this book, on Japan.
In 1984 and 1985, as a member of a group from the architecture and design departments of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, I participated in research trips to China to conduct surveys of housing mainly in Anhui and Jiangsu provinces, and of ting yuan and yuanlin gardens in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. I returned in 1986 to survey the circular communal housing of the Hakka people centered in Fujian.
FFowever as the saying goes, you can’t say you’ve seen China until you go to Beijing, and without visiting the siheyuan residences which are the prototype for Chinese housing, or the magnificent gardens of the Imperial palaces, we felt we were missing a vital part of our survey. By complete coincidence, in June 1988,1 was invited to lecture at the Beijing Central Polytechnic Institute of Fine Art, and spent forty days in Beijing. During that period, with the cooperation of the Institute, I was able to gather material on housing and gardens in and around Beijing, Chengde and Xian.
In the beginning, I had intended to study the relationship between Chinese gardens and buildings from the same perspective as I had applied to my earlier study in Japan, but my simplistic expectations were quickly thwarted. I discovered that, in China, the home and the garden are unrelated, and that the guiding rule is that a yuanlin garden is seen as a world apart, completely untouched by the “Confucian order” and the highly regimented form of the home. The yuanlin, on the other hand, is a world similar
to the circumstances and spirit of Chinese landscape painting in which eternal time and infinite space are condensed. The various papers that I wrote during this period form the second section of this book, on China.
In 1986,1 began a study of traditional Korean residences and gardens.
At first I was bewildered by what I saw in the site and floor plans of Korean dwellings. I think now that this was because I did not understand the unique “conditions” of Korean architectural environments and was, therefore, unable to read the plans in a meaningful way. So once again I started from the basics—that is, extracting the cultural factors that took on architectural form—in this case Korean geomantic beliefs, the hierarchical system of pre – modern Korean society, the social customs rooted in Confucianism, the functional constraints of the ondol system of floor heating, and the cross-influences between urban and rural customs, as well as the historical background surrounding these factors.
Armed with this understanding I made another visit to Korea, and this time I was made powerfully aware that these five basic factors, apart from the rapidly disappearing traditional class system and the Confucian mores of Choson society, continue to hold great meaning in many situations today.
The composition of the main spaces of a traditional Korean residence—both home and garden— is extremely pure and simple. Some people say there are no real gardens in Korea, at least not as we understand the term. Nevertheless, there are, and for a long time have been, spaces that are structured—if vaguely—and that seek somehow to unify the inside and outside of a building with the world around it. I had been expecting to find a strong influence from the Chinese tradition of yuanlin, so it was refreshing to find something completely different. In Korea I experienced the joy of discovery. Comparing what I saw there with my many years of observing Japanese gardens, I simultaneously felt skeptical about what it means to cultivate a garden, and sorry that I had not studied Korea in greater depth earlier. Though close neighbors, we remain far apart in many ways. In the third section, on Korea, I outline four types of traditional Korean gardens.
Each of the three sections mentioned above merely sets out the relationship of homes to gardens in Japan, China, and Korea, respectively. They do not purport to be a comparative study.
I have taken the viewpoint that the relationship between Japan and China in the early period of import of ideas and objects from the continent was very much one of a weaker country borrowing the forms of a more powerful and developed one, and adapting those forms to a smaller space to produce something “native.” In general, Korean culture seems closer to that of Japan, there being a sense that the two countries are separated by only a narrow strip of water, while the culture of China seems more removed, as if it came from the far western reaches of the continent. However, I still find it remarkable just how much the relationship between homes and gardens in each of these three neighboring countries differs according to their separate customs, histories, and lifestyles.
The design surveys I have conducted were intended to seek out new values and approaches to design through direct field research, and not through methodology alone. I believe that I always had some key antithesis at the root of my design surveys.
I carry out all my design surveys with design concepts as the starting point. By going out into the field, I am able to expand the horizons of my own limited experiences, and by objectifying my thoughts, I can construct design concepts. This is my method of concept formation. I
approach each design survey as an “awareness activity” that forms the basis of “creative activity” in design work. This awareness comes from experience, observation, and deliberation, and is the springboard for creativity. We sometimes have a tendency to try to turn design survey results into design techniques. However, I am convinced that although the formation of concepts through improved awareness does not always lead directly to creative design, the best planning and design activity springs from concept formation based on such heightened awareness.
To me, design surveys are an extremely valuable means of concept development, since they are the springboard to posing a question and starting to form a hypothesis. The value of the research described in this publication as I see it, is to seek answers to the questions related to high-den – sity urban housing in the modern world and how to create a more pleasant environment for urban residents.
My colleagues have given me great support in the preparation of this publication. I am indebted to Professors Mogi and Katayama for their advice and cooperation, and to the members of their respective laboratories, and the members of my own research lab at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, for their assistance in executing the many drawings for this publication, and for the additional assistance of the Chinese and Korean exchange students in my department in compiling materials—particularly Ms. Kim Hyonson and Ms. Shin Julee.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all.
In conducting surveys and collecting research material I received invaluable assistance from many members of the Chinese Society of Architects in various regions, and from the staff of the Beijing Central Polytechnic Institute of Fine Arts, particularly Zhang Qi-man and Qi Ai-guo, associate professor and lecturer respectively at the same institution, with research and interpretation. I am grateful to the staff of the Graduate School of Environmental Studies at Seoul National University for making available many valuable materials, and for their kind guidance. I am also indebted to the Office of Cultural Properties for its cooperation in my visits to several important sites. My warmest thanks go out to the numerous people in China and Korea who cooperated in my research.
For their expertise and invaluable advice over the course of preparing the English text, I would like to thank Hugh Wylie and Wonyoung Koh of the Royal Ontario Museum, Lee Chi Woo of the Korea Cultural Service at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Tokyo, Alain Coulon, Kim Hyo Keun, Kirstin Mclvor, and Edwin Whenmouth. I would also like to pay tribute to my editors Shigeyoshi Suzuki and Elizabeth Ogata at Kodansha International. And finally I would like to express my gratitude to Pamela Virgilio for her painstaking work in the translation and adaption of the Japanese text for the English-speaking reader—I trust her understanding of the material completely.