Barbican – The Japanese House

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The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945
Exhibition graphics, catalogue and marketing
Barbican Art Gallery
London, 2017

Staged in London and Rome, the exhibition Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 prioritised full-scale displays and immediate architectural encounters. At London’s Barbican, the jewel of the exhibition was a life-size reconstruction of Ryue Nishizawa’s 2005 Moriyama House, designed for a client wanting to convert his dwelling into apartments for rent. At the Barbican, the visitor could wander in and out of the interconnecting units – each scattered with traces of everyday living – as if through the alleys and gardens of a densely populated Tokyo neighborhood. Upstairs in the gallery, the survey of Japanese house design continued in a series of rooms containing films, models, drawings photography, and other full-scale architectural features.

Kellenberger–White’s commission began with the design of the catalogue. We developed a page layout based on the 1:2 proportions of a tatami mat, and made a series of design choices to create a book which would itself offer a heightened material encounter: the hardback cover is trimmed on all sides to expose a cardboard core; endpapers and section starters are of a heavily textured Japanese paper; the rest of the book is printed on a slightly translucent uncoated stock. In addition, page numbers in a hand-written font create the impression of a once blank sketchbook now filled with notes and ideas. The result is a book which like many of the houses featured in it is at once clean and minimal yet human and tactile.

Kellenberger–White took a purposefully unobtrusive approach to the graphics for the exhibition. Set in the same typeface as the book – Optimo Plain – the most notable design flourish was the introduction wall spray-painted in metallic silver, a gesture inspired by architect Kazunari Sakamoto who painted reinforced concrete in silver in order to both accentuate and defamiliarise it.

Project team
Curator: Florence Ostende with Pippo Ciorra
Exhibition design: Lucy Styles
Graphic design and illustration: Kellenberger–White
Exhibition photography: Thomas Adank