The Japanese House, Marsilio

Text Image

The Japanese House
Catalogues
Marsilio, with the Barbican Art Gallery and MAXXI
London and Rome, 2016–2017

Staged in London and Rome, the core of the exhibition ‘The Japanese House: Architecture and Life After 1945’ was a life-size reconstruction of Ryue Nishizawa’s 2005 Moriyama House. At the Barbican, visitors could wander in and out of the interconnecting apartments as if through the alleys and gardens of a densely populated Tokyo neighbourhood. Upstairs the exhibition continued with films, models, drawings, photography and more full-scale architectural features.

Our commission began with the catalogue design. 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 that – like the exhibition itself – would offer an immediate encounter: the hardback cover is trimmed on all sides to expose a cardboard core; interior pages vary in texture and coating; 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 that, like many of the houses featured in it, is at once clean and minimal, yet human and tactile.

We took a purposefully unobtrusive approach to the exhibition graphics. 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 walls in silver in order to both accentuate and defamiliarise it.

Edited: Florence Ostende with Pippo Ciorra
Photography: Thomas Adank