The Japanese House, Marsilio

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The Japanese House
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