The Barbican is one of London’s not so secret gems, and a place you are always guaranteed to see something a little obscure and unexpected.
After reading a recent review of their new Japanese House exhibition, I was compelled to see it.
As someone who has always been intrigued by Japanese culture, (ever since we had Japanese Week at primary school and learnt to make fresh sushi and life size Carp), I have been intrigued.
Japanese House Promises to be an opportunity to “lose track of time weaving in and out of the [Moryiama] house’s ten individual, fully-furnished, rooms and maze-like gardens.
“The Japanese House is the centrepiece of the UK’s first major exhibition exploring Japanese domestic architecture from the end of the Second World War, a period which has consistently produced some of the most influential and ground-breaking examples of modern and contemporary design.”
As a Londoner, what struck me most, was the revelation that “Japanese architects have used their designs to propose radical critiques of society and innovative solutions to changing lifestyles.” I was curious to ascertain, how and whether, I could implement any of these innovative techniques into my living space.
So was it up to the job?
Upon entering the exhibition you are thrust straight into the house. Single rooms are dissected to allow the visitor to appreciate each unique space individually. There are also double decker rooms, with tiny staircases leading out of bedrooms, to breathtakingly minimal alfresco spaces on which to ponder. The bathroom and kitchen, the first spaces you are confronted with are the most culturally jarring. The kitchen is dark and small, and to navigate it you must literally shimmy around on your knees. The use of freestanding chests of drawers and a tiny sink make it seem like a a dolls house, imagined by Ikea. The bathroom too, is radically non western, with the super small metal bath tub, that one would be lucky to fit one’s torso into. These being situated at the start of the exhibition, make it quite clear from the onset, that this is a lesson in ‘how the other half live’, but a lesson nonetheless; and one we can take a lot of inspiration from as we move towards navigating our lives in increasingly smaller spaces.
The garden was breathtaking and most definitely made the case for outdoor space whenever possible. Not too dissimilar to the Queen of Hearts’s own backyard, children scurried through miniature doors as adults posed for pictures crouched down and peering through them.
Although most things were tiny it was unexpectedly uplifting; as we navigated through an array of small and large, closed and open spaces.
My favourite rooms were the bedrooms and living area. The bedroom for its cosy uncluttered feel; and the living room, for its neutral palette, quirky coffee table books and 70s Californian feel. It was Japanese, but super chill- and very zen.
Once done with navigating the many rooms that made up this magnificent Moriyama house, there is plenty more to keep one entertained. On the upper deck you will find beanbagged rooms screening Japanese short films; and for the highest of brows, models of Japanese architecture, and lessons on domestic engineering.
If you plan on visiting on a Saturday, I would recommend eschewing your bag, as the mandatory cloakroom queues are no joke.
Irrespective, the Japanese House is well worth a visit, as a means of getting out of your own head even if for a few hours – and offers up an inspiring new way to think about space and how we can make the most of it; minimally of course.
For further information, visit: Barbican.org