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Satirical Domesticity: The Japanese House and Identity
by Chen Huihua
“New Innocence” classifies a unique and emerging trend in Japanese architecture produced by Toyo Ito, SANAA, Sou Fujimoto and Junya Ishigami. By re-appropriating the context of Japanese domesticity, a Japanese house under this category is essentially defined by three main aspects, namely, kawaii appearance, as well as conceptual and human-centric emphases in design.

This paper hypothesises that Ishigami’s satirical installations manifested in his designs of Japanese houses are in the guise of faux-naif rather than that of innocence and naivety. This may be compared to Japanese culture where criticism is often conveyed through subtle expressions and indirect methods of delivery. There is a need to construct a comparable criticality with reference to the critique and commentary of Japanese architecture. Through a careful definition and fleshing out of the term “New Innocence”, this paper seeks to find out how the society’s obsession with its kawaii paradigm informs us of its architecture and consequently, alter one’s preconceived perceptions of the everyday. Following that, it aims to define a form of architecture that is locally derived by locating satirical domesticity as an archetype to put forward a social critique that evokes less antagonism among the public.

The methodology employs interdisciplinary studies, which include social science, phenomenology and visual culture, to critique the emerging trend of Japanese architecture. The metaphoric application of satire on Ishigami’s works is forwarded and argued on firsthand interviews and studies of parallel works by the architect’s contemporaries. The results reveal a tendency towards the initial hypothesis in which kawaii appearances are employed to disguise a social statement. At the same time, they illustrate a nationalistic pride on the larger scale of Japanese domesticity.
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