Modernism and Japanese Carpentry: Preserving the Architecture of Junzo Yoshimura


Bucks County, PA
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Traditional Japanese design shares common ground with Mid-century modern aesthetics in the emphasis on buildings and the outdoors as integrated spaces, and in abiding by a principle of artful simplicity and functionality. Revered Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura (1908 -1997) and Russell Wright (1904-1976) are two of the design stalwarts from the last century who have explored this nexus between the two design traditions and executed their vision through notable examples of Modernist architecture in a garden setting.

Day 1: Architecture Garden Tour

Participants will visit three prime examples of Japanese and mid-century modern architecture in a garden setting:

Shofuso Japanese House and Garden with Sakura Pavilion
Kykuit, The Rockefeller Estate - Yoshimura Tea House, Japanese Garden and the Marcel Breuer House
Manitoga/The Russell Wright Design Center - Dragon Rock and Woodland Garden
The historic Kykuit at the Rockefeller Estate in Tarrytown, NY is home to a tea house designed by Shofuso architect Junzo Yoshimura and a Japanese garden designed and installed by Dave Engel, a student of Shofuso's landscape architect Tansai Sano. Participants will also have an opportunity to view the Marcel Breuer House, originally exhibited at MoMa (Museum of Modern Art, New York) as part of the same multi-year House in the Museum Garden exhibition that produced Shofuso. A lecture about Yoshimura's modernist legacy will further illuminate how the Japanese architect has forged a strong 20th century connection between Japanese and Western design.

Next on the itinerary is a tour of the Manitoga /The Russell Wright Design Center which showcases Dragon Rock, Wright's home and studio --- now widely considered as an outstanding example of Organic Modern Architecture ca. 1960 --- and a 75-acre woodland garden meant to be experienced like a Japanese stroll garden, with the landscape and its themes unfolding sequentially. "One is carried through this experience as though the course of footpaths had a musical rhythm. From the shadow or the thicket, one suddenly emerges upon a spacious view... In this garden drama, one becomes the hero oneself because one 'creates' the garden by walking through it."

The bus tour starts and ends at Shofuso and tour fee includes a box lunch and free admission to Shofuso.

Day 2: Heritage Preservation Workshop

Participants will have a rare opportunity to learn about an actual preservation project in progress through a series of demonstrations and lectures about preserving Shofuso (Pine Breeze Villa), a traditional shoin-zukuri Japanese house designed by Yoshimura in 1953 and built in Nagoya, Japan using traditional materials and techniques. Workshop sessions include the following:

Japanese carpentry demonstration
Historic preservation and condition reporting with practicum by participants
Hinoki roof demonstration
The preservation challenges of maintaining the legacy of Yoshimura's stringent traditional Japanese design and Shofuso's link to mid-century modern design will be discussed. Aside from the inherent challenges of its design, Shofuso -- like many such historic structures in public areas -- also had to rise up to the effects of natural deterioration and vandalism throughout its history. How it was able to do so is also an inspiring story for anyone who has a custodial interest in preserving historic sites. Workshop fee includes lunch and admission to Shofuso.