Lost in the Roppongi Art Triangle – Visiting an architecture exhibition at the Mori Art Museum


Roppongi in Tokyo is famous for being a city of modern art. So if you want to experience the “now” of the Japanese art scene, you should go to Roppongi! First of all, there is the “Roppongi Art Triangle” (or “Art Triangle Roppongi”), consisting of three cutting-edge art museums, but there is also a lot of representative modern architecture. Including places such as Roppongi Hills, which looks like a spaceship out of an SF movie that landed in the middle of the city. We went to an art exhibition at the Mori Art Museum that combines these two elements: art and architecture.

Architecture exhibition

Yena, Kitsukou and I ready to tackle the exhibition!

The Mori Art Museum’s exhibition “Roppongi Hills and Mori Art Museum 15th Anniversary Exhibition Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation” focuses on Japanese architecture. It covers a huge variety of architectural styles, from old temples and five-storied pagodas to futuristic towns that haven’t even been built yet. The exhibition explores the Japanese architecture from various viewpoints; from its physical structure to the philosophy behind the architecture itself.


Kitagawara Atsushi KIGUMI INFINITY, Japan Pavilion, Expo Milano 2015

In the first room, you will experience an old Japanese technology called “kigumi“. By attaching notches to wood and stacking it, the gravitational force and pulling force make it possible to create building structures that can even withstand strong earthquakes – without using nails! That’s what I’d call “Japanese wisdom”!

wood blocks

The gap between the wood blocks forms a hexagon

In Japan, where wooden buildings are very common, this old technology is still in use today. After visiting this exhibition, you might start noticing the “Japanese-ness” in the architecture surrounding you when walking around the city.

Inside a Japanese teahouse

One of the highlights of the “Japanese in Architecture” exhibition is a realistically reproduced teahouse. After taking off your shoes, you can even go inside! Upon entering this Japanese teahouse you will be able to experience the “narrowness” of a proper Japanese teahouse. The Japanese tea ceremony is very sophisticated and calm. When preparing the tea, all movements are executed with extreme accuracy, and with no excess. You won’t see any movements “without a purpose”. Maybe it’s because of the narrowness, which makes it impossible to move freely.


Experiencing the narrowness of a Japanese teahouse (“Tai-an” teahouse)

On the contrary, because Japanese tea ceremony is all about minimalism and perfection without dynamic movements, there is no need for a tea house to be large. Architecture isn’t just a purposeful “structure”. Instead, architecture can make us think about the people who use and live inside the buildings and the cultural background of a country.


The roof construction made out of layered wood panels


…and this is the construction of the underside of the roof

The future of modern urban living

In the last area, you can see the future of Japanese architecture. I thought that the concept of ‘Future Living’ by Japanese architects is very interesting. It is strongly based on a concept (or maybe fear?) of limited space and efficiency.

Model of A House (Tange Kenzo House)

“Model of A House” (Tange Kenzo House) – modern architecture doesn’t have to look futuristic and “modern”

The wonderful thing about this exhibition isn’t just the number of exhibits, but how they are being displayed. There are pictures, models, enlarged displays, and movies – it doesn’t get boring. Everything is very self-explanatory. You really don’t have to be an architecture expert to enjoy the exhibition. And I think that the teahouse experience is especially great. Moreover, you are allowed to take photos of some of the exhibits (something rare in Japanese art museums). These are some of the reasons why I highly recommend this exhibition!


Installation: Saito Seiichi + Rhizomatiks Architecture Power of Scale

This exhibition will be held until September 17th. However, don’t worry if you can’t make it! Since there are always great exhibitions at the museums of the “Roppongi Art Triangle”, you can be sure to always find something inspiring and interesting when visiting Roppongi.


“Roppongi Hills and Mori Art Museum 15th Anniversary Exhibition –
Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation”

Period: 2018.4.25 (Wed) – 9.17 (Monday)
10:00-22:00 (Last Admission: 21:30)
* 10:00-17:00 on Tuesdays (Last Admission: 16:30)
Venue: Mori Art Museum (53F, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower)

HP: http://www.mori.art.museum/en/

Roppongi Art Triangle (These are the other two museums!):
The National Art Center, Tokyo: http://www.nact.jp/english/
SUNTORY MUSEUM of ART: https: //www.suntory.com/sma/

※ The pictures used in this article are licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”
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I was born and raised in Kiel/Germany. When I was 16 I came to Japan for the first time. I fell in love with this beautiful country, so I returned after my university graduation. Since then, I have been living in Tokyo - and I don't plan to change anything about that ;-) My hobbies are taking a stroll around the city, taking photos and drinking coffee.

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