Translations | Transactions page_85_6_translations-frontispiece.indd 1 3/4/2010 9:46:02 AM TORBEN BERNS McGill University A View to ‘‘No Windows’’ Excerpts from MuSou by Sei’ichi Shirai To Whom Does Architecture Belong? Going south from Toranomon, where one runs into the main road, is the Noa building, completed the summer of the year before last.1 A year and half later, it was already a landmark of Azabudai and known affectionately by people as ‘‘Noa Jizou.’’2. Then suddenly one day a large hole was opened beside the great arch of the main façade’s entrance. In the middle of Noa Jizou’s face, [an act of] destruction so cruel it could only be an accident, as if a modern day Noah’s flood, beyond anyone’s control or judgment.3 When I heard the news, I went to see it and immediately had to meet the contractor. Whatever the reason or circumstances, any changes to the exterior of the building without my permission would be egregious. The head of the construction company, recognizing that I would not accept the excuse that it was unavoidable because the owner had ordered it, made an apology for his negligence and promised to return things to the original condition. What has priority over any other reason is the profession which cannot be shaken because it concerns order and trust. That a single building invested in by an owner belongs to the owner is a simple notion. But this is not the place to discuss the concept of possession. Nevertheless concretely forming the pieces structuring a city is a guarantee that a possession is protected in the meaning and extent of its wealth. This is to say the obligation of self-consciousness strictly accompanies the fact of being shown. Although it was to be a tenanted building, Noa was also designed following an intention I had that it should become a face, a monument, for the city of Tokyo.4 The client and the investors, of one mind, had me create it. However, what is the meaning when those who had the courage at the very least to set out in the direction of city-creation, still violate the creation’s authority and the very 1. Noa Building, Tokyo, 1974. 2. Jizou: Lit. earth repository. A Bodhisattva charged with taking care of humans before the advent of the next Buddha. Often associated with the care of children but also all humans on their journey to salvation. 3. A window was inserted in the façade alongside the large arch of the entrance. 1 4. The word here is kao or ‘‘face’’ but in this case also means ‘‘symbol.’’ 1, 2, 3. Noa Building, North Elevation. Shirai Sei’ichi, Tokyo, 1974. Photo courtesy of Yoshio Kouse. Published in Shirai Sei’ichi: Kenchiku to sono sekai (Tokyo: Sekaibunkasha, 1978). Journal of Architectural Education, pp. 86–91 ª 2010 ACSA Translations | Transactions 86 logic of the city? From their respective positions, the building must be the wealth of the owners as well as the tenants.5 In any event it follows from the principles of the structure, not only a creation’s authority but accordingly as what is not then legally encoded is already in the possession of any number of citizens.6 Nonetheless, if there is no effort to understand this, then an accident like this has a cause. Well now it is my turn to receive protests from owners and tenants. However, I will not face these relying on copyright law. It has occurred to me that this legislation should not end up a ‘‘child protection’’ law in the world of architects. I believe the significance of architecture copyright is, properly speaking, with no exception, a realization of the obligation which accompanies the privileges architecture as a body holds for itself and what it ordains. This claim to autonomy is no person’s. Nor is it from an abstract proposition. It is the principle within a category that physically exists. What is the purpose of architecture and to whom does architecture belong? For want of an understanding of this ground, even highly advanced production and technology would not amount to anything. The stupor of the civilized city only steadily gets deeper. Takada Hiroatsu1 Being and idealism are probably antinomies but they are not opposite.2 Regardless, history is the conflict between existence and idealism, and this pattern will never change. In the West, this idea has always played the main character in tragedies where history has the opportunity to develop. Yet, here [in Japan] idealism seldom awakened and did not develop so that it should be a cause to divide eras.3 This is a part of Japanese culture. And now that the decay of culture is lamented, 87 BERNS 5. The sense of the word ‘‘position’’ here is how we commonly use ‘‘perspective’’: namely the position from which one understands something. Also given the context of the preceding sentence one might surmise the ‘‘owners’’ are the citizens of the city and the tenants who ‘‘use’’ the building for immediate ends (investment or otherwise). 6. "Structure" refers equally to the city. 2 3 1. Translated by Torben Berns and Takako Yoshikuni. 2. Shirai begins the essay on Takada, a tragic actor, by seeking to qualify any assumptions regarding a progressive dialectic—perfectibility—in the human condition. History is a conflict between the ‘‘is’’ and the ‘‘could be ⁄ should be,’’ but as he points out in the first line, the relation of the two is not a necessary duality (‘‘being and idealism are probably antinomies but they are not opposite’’). 3. In the West, dramatic tragedy lends appearance to that in the human condition for which there is no reconciliation. Opposed, comedy finitely resolves, and we live beyond the resolution rather idealism has become a faded term on the surface of history.4 The prime reason I respect Mr. Hiroatsu Takada is that he was always immersed in tragedy and guarded the position [of tragic actor] as a standard-bearer of idealism.5 Furthermore, despite the injunctions present in post-Japanesque creative ethics, there is no rare and obscure shadow of an idea in either Takada’s abstraction or symbolism.6 The wisdom gained through long-term struggle perhaps allows Takada to have the capacity and moderation to deal with secular wisdom.7 From an early point, Takada was resolutely free of the cocksure idea in which one distinguishes oneself from others and goes against the universal. This is because he knew that individuality was a limited thing. Nevertheless, the creative goal of his idealistic personality has yet to be closely viewed. Beyond the pleasant and refreshing Western seduction which creates the skeleton of his work beginning with the Greek—let us say the prologue to his creative drama—I desire to meet the proof of Takada having put his whole heart and soul into the drama, as if akin to Egyptian anima.8 If a cruel anticipation were allowed, I would desire to meet that which has been in the depths of his soul. In other words, Hiroatsu Takada’s actual perspective through my eyes. Is it only me who has already felt the pulse of the suggestion with this work? than being thwarted by it. Shirai notes that the topic of the ‘‘irreconcilable’’ tragedy is developed through particular tragedies to the point that overcoming that irreconcilability becomes the very substance and understanding of Western history, i.e., historical dialectic. He notes this understanding of history never gained enough credence in Japan to the point that one could identify ‘‘cultural time’’ as progressive periods of historical eras. There was no equivalent of the French Revolution where Japan passed from a sequence of individual men acting upon the stage of history to a totality of those actions understood as mankind. 4. Ironically, Shirai says now that Japan’s transition into modernity has taken hold, idealism is at once devalued as a standard for judgment by the very sequential nature of the process itself. Idealism merely necessitates then some other overcoming. Or, as Shirai noted (after Hegel), long before intellectuals in the West espoused postmodernity, modernity by definition already includes the hapless moments of postmodernity; ‘‘idealism [becomes] a faded term on the surface of history.’’ 5. Shirai’s interest in Takada is the willingness to explore Idealism. The question is whether that must necessitate the same result seen in the West with the assumption that tragedy must be overcome. Moreover, the overcoming occurs at the level of the individual subject, with an individual’s fiercely guarded autonomy recognizable as a universal. 4 6. Shirai notes that although the operative cultural mores surrounding Takada demanded that Japanese arts be Westernized and they abandon the ‘‘inauthenticity’’ of ‘‘appearing’’ Japanese, we should not mistake the presentation of tragedy in Japan—even Greek tragedy—as anything remotely resembling Western historical dialectics. 7. Shirai makes the assertion that ‘‘there is no rare and obscure shadow of an idea in either Takada’s abstraction or symbol.’’ Nor should we assume it to be an empty form perfectly echoing the Western original. The question is then, what is it if not form, substance or the dialectic of the two? Shirai says only that the long-term struggle gives Takada the capacity and discipline to deal with secular wisdom, i.e., the insight to not mistake a possible relationship with an a priori one. 8. Shirai agrees that we have yet to say what Takada has achieved other than his steadfastness. What Shirai does suggest is that the subject of tragedy is not the dialectic of individual versus universal, as raised by modernity’s efforts to reconcile the ‘‘autonomous subject,’’ but rather a ‘‘subject’’ that perhaps is less autonomous but no less particular. 5 4, 5, 6. KyoHaku-an: Garden detail. Shirai Sei’ichi, Noa Building, Tokyo, 1974. Photo courtesy of Yoshio Kouse. Published in Shirai Sei’ichi: Kenchiku to sono sekai (Tokyo: Sekaibunkasha, 1978). Translations | Transactions 88 MuSou, or ‘‘No Windows,’’ is a collection of writings—with no pictures or drawings—by one of the most influential architects of a generation within Japan, Sei’ichi Shirai (1905–1983). As a former student of Karl Jaspers, a confidante of André Malraux, and an architect integral in the derivation of a modern Japanese masonry ‘‘tradition,’’ he was uniquely positioned to understand the transformation of Japanese culture in the 20th century.1 Still, from the West’s perspective he remains lost within a vague syncretism as ‘‘postmodern,’’ and even from within Japan, despite his influence, his thoughts and writing remain largely opaque to Japanese and Western scholars alike.2 As distinct from the more internationally attuned and easily understood figure of Kenzo Tange, Shirai was interested in a truly ‘‘Japanese’’ discussion of architecture. This is not to say he was not interested in architecture outside Japan. It is to say, architecture for Shirai was culturally specific, culture defined as rooted in language, and therefore not directly amenable to a larger discussion. Shirai’s principal disagreements with Tange involved notions of cultural authenticity and the idea of universal history—whether ‘‘good’’ design was self-evident to all or at all. Where Tange would cast ‘‘traditional’’ Japanese wood details in concrete, Shirai would evolve forms out of ironic concepts and find ways to sew them back into the recognizable as if they naturally belonged there.3 Japan’s lack of a masonry tradition compelled it to adopt one in its entirety upon modernization.4 Shirai’s use of masonry was acutely sensitive to this history and hence at odds with Tange’s facile transformation of old forms to new materials. Where Shirai understood the relation of the brick to history (itself a Western concept), Tange was content to claim Japanese ‘‘authenticity’’ and produce what Tzonis and Lefaivre would term a critically regionalist approach.5 Shirai dismissed this as Japanesque. 89 BERNS 1. Japanese architects were acutely aware of the fact that Japan had no masonry tradition beyond castle foundation building. As architecture was perceived as being of stone, this was a major point of collective anxiety. All masonry in Japan by definition was Western. 2. See Kenchika Bunka’s retrospective, 30 People Who Moved Modernism: The Japanese Perspective, Kenchiku Bunka Special Edition, Vol. 55 (January 2000). 6 3. ‘‘Tange and Shirai, the two ‘maitres’ of post-war architectural development, led Japanese architecture in opposite directions. On one hand, Tange established the Orthodox myth of the ‘tradition of the new’ while on the other Shirai proposed a heretical antithesis to this tradition.’’ H. Yatsuka, "Architecture in the Urban Desert," Oppositions 23 (Winter 1981). 4. Japan opened its doors to the world in 1868 after having effectively closed them for 300 years. Following the fall of the Shogunate it embarked upon an aggressive policy of modernization that included implementation of a parliamentary democracy as well as all aspects of technical development. In effect Japan came face to face with the Western concept of history. 5. Tzonis and Lefaivre, ‘‘Why Critical Regionalism Today?’’ A+U, 1990. Largely the West judged Shirai’s work as that of a second-rate postmodern, a consequence of the West’s inability to both recognize anything more than itself in the ‘Other’ and to recognize history as anything but universal.6 Though his writings often seem impenetrable, upon close inspection they reveal critical intellectual contributions on the unevenness of the concept of history and modernity between cultures. Unrecognized in both the West and in Japan, the real importance of Shirai’s contribution to contemporary architectural discourse is his mode of acting that is qualitatively other than the modern ⁄ postmodern circularity of selfvalidating concepts. In the increasingly globalizing world since his death in 1983, this has become all the more important. Shirai’s position on history is clearly evident in the two pieces translated here. To understand that position it is useful to consider that history is lived rather than externally guaranteed or presented. This is to say that every generation learns and remakes—through language, custom and environment—its authentic ground of appearance. Furthermore, appearance itself is revealed by virtue of that common ground. Any notion of an individual or individual creativity is by virtue of that ground. The ground is legitimated and (re)created by the (creative) actions of the members of that community. The creative authority that Shirai constantly refers to may be understood as the relation of authoring to authority: the work created by the individual, in so far as it is received and resonates with an inarticulate sensus communis is appropriated by the community as such, and in effect, becomes severed from the artist to the same degree that the artist has articulated concretely that very sensus communis.7 This two-way hinge of the author and the authority concretized in the accepted work is crucial to his understanding. Shirai’s understanding of the made and its relation to the political realm of appearance transcends all cultural specificity by virtue of its 6. See H. Yatsuka, ‘‘Internationalism vs Regionalism,’’ in At the End of the Century (Los Angeles: MOCA, 2000). 7 8 7. It is interesting to compare Shirai’s understanding of ‘‘common’’ with that of Giambattista Vico. ‘‘Common sense is judgment without reflection, shared by an entire class, an entire people, an entire nation, or the entire human race.‘‘ Giambattista Vico, The New Science of Giambattista Vico, trans. Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1968, translator’s introduction, 7, 8. Shinwa Ginko Honten exterior garden detail (Sasebo, 1973). Photo courtesy of Yoshio Kouse. Published in Shirai Sei’ichi: Kenchiku to sono sekai (Tokyo: Sekaibunkasha, 1978). Translations | Transactions 90 understanding of ‘‘common.’’ ‘‘Common’’ for Shirai is ‘‘inarticulate’’ or ‘‘pre-linguistic’’ in the sense that it does not belong to a particular person or point of view. This does not make it universal in the Western dialectical sense of history. On the contrary, each culture acts according to its own sense of appearance, a sense that is created through reabsorbing the new into the recognized, literally ‘‘forgetting’’ its particularity in the process. What is ‘‘remembered’’ is a sensibility particular to a community—any community—at that time. While Shirai wrote exclusively for his ‘‘community’’ and the community of his ‘‘time,’’ we should not miss the importance of his contribution for all of us for whom action is always for us in our time. p. xxv D3, D4. and p.142. The translators note: ‘‘‘Common’ does not, at least in the first instance, mean public, at large, joint, reciprocal, mutually agreed upon. It does not presuppose consideration, deliberation, communication, mutual influence, transaction, convention or agreement’’ (D4). 9 10 9. Shinwa Ginko Annex (Sasebo, 1975). Photo courtesy of Yoshio Kouse. Published in Shirai Sei’ichi: Kenchiku to sono sekai (Tokyo: Sekaibunkasha, 1978). 10. Zensho-ji_hondo, Tokyo, 1958 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.) 91 BERNS Copyright of Journal of Architectural Education is the property of Wiley-Blackwell and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.