David B. Stewart

  • Japan-ness in Architecture

    Japan-ness in Architecture

    Arata Isozaki and David B. Stewart

    One of Japan's leading architects examines notions of Japan-ness as exemplified by key events in Japanese architectural history from the seventh to the twentieth century; essays on buildings and their cultural context.

    Japanese architect Arata Isozaki sees buildings not as dead objects but as events that encompass the social and historical context—not to be defined forever by their "everlasting materiality" but as texts to be interpreted and reread continually. In Japan-ness in Architecture, he identifies what is essentially Japanese in architecture from the seventh to the twentieth century. In the opening essay, Isozaki analyzes the struggles of modern Japanese architects, including himself, to create something uniquely Japanese out of modernity. He then circles back in history to find what he calls Japan-ness in the seventh-century Ise shrine, reconstruction of the twelfth-century Todai-ji Temple, and the seventeenth-century Katsura Imperial Villa. He finds the periodic ritual relocation of Ise's precincts a counter to the West's concept of architectural permanence, and the repetition of the ritual an alternative to modernity's anxious quest for origins. He traces the "constructive power" of the Todai-ji Temple to the vision of the director of its reconstruction, the monk Chogen, whose imaginative power he sees as corresponding to the revolutionary turmoil of the times. The Katsura Imperial Villa, with its chimerical spaces, achieved its own Japan-ness as it reinvented the traditional shoin style.

    And yet, writes Isozaki, what others consider to be the Japanese aesthetic is often the opposite of that essential Japan-ness born in moments of historic self-definition; the purified stylization—what Isozaki calls "Japanesquization"—lacks the energy of cultural transformation and reflects an island retrenchment in response to the pressure of other cultures.

    Combining historical survey, critical analysis, theoretical reflection, and autobiographical account, these essays, written over a period of twenty years, demonstrate Isozaki's standing as one of the world's leading architects and preeminent architectural thinkers.

    • Hardcover $31.95 £26.00
    • Paperback $26.95 £22.00
  • The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox

    The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox

    Kenji Ekuan and David B. Stewart

    Lunchbox philosophy, or the world according to the Japanese lunchbox: how an object of sublime beauty offers a key to understanding Japanese aesthetics, design, and culture.

    The Makunouchi Bento, or traditional Japanese lunchbox, is a highly lacquered wooden box divided into quadrants, each of which contains different delicacies. It is also one of the most familiar images of Japan's domestic environment. When presented to the diner, the Japanese lunchbox seems straightforward enough; each of four food portions resides in its own compartment, apparently obeying a strict lunchbox geometry. So far, just food. But Kenji Ekuan reveals that a much deeper reading is possible, one that sees the lunchbox as nothing less than a key to an understanding of Japanese civilization, the spirit of form, and the aesthetic ideal in which the many are reduced to one. Ekuan reads the Japanese lunchbox as both object and metaphor. It is one of this book's many charms that he is able to see it as both simultaneously. He compares the visual pleasures of the Zen lunchbox to an aerial view of the Japanese archipelago; he invites us to savor its quadripartite structure as we savor the four seasons. In so doing, he unlocks the secrets of ancient Japanese rituals, celebrates the aesthetics of Japanese design, explores the contours of Japanese landscapes and technology, and delineates the forty-eight rules of the etiquette of Japanese form. With an agility more characteristic of poetry than of design criticism, he connects everything from food, television, motorcycles, package tours, and department stores to landscape, ecology, computers, and radios, all the while keeping his eye on his subject. In this book of magical transformations, nothing is what it first appears, but everything is deepened by "lunchbox theory." Consider the influence of the lunchbox on TV viewing, for example: chopsticks are used to stroll through a meal, just as remote control devices are used to browse TV channels. This book reveals a world of secret connections between its covers, in the spirit of the lunchbox itself.

    • Hardcover $60.00
    • Paperback $15.75 £12.99