On masters

Among Swedish architects, there is not much of seeing oneself as a part of a tradition, or school, that is responsibly developed with each new generation. The lack of this is probably a function of a society that encourages independence and individualism, and perhaps also due to a society that sheds anything but a flat hierarchy. Or, rather, seemingly flat. As I understand the mechanism of this flat hierarchy, everyone is by default seen as equally pleasing, but when somebody breaks the boundaries of that, like Asplund or Lewerentz did, they become otherworldly, unreachable, and difficult to discuss critically. This special status seems to come easier as things slip into history, and I am not the one to speculate on how Asplund or Lewerentz were viewed by their contemporaries, but I think that reaching this level while you are still alive is getting more and more difficult. As far as I know, none of my Swedish colleagues are considered to be gods yet, and my concern is that this binary order of either being seen as quite normal or, on the other hand, untouchable, is creating a totally unnecessary limitation.

In the Japanese architectural world, which is the world where I was raised during my first years in the profession, an ambitious young architect is often learning for some years within the practice of an architect that he or she respects highly, and when it’s time to try the wings, opening an independent office, the now not-so-young architect tries to build something on that hard-earned foundation, rather than setting off in a totally different direction. Naturally, the first work often shows more signs of this than the ones to come. Thus, for example Go Hasegawa’s House in a Forest, is showing more overtly the DNA from Taira Nishizawa than what I see in Hasegawa’s later works.

Being able to trace Shinohara two master/adept generations back from Tsukamoto of Atelier Bow-Wow via Sakamoto, Kikutake two generations from Sejima via Ito, and three generations from Ishigami, makes the architectural history of Japan extremely vital, and, I am sure, the works of current Japanese architects better – they feel a responsibility, and they feel support. One could say that Shinohara and Kikutake are still at work through their adepts and grand-adepts. Thinking of it this way makes me very happy.

Next week we will open our first project in Japan. In this case, I don’t want to think of it as shouldering a responsibility, but I am really thankful for the support and for what I learned, both from Sweden and from Japan. Gradually we find our own direction.

Picture at top taken by Åke E:son Lindman

Jonas Elding / Elding Oscarson

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