Architecture and the "Anti Object"

Komatsuseiren fa-bo (detail). Photo: Takumi Ota, Shinkenchiku.

Posted by Liam Otten April 22, 2016


Buildings shelter and protect yet also can isolate and divide. Inhabitants can become separated and even alienated from the natural beauty and cultural dynamism surrounding them.

So argues the influential Japanese architect and theorist Kengo Kuma, founding principal of Kengo Kuma & Associates. Since launching his firm in 1990, Kuma has sought to articulate and embody a different vision—one that combines sophisticated technologies and the imaginative use of traditional Japanese materials with a deep and even poetic commitment to the particularities of site and place.

At 6:30p Monday, May 4, Kuma will deliver the annual CannonDesign Lecture for Excellence in Architecture and Engineering at Washington University. Presented as part of the Sam Fox School's spring Public Lecture Series, the free talk, titled Anti Object, will take place in Steinberg Auditorium.

"Architecture is too often seen as isolated, unique, extraordinary monuments created by geniuses," says Seng Kuan, assistant professor of architecture. "This object-oriented bias has also shaped how modern architecture in Japan has developed. Anti-Object is Kuma's manifesto for what he calls 'weak architecture,' in which space is delineated—or sometimes merely suggested—by light, structure, and materiality.

"His oeuvre also is not about the pursuit of singular masterpieces, but multiple threads of experimentation," Kuan adds, noting that Kuma has demonstrated a particular dexterity with building materials. "Familiar palettes—stone, terra cotta, wood, bamboo, hay—are reinvented and combined with synthetic materials, such as carbon-fiber threads, to create sensual and thought-provoking new arrangements."

A reception for Kuma will precede the talk, at 6p.