The exhibition Kengo Kuma. Onomatopoeia Architecture presents around two dozen models of some of the Japanese architect's most important buildings. The focus is on the dialogue between man and material and the architect's associated recourse to onomatopoeia.

„Onomatopoeia […] behandelt Architektur und Menschen auf derselben Ebene.“ – Kengo Kuma

In Japanese, onomatopoeia often consist of double syllables, the doubling of which in turn makes the language sound. The internationally renowned architect uses onomatopoeia to categorise his projects, and as a design language from early conception: from the selection of the materials to the construction of the entire buidling. In doing so, he is guided less by rational decisions than by working from the substance of the material. Starting from onomatopoeia, the invention or use of words that contain sounds associated with what is named, Kengo Kuma gives a physical sensation a form that expresses his idea of sustainable architecture, in which materials are reused and people and physical things are reconnected.

For his projects, Kengo Kuma mainly uses wood, paper and metal – also Japanese traditional materials – and applies them in his own unique and contemporary way. In his vision, the surfaces appeal not only to the sense of sight, but also to the senses of smell and touch. The exhibition consists of models of some of his most significant buildings that encourage visitors to discover the sound of the different materials, including a temporary five-metre-high pavilion made of aluminium and experimental installation – a delicate wooden sculpture designed to express the onomatopoeias "tsun tsun" and "zure zure".

His approach to projects is often tactile, sensory and even sensual. His sensibility also involves flow and rhythm, typical elements of music. Kuma's buildings often have an unexpected lightness or a kind of movement that he attributes to his own musical concept. Avoiding concrete as much as possible, his buildings seem to rest lightly on the ground. Occasionally they also seem ephemeral. Kuma describes himself as a 'materialist", in the physical sense of the word.

Kengo Kuma (*1954) was born in Yokohama. He has built all over the world, his buildings are located in Japan, but also throughout Europe, the United States, China and Australia. The exhibition is a takeover from the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti, developed on the occasion of the Architecture Biennale 2023.


Behind the Art

Behind the Art

Kengo Kuma. Onomatopoeia Architecture

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📧 Susanne Annen

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📧 Sven Bergmann

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