Kengo Kuma Interview: Architecture for Our Time



“Literature and architecture have very much in common, they have to provide people with dreams.” Kengo Kuma, one of Japan’s most influential architects, has designed the new Olympic stadium in Tokyo and is currently working on the Haruki Murakami Library in Tokyo and a new Hans Christian Andersen museum in Denmark. But the pandemic will change the way Kuma works, he says.

Having grown up in a wooden house build in 1942, Kengo Kuma admits that it has had a strong impact on his architecture, for instance, are natural materials such as wood crucial. Kuma mentions Japanese architect Kenzu Tange (1913-2005) as an inspiration and his Yoyogi National Gymnasium, constructed for the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was a reason for Kuma when he was a child and dreamt of becoming an architect.

In 2020 Kengo Kuma completed the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. Originally Kuma was inspired by Kenzo Tange’s Olympic stadium from 1964. “But what people need in our time is not something with an interesting form, but something which is in harmony with the forest. Our idea with that building is to show that we live in a time of harmony with nature.”

“I am always trying to create architecture, that cherishes its surroundings. I look at the characteristics of the place. Then I do my best to include this in the shaping of my architecture. The oldest friend humans have is wood.”

“I am really impressed by birds’ nests. You find the original form of a house in the nest. We have gotten this pandemic because we are spoiling the earth. And now when we have spoiled the environment, we can see that our lives are at stake. This pandemic could be our chance to change our way of thinking. After the pandemic, I want to change my architecture to be even more kind to nature. We cannot as before only think of what is inside. People have to get out and walk in nature. Cities hardly have any places to walk outside.”

Kengo Kuma (born 1954) is considered one of the most significant contemporary Japanese architects. In 1987 he founded the Spatial Design Studio (now Kengo Kuma & Associates) and opened his Paris Studio in 2008. In 1987, he founded the Spatial Design Studio. In 1990, Kengo Kuma & Associates, his own studio was established. During the 1998–1999 academic year, he was a visiting professor at the Faculty of Environmental Information at Keio University. In 2008, Kuma earned a Ph.D. from Keio University. In October 2021 The Waseda International House of Literature (The Haruki Murakami Library) will open. Kuma is the designer of the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo which has been built for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Kengo Kuma was interviewed at his office in Tokyo by Mette Holm, in May 2020.

Camera: Yudai Maruyama
Edit: Kasper Bech Dyg
Produced by Christian Lund

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2021

Supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond

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