The newest exhibition at the Barbican is a little overwhelming, not least because of the the full-size recreation of the famous Moriyama House by Ryue Nishizawa which dominates the space, but also because of its incredibly rich and attention-demanding content.

Office of Ryue Nishizawa Moriyama House, 2005 © Takashi Homma

The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 is set up as an architectural show, but is in fact so much more. It’s a crash course into Japanese lifestyle and a cultural version of Google translate, from Eastern to Western language. While the lower ground of the Barbican’s Art Gallery hosts a real-life, liveable version of Nishizawa’s architectural trophy, the top floor is separated into sections corresponding between cultural phenomenons and the architectural styles – the 1950s of the Heian-period palace architecture and the Minka folk aesthetic of rural housing, and the work of Toyo Ito and ideas of 1980s nomadism.

Toyo Ito White U, 1976 © Tomio Ohashi

Aside from reflecting the architecture through photography and models, the show includes moving image as documentary proof from an insider’s cultural perspective. Anime cartoons show different types of housing, post-war cinematography reflects the domestic battles between the heritage and the new, while a documentary by the established architecture-filmmaking duo Beka & Lemoine represents a romantic attempt to understand the Japanese way of living.

The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945, Installation View Barbican Art Gallery, London 23 March – 25 June 2017, Photo by Miles Willis / Getty Images

But the biggest (quite literally) part of the exhibition belongs to the true and honest recreation of Japanese living. You get a chance to open the door and step into what Ryue Nishizawa designed as a minimalistic solution to Tokyo’s overpopulation back in 2005, the incredible Moriyama House. From the seminal SAANA bunny chairs to cans of Yebisu beer and a bamboo garden, Barbican, London suddenly turns into Ōta, Tokyo.

The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945, Installation View Barbican Art Gallery, London 23 March – 25 June 2017, Photo by Miles Willis / Getty Images

This exhibition is not an escape to the far East, it’s a tour of contemporary Japanese culture that simultaneously questions and confirms Western ideas of Japanese lifestyle and design. Prepare to be amazed, inspired and ready to book a ticket to Tokyo. Spring break anyone?

The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 is on until 25 June, at the Barbican, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS. Book the tickets at www.barbican.org.uk.

Text by Dino Bonacic

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