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    1. [Essay] Tradition and modernity relationship in Indian and Japanese architecture

      1. Discuss how the relationship between the notions of tradition and modernity in architecture in two of the three contemporary countries (India and Japan) has unfolded over certain periods of time, and how developments in these countries resonate with each other


      The notion of tradition and modernity are often misunderstood as opposing each other: one simply cannot co-exist with the other. However, for architecture in India and Japan, this relationship is quite complex. In fact, one cannot define modernity without understanding what tradition is for a culture. Furthermore, each culture, with its unique history, has its own unique principle while trying to mediate modernity and tradition. And for a few architectural approaches, tradition and modernity intertwine and evolve constantly, reveal to us a diverse understanding of the relationship between man and his environment.

      In his work called “Internationalism versus Regionalism,” Hajime Yatsuka had stated that: “Historically, the rigidness of classicism's "grammar" is also related to a type of rationalism that developed in Europe during the Renaissance. When rational "reforms" derive from a hierarchy imposed from a cultural center upon surrounding countries, then a regional reaction - a romantic nationalism - is aroused” (Yatsuka 1998, 168), In short, the need of going back to tradition pops up when a culture comes into contact with international influence. In this case, it is when Japanese and Indian culture got exposed to the so-called Western culture, a modern product got its first form. Since India was a British colony from 1857 until 1947, its forced historical events lead to its architectural discourse to have a very different character from Japanese’s publications, even though they both share countless similarities. Modernism rolls out in Japan as an end result of the industrial revolution. This can be best summarized through Hiroyuki Suzuki’s piece of writing called “Contemporary Architecture of Japan.” He described Japanese’s modernism being a language of the middle and the laboring classes produced through industrial society and economic movements — the architecture to which would be applied the image of the machine (Suzuki 1985, 7).

      Japan and India both condemned the highly narcissistic values of modernism: the idea of abstraction for the purpose of abstraction itself. Ravindran has criticized the abandonment of individualistic expression, resulting in subtle and abstract forms, as often leaves average city dweller in India cold. He stated that abstraction should serve a higher form of providing an extension of life for the receiver of the building (Ravindran 1997, 28). In Japan’s case, the lack of self-expression from modernism, as well as the powerlessness that architects felt about the restraints imposed by urban planning and the profession itself, had resulted in the birth of the avant-garde expression. Architectural interventions became absorbed into the fashionable mainstream as the economy proceeded and got trampled over by these stylistic expressions. From then, architects dissipated their avant-garde status by turning from being who exposed and prosecuted society to those who were the popular objects of its fancy (Suzuki 1985, 9).

      Moving from pure modernism, the relationship between tradition and modernity in Japan and India lies in the essential interplay between myth and reality. However, India has a very different relationship with myth compares to Japan. According to Ravindran, contrary to popular understanding, myth is not a dead, finite fabrication of the human mind but is an even contemporary, vibrating way the human psyche attributes form to meanings for architecture (Ravindran 1997, 28). Indian architects draw out mythical inspirations from religious influence and traditional tales and from influence from both Hindu and Islamic architecture. On the other hand, Japanese telling their stories are what they define themselves; and this becomes a reality that defines the Japanese identity. This creates a very Japanese interplay between dream and reality, as reality is related to myth as insofar as it is socially constructed. The emphasis in this connection unleashes subjectivity which modernity had imprisoned. It gives pleasure and a characteristic of “play” that is highly theatrical: it has both liberation as well as a limit in space (Berque 1997, 150-153).

      Postmodern architecture in the West is characterized by a distinct nostalgia for the past, from which a common conflict between internationalism versus regionalism in Asian countries became apparent. Since the critics from the West often are oblivious to the existing culture in the local culture, they often praise what is closer to the Western notion of modernism. From 1983 to 1986, in India, these writings appeared in Vistara, praised buildings by architects such as Chisholm, who made efforts to integrate Indian elements into contemporary architecture, while looked down upon works of Lutyens, who redefined his Classicism in the context of India (Bhatt 2001, 47). As a result, even when Indian architects have the opportunity to pontificate, they still leave out the ethno-centric identity to adopt the orientalist perspectives (Menon 2000, 28).

      In Japan, the same issue surfaced when Tange became the first among Japanese architects to appear in the international forum. Following these praises, Tange becomes highly influential and his works gave inspirations to many architects belonged to Metabolism group later on. Tange only inherits “spirit, not individual idioms,” this metaphysical spirituality gave Tange a justification for his free alteration of the traditional. On the other hand, the works of architects like Sutemi Horiguchi incorporated physical elements like the “sukiya” and improved it were criticized. Through his writing, Yatsuka had best described Japanese architecture perception through the eyes of the Westerners as following: the “Western notion applies to notion of modernism is colonialistic or Eurocentric as International Style has homogeneity as prerequisite, extension of modernism are preferred, while Japanese works such as Horiguchi’s are called imitations” (Yatsuka 1998, 180).The lack of understanding of the traditional “sukiya” makes subtle differences in Horiguchi’s values difficult to be understood thoroughly and appreciated by the international critics.

      In conclusion, anyone who wants to further their comprehension of Japanese and Indian architecture needs to understand the complexity in the relationship between tradition and modernity. The constant and interesting conflict between these two notions can never be obsolete. As an end result, the resolution stemmed from these two elements creates our urban landscape. However, one needs to also be aware that this does not strictly apply for Asian countries such as India and Japan, but also to any other country around the world. A closer look at how this process of working with tradition and modernity in a country’s unique culture is always needed to comprehend what is considered as “appropriate” and “contemporary” architecture in that specific country.


      "When Did India Become A Colony And When Did It Gain Independence?". 2017. Reference.

      A.G. Krishna Menon, “Interrogating Modern Indian Architecture,” Architecture + Design 17, no. 6
      (Nov.-Dec. 2000): 24-28.

      K.T. Ravindran, “Contemporary Architecture: An Uncomfortable Glance at the Mirror,”
      Architecture + Design 14, no. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 1997): 26-28.

      Ritu Bhatt, “Indianizing Indian Architecture: A Postmodern Tradition,” Traditional Dwellings and
      Settlements Review 13, no. 1 (Fall 2001): 43-51.

      Hiroyuki Suzuki, “Contemporary Architecture of Japan,” in Contemporary Architecture of Japan
      1958-1984, ed. Hiroyuki Suzuki, Reyner Banham and Katsuhiro Kobayashi (London: The
      Architectural Press, 1985), 5-15.

      Augustin Berque, Japan: Cities and Social Bonds, trans. Chris Turner (Yelvertoft Manor,
      Northamptonshire: Pilkington Press, 1997), 147-170.
      Sửa lần cuối bởi Hayden; 17-11-2017 lúc 17:48.
      To go wrong in one's own way is better than to go right in someone else's.
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