Japanese architecture truly is unique. It has the ability to create a sensation in us humans, using the simplest of tricks. It is capable of giving us such a sense of peace and serenity.
Less Is More
“Less is more.” You know this famous Mies Van Der Rohe quote, but what you may not know is that it is the basic concept on which the Japanese base their architecture. The concepts of simplicity, purity, and clean architecture have been adapted in their architecture all through time. It has been in their tradition and culture ever since it all began.
Some of the features that minimalism creates are peace, serenity, space, and silence. Nature is the ultimate source of peace, and the Japanese are obsessed with it. That is why they tend to relate everything back to nature, starting with the color palette of their designs, to the actual existence of nature inside their homes.
The ancient Japanese wanted to create serenity and harmony in their environment, which they found in the natural forests around them. Hence, materials extracted from the natural environment and used in their raw form is one of the “tricks” used to create these peaceful environments. The use of raw honest wood, in not just the flooring, but also the furniture, brings peace and purity to the space.
The use of Shoji sliding doors with their simple transparent (or semi-transparent) paper or glass panes, and wooden frames give a feeling of lightness that is the opposite of the harsh environment of the outside world.
Another trick is the color palette that is derived from the natural environment. Various shades of browns are used to represent the trees, grey and white represent the rocks, and greens are used to represent the plant life. To decorate the space, things like bamboo trees, rice paper, or flowers would be used.
Being the masters of openness and minimalism, Japanese homes always tend to have spaces opened to one another. They keep each space as empty as possible, which makes the eye focus more on the openness rather than a clutter of items, which helps to clear the mind. Also, the choice of furniture is well-considered. Furnishings are of clean lines and humble, honest colors, which totally belongs to the Japanese lifestyle.
The most important trick of all that has the greatest effect is light. Light has the ability to affect the human senses when using the space; it is scientifically proven that the manipulation of light is capable of giving the user a sense of spaciousness or captivation, peace or distress. In this case, the manipulation of light, using different wide openings to allow the space to be well-lit, will give the sense of spaciousness and peacefulness.
Some may compare the concepts of the Japanese style to Zen, which is a school of Mahayana Buddhism. This school emphasizes the importance and value of meditation, which encourages serenity of the soul towards its surrounding. Its influence has affected the architecture and interior design of Japanese homes. In some homes there is even a Zen garden included, in which one could practice meditation.
Japanese architecture is not just a style in designing, it is a lifestyle that many – not just architects – aspire to achieve. And after all, we could all use some peace and serenity in our lives to help us cope with the outside world.