Architecture

Japanese Nearness/Remoteness

For some obsure reason, maybe, this house-and-tobacco-shop in Osaka, Japan seems to engender the desire to determine it as a non-building. A non-building would read: it exists to negate itself. When looking at the photo on the right, the building does not seem be be placed ‘in’ a surrounding, but is merely making the absolute character of its surrounding manifest. That is: it is explicating the implicate visibility of the palmtree, of the hideous advertisement-pillar next to it, of the intdeterminable blue roof (is it a roof?) more than it is presenting itself, making itself visible.

 In a sense it doesn’t even seem to be there, claiming space or colonizing the air. To be sure: in its total whiteness and minimalist design this shop by Avehideshi Architects and Associates represents sheer beauty. It is almost to beautiful for its own surrounding. The fact that the inside of the building does not (yet) come with furniture or decoration makes this feeling even more absurd: it doesn’t even seem to be meant to be lived-in, to be a house. It doesn’t seem to need an inside, or perhaps it isn’t even able to have an inside, since it doesn’t have a clear-cut outside. What does intimacy mean when there is nothing to be afraid of? Or, differently stated, what is the meaning of a building when it does not enclose something? The function of this building is, perhaps, to generate nearness in such a maximum of remoteness. As Heidegger remarked in ‘The Thing’: ‘Nearness does not consist in shortness of distance. What is least remote from us in point of distance [..] can remain far from us. Short distance is not itself nearness. Nor is great distance remoteness’ Well, perhaps, but in this case there is no balance between the two: the little white building seems to suck up all the remoteness of the surrounding space. One can imagine living in this house – without furniture, without facilities, without intimacy – looking out of the window and feeling ‘near’ to the gasstation (?) because it is, actually, absolutely near. But that would be strange since the gasstation (airport, tourist harbour, shopping malls) seems to be the exemplar of remoteness, of anti-intimacy. This would be a house one is constantly leaving. I’m glad it has been built, but I hope it will never be lived in.  

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