#ARCHITECTURE / / / Spatial Concept Related to Texture in Architecture

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Comparative study: Japanese Architecture and ‘Nusantara’ Architecture[1]

After searching and reading some articles, literature, and essay from the internet, I found there are 3 ideas of Japanese Architecture which still remain and transfer after generations. This idea has influenced most of Japanese Architects. I will give you example such as Kenzo Tange, Fumihiko Maki, Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito, Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuo Seijima (SANAA), Kengo Kuma, Shigeru Ban, Sou Fujimoto, Tezuka, etc.

This concept is mainly about a spatial concept of Japanese Architecture. 
1.       Oku ( 奥)
Depth, inner area, private, intimate, sacred, profound, recondite

Oku is a sense of penetrating the multiple layers, the journey to the centre; it implies something abstract, extending far back, deep, yet accessible.[2] It is like there is always something in front which encourages people to keep moving forward, search deeper, and find/reach something.
This idea is found in Japanese traditional painting, which represents the path, motif of the journey to find the truth in the deep nature. During this journey, you can see, feel and experience a different kind of landscape/texture of nature. The vague image of something in front far away makes us keep moving in this direction.

2.       Ma ( 間)
In between, gap, pause, relational space, negative space, emptiness, formless

Ma is the space between objects, the silence between sounds, the stillness between actions. This concept of Ma gives you a chance to experiment something and get a mysterious feeling. You can feel Ma if you related it to the object surrounding, the position or the sequence. Ma is always related to interval, sequence, or arrangement.

3.       Miegakure (見え隠れ)
見 (mi) – look. 隠れ(kakure) – hidden
The important things in Miegakure idea are ; gradually view, framing, rhythm the presence of time and movement.

The idea of Miegakure is to glimpse something that is hidden. This concept mainly uses in Japanese traditional garden. You only can see some different portion of the garden in every single viewpoint. You can’t see the whole garden design. Only the garden creator who knows what exactly the whole garden is look like. But you can imagine and collage the entire image you saw to picture the whole garden.

By the diagram I made, I want to show you my thought about the spatial concept of Japanese Architecture. I remember about Japanese word ‘do’ (道)[3] in the Japanese martial art term, Kendo, Karate-do, Aikido, Judo, and Bushido, etc. Somehow, I start to understand the spatial concept in Japanese Architecture related to the Japanese way of life. You can see in the diagram how the combination of Ma, Oku, and Miegakure construct the spatial concept of Japanese Architecture. The flowing of space creates the spatial depth and gradually reveals something in the emptiness, far beyond your sight.

Compare to Japanese Architecture, I think Indonesia is not so different. We have strong culture background in the past. But, I can say that Japanese architecture has distinct character if you compare it to architecture from around the world. I always can say this building is designed by Japanese architects, but I can’t tell you why. Although Indonesia has strong culture background in the past, Indonesia seems lost in its way to find it is architecture character.

Architecture in Indonesia traditional society is based on the hierarchy and relations which bound the society in a religious way. Space is based on the geometrical concept which is related to religious rituals and the cosmology. In Indonesia traditional society, the rituals are related to the rites of passage of human life and the balance of the cosmos/universe. Indonesia traditional societies believe that there is 3 worlds; the upper world (where spirits and ancestor live, the place where everybody goes after die), the human world (where human life from born, grow up, marry, and die) and the last is underworld (where evil spirits and demons live). And beyond all of them, the Creator(s) exists, beyond the reach of human mind.

By the diagram I made, I want to show you. Architecture in Indonesia traditional society is known as a small replica of cosmos/universe. Even the human body is also the replica of cosmos/universe. And beyond the architecture, nature is wild and untouched by the human.  Maybe, this is why traditional architecture in Indonesia keep a certain distance between the building its self and the nature surrounding. This, I think, is different from Japanese architecture which is tried to relate the nature surrounding.

I found that Japanese society and Indonesia traditional society view the architecture space in a spiritual way. Both of them reflect the journey of human life. Japanese Architecture views the layering and sequence as a parallel object in every linear direction.  Every object is placed to create the depth and different textures enrich the spatial experience. Meanwhile, Indonesia traditional society view layering and sequence in architecture as a 3-dimensional space, religiously.

[1] Before Indonesia established in 1945, the region in Indonesia now called Nusantara. It is found in the 15th century ancient text of Majapahit Kingdom, central Java. Etymology, It comes from 2 Sanskrit words, ‘Nusa’ means islands and  ‘Antara’ means between. Literary Nusantara related to the all of the Islands which most of them are Indonesia region now. I use the term Nusantara architecture to distinguish the architecture product of Indonesia traditional society. Indonesia traditional society refers to the society before Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christians come to Indonesia.
[2] A journal of comparative study. The Concept of ‘Oku’ in Japanese and Chinese traditional paintings, gardens and architecture. Li Dan, Departments of Human and Environment Studies, Kyushu University.
[3] The word ‘do’ ( 道 ) means the way or the methods which are always related to how they live, from a baby born until death.


This essay is never published before, but have been presented in  Suehiro Laboratory - Department of Human and Environment Studies, Kyushu University - weekly seminar in November 11th, 2014. Copyright Annisa P. Cinderakasih 2014. 


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  1. concisely written and informatively interesting!

    1. Thank you very much. I should make presentation every 2 week along with other lab' members. So, I must make summary from everything I've read and present it for (maybe) 5 minutes.

  2. Replies
    1. hahahaha, makasih tem, masih belajar ini, mau kuperdalam lagi