July 14, 2003

"What goes up, must come down"

"What goes up, must come down" - by Botond Bognar in the Harvard Design Magazine
An excellent article about cultural attitudes toward architectural change in Japan where for example in Tokyo, "they demolish 12,339 square meters (132,644 square feet) of buildings, and newly construct 62,861 square meters (675,755 square feet) daily".

Perhaps due to its ideas about the subtle and not-so-subtle workings of nature, Japanese culture has evolved around the notion of impermanence. Regarding change and renewal, and specifically demolition and rebuilding, one must remember that, according to religious ritual, Shinto shrines were rebuilt at regular intervals; today this unique custom, called shikinen sengu, continues at Ise Jingu, which is torn down and rebuilt every twenty years, most recently in 1993. Also according to ancient beliefs and rituals, upon the enthronement of a new Emperor, the entire capital of the country was dismantled, moved, and rebuilt at a different location (Naniwa, Asuka, Omi, Fujiwara, Kuni, Nagaoka, etc.), before first Nara (710-784) and then Kyoto (794-1868) became permanent capitals. In medieval castle towns, various districts of trade and many temple compounds were routinely relocated by landlords for various reasons, including the defense of the castle compound.(18)
Buddhist teachings ' for instance, that there is "no permanence" and that "all things must pass' have, in equally profound ways, conditioned the Japanese mentality toward the phenomena of change and the transitory nature of existence. Buddhism emphasizes the evanescence and insubstantiality of things. Universal and immutable laws do not appeal to the Japanese.

Posted by Scott Fisher at July 14, 2003 8:40 PM
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