The Japanese Garden and Pictures of the Floating Microcosm.

New Representations of Japanese Architecture


Two recent publications contribute to a better one understanding of the Japanese architecture - each via one another way.

 (Translation from Dutch)

At the end of last year two books appeared that each highlight an essential aspect of Japan and together form an interesting introduction to the Japanese (garden) architecture.

Japanese gardens undoubtedly leave a strong impression upon acquaintance with traditional Japanese culture. Gardens never belong to a temple or villa, but create the framework for architecture - from which gardens are just considered. Sophie Walker approaches this subject in detail in The Japanese Garden. Walker presents a hundred - largely classical - Japanese gardens, using selected photographs and a short description. This list is interspersed with thematic texts by her hand and short essays by, among others, Tadao Ando, Lee Ufan and John Pawson.

When we focus on contemporary Japanese architecture, not only the realized projects stand out, but also the accompanying drawings, scale models and photographs.


Both books offer a Western perspective on a typical Japanese phenomenon that screams for a study because of its singularity. The results are therefore similar in their approach. At the same time, the differences in the subject are elaborated differently by graphic designers and the publishers. Phaidon's book has been sumptuously designed, from the deep green cover with gold print to the beautiful color photographs in a sheet mirror with white edges. […] Sophie Walker, a garden designer with a background in art history, approaches the gardens from a number of themes that she links to Japanese and Western cultural history. This is how a reflection on shakkei begins, the concept of "the borrowed landscape", in which the view beyond the boundaries of the garden also becomes part of the garden. Then it is about what is beyond the limits of the earth, with a discussion of the ritual of beholding the moon.

She also makes - visual - links between places like Fushimi Inari Taisha with the hundreds of torii, orange gates, one after the other and The Gates of Christo and Jeanne-Claude in Central Park. […]

In the end, both books deal with the Japanese concept of space, whether through the performance, or control over the garden design. These two books help to read Japanese gardens and statues and thus lead to a better understanding of Japanese and - by extension - culture.