Kengo Kuma

Kengo Kuma is a Japanese architect. His style is characterized by the reinterpretation of traditional Japanese architectural elements combined with high-tech style and innovation in the use of natural materials.

Photo of Kengo Kuma
Photo of Kengo Kuma

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About his life

Kengo Kuma was born on August 8, 1956 in Yokohama, Japan. After going to Eiko Gakuen junior and senior high schools he joined University of Tokyo and graduated in 1979. In 1987 Kuma launched his own office in 1990 with the name Kengo Kuma & Associates. He is regarded as one of the most popular contemporary architects of Japan concerned with reviving and revitalizing the traditional Japanese values. His method of mixing high-tech fashion with long-established construction manners is rapidly gaining international admiration and making its way to China as well as west. Kuma has also served at universities as a professor of architecture and he was the head of Kuma Lab at University of Tokyo.

Portrait of Kengo Kuma
Portrait of Kengo Kuma

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What are his major works?

Key projects include the Suntory Museum of Art in Tokyo, Bamboo Wall House in China, LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Group’s Japan headquarters, Besançon Art Center in France, Stone Museum in Nasu and one of the largest spas in the Caribbean for Mandarin Oriental Dellis Cay.

Stone Museum
Stone Museum, Kengo Kuma & Associates, 2000, Nasu

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Among his high-profile buildings there are the Nagasaki Prefectural Museum (2005), the Asakusa Culture Tourism Centre (2012) and a commune by the Great Wall of China (2002). In recent years he has also received an increasing number of commissions in Europe and North America, including a Metro Station in Paris, a cultural village in Portland’s Japanese GardenDundee’s new V&A Design Museum, a skyscraper in Vancouver and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense. He has also been commissioned to design the new National Stadium for the 2022 Tokyo Olympics in his homeland.

Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center
Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, Kengo Kuma & Associates, 2012, Asakusa, Japan

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How can we identify Kuma’s style?

He strives to create an architecture that is fit for humans, working within smaller scales, tactile and ‘honest’ materials, daylight and respect for nature, following his expressed goal to ‘escape the clutches of concrete’. His poetics express the emotional content of materials, connected with their intrinsic characteristics in construction and with the teachings of Japanese tradition. Study of place is an essential key to integrating a project with its surroundings so that it will not disturb the balance but will be a natural product of it built by human hands.

Canopy at Hoshakuji Station
Canopy at Hoshakuji Station, Kengo Kuma and Associates, Toghigi, Japan

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