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The Japanese Dream Home : How Technology and Tradition are Shaping New Home Design

Brown, Adzy

Published by Kodansha International, New York - Tokyo - London, 2001
ISBN 10: 4770026110 / ISBN 13: 9784770026118
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About the Book

Bibliographic Details

Title: The Japanese Dream Home : How Technology and...

Publisher: Kodansha International, New York - Tokyo - London

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Cloth

Book Condition: Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Edition: First Edition


132 pp. Profusely illustrated in colour and b/w throughout. A history of 20th century Japanese domestic architecture with an emphasis on the developments of the post-war period. Index. Internally clean and unmarked with sound binding. Black cloth covered boards with stamped foil titles on the backstrip. Colour illustrated dustjacket is lightly shelf worn, now protected by plastic book wrap. Size: 4to - over 9¾" - 12" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 006745

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Synopsis: The Japanese home has always attracted Western architects and designers. With a panache that often borders on the outrageous, modern homes in Japan blend such traditional elements as shoji screens and tatami-matted rooms with what appears, at first glance, to be the thoroughly contemporary elements of the Western home.

And yet a closer scrutiny reveals impressively subtle touches. Carefully crafted wooden surfaces throughout the home gleam with a delicate Japanese sense of color and rhythm. The kitchen and living areas are outfitted with modern appliances or furniture, yet the subtle variations in the wall placement and space usage suggest that a different sensibility is at work here.

Azby Brown, in his third book on the architecture of Japan, delves into the intricacies of the modern Japanese home by first reaching back some thousand years to its roots to follow its development to the present day. He then steams ahead to explore the state-of-the art Japanese home, with its recycled materials, extruded 30-foot-long woodlike stairway handrails, and dozens of other unique touches.

In page after page of this lushly illustrated, full-color volume, Brown presents his take on Japan's ultra-chic, high-tech yet serene home designs. The Japanese Dream House is one of the first English-language books to appear on the subject and is sure to prove an indispensable idea book for architects, designers, and homeowners for years to come.


Could you tell us a little about your background?

"I was born in California but raised in New Orleans from the age of two. I was very interested in the arts from an early age, especially performing arts -- music, theater -- but partly through the influence of some very good teachers I had at Yale, I began to focus on visual art and architecture in my twenties. An interest in traditional carpentry brought me to Japan in 1985 (and eventually led to my first book, The Genius of Japanese Carpentry). At present I split my time among design and artwork, writing, and teaching."

What motivated you to write this book? / What got you started?

"I had been interested in the changes the Japanese lifestyle has undergone, and the social and physical conditions which influence home design here, for quite a long time. My second book, Small Spaces, dealt with these issues on one level. But the actual impetus for this book came from the designer, Joseph Cali, who had an idea about how to present the story visually. He called me, and we decided to make proposals. Misawa Homes, which has a very sophisticated publishing program, was already familiar with my earlier work, and immediately lent their support, and eventually Kodansha International agreed to handle the actual publication."

Could you tell us a little about the contents of the book?

"In a nutshell, The Japanese Dream House is about the changing lifestyle of average Japanese, specifically the role of manufactured 'system-built' homes in satisfying housing needs and in influencing the notion of what an attractive Japanese lifestyle might be like. So rather than focus on unique home designs -- the type of work which gets the most attention in the architectural press -- I emphasize the vernacular, the kinds of homes which make up most neighborhoods in Japan today. And in order to clarify what exactly is notable about these homes I felt it was necessary to give some historical and cultural background at the outset."

What do you see as the centerpiece of the book? / Why is the book important?

"I want to stress that this area is almost entirely overlooked. With the exception of Japanese architectural historians on the one hand and industry observers on the other, I don't think anyone has tried to look seriously at average homes, and at manufactured housing. In particular, I've tried to examine these homes as a cultural phenomenon, as a glass through which we can begin to see how Japanese perceive themselves and the kinds of futures they seek. Its a very rich area. And we've tried to make it as visually stunning and informative as possible."

What did you yourself learn from writing the book?

"I became somewhat less cynical about the contributions of the housing industry to making life easier for average people -- and even more impressed with their technical accomplishments -- and more sympathetic towards Japanese homeowners and home buyers, who struggle to be able to purchase homes and are unsure, in such a changing society, of what kind of homes will continue to meet their needs in coming decades. I also developed a much firmer grasp of the historical evolution of Japanese house design."

What would you like readers to take away with them after reading this book?

"I hope readers walk away from the book saying 'Aha! So THAT'S what's going one there!' Japan is so misunderstood, or should I say 'mis-evaluated,' by the rest of the world, since its so easy to assume that Western standards are rightfully global standards. Japanese homes often appear to be inferior copies of American ones, but in fact the interplay between Japanese and non-Japanese design influences is much more subtle. So if my readers gain a greater understanding of the actuality of Japanese home design today, as opposed to dismissing it after a superficial glance, I will feel satisfied."

What people or books were influential in the writing of your book?

I've been studying Japanese home design for years now, and I think I've read everything available in English on the subject and made a serious dent in the Japanese sources as well, and all have influenced my thinking on the subject. I've looked through lots of back issues and special editions of Japanese architecture magazines -- Kenchiku Bunka, SD, Shinkenchiku, A&U, and others -- and collected folders full of photos and plans of Japanese home designs from the Meiji period on. And one of my colleagues at Kanazawa Institute of Technology, Tatsuo Masuta, who specializes in the history of Japanese house design, was very forthcoming with research materials and answered nearly all of my questions about the origins of various features.

"And then there were industry sources: in addition to being given a close look at Misawa's factories and building sites, I visited dozens of model homes from other manufacturers and collected plans and marketing material from all of them, as well as industry data from Japanese government sources. I drew on my own personal experience as an architect, and from building my own home, and from discussions with family members, neighbors, and friends. Japanese Homes and Lifestyles, by Kazuya Inaba, has fabulous illustrations of homes from earlier periods by Shigenobu Nakayama, some of which we have reproduced in The Japanese Dream House. So all of these sources have had a bearing on the contents of the book.

"But when I think about sources that influenced me when writing it, even if they might not pertain directly to the Japanese experience, several come to mind. One is Home: A Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski; another is How Buildings Learn: What Happens after They're Built, by Stewart Brand; and at the very root is the work of my former professor Vincent Scully, who through books like Shingle Style and American Architecture and Urbanism first opened my eyes, and those of the architectural community as a whole, to the importance of vernacular architecture in defining culture and establishing values and identity.

What are your plans for the future, in terms of new books or other projects?

I've been doing a lot of research into the influence of information technology on lifestyles and home design, and perhaps something will come of it. And I'm looking closely at the more experimental aspects of work being done by the under-40 generation of architects in Japan.

Is there anything else the reader should know?

I encourage everyone who has an interest in Japan to find a way to come here, to spend time with people in their homes, and to look at a lot of old things here when trying to make sense of the new. Its a fascinating place which always rewards sincere interest.

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