Nurturing the Unconscious/Naturalizing the Uncanny: Terunobu Fujimori Architecture and Post-Apocalyptic Symbolism

Feb 12 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Kim Hyon-Sob (Professor, Department of Architecture, Korea University; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/discussant: Melissa McCormick (Professor of Japanese Art and Culture, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored with the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies

Terunobu Fujimori (b. 1946), who originally established his name as an architectural historian, is now more famous for his public design works, and has even been praised as ‘the most influential architect in Japan’ by the critic Kenjiro Okazaki (2006). The popularity of his architecture is certainly related to its fairy tale-like image: natural and nostalgic as well as playful, not to mention his reputed career as a professor at the University of Tokyo. However, this talk focuses on the other side of the fairy tale, that is, a strangely unfamiliar emotion, even an unsettling feeling at times, which his architecture also assumes. While adopting Freudian and post-Freudian concepts of ‘the uncanny’ for analysis, it finds a contradictory sentiment residing in hidden clashes between the natural and the artificial of his design. Arguably, the uncanny aspect of Fujimori’s architecture takes root in a post-apocalyptic sensibility imprinted in a deeper layer of the Japanese unconscious, which has been nurtured by their traumatic memories of ruin, whether caused by natural disasters or man-made catastrophes. Fujimori’s own hypothesis of ‘the end of history’ (2005) will be discussed along with the ruin-rebirth metaphor connoted in his architecture, aiming at disclosing an impasse in the current cultural state.