OGURA Koshiro

Revisioning Kazuo Shinohara's plan

This essay is based on my master's thesis* submitted in July 2021, themed the presentation of published drawings of the work of an architect, Kazuo Shinohara.

*Koshiro OGURA 2021. 'Abstract' and 'Concrete' in Kazuo Shinohara's Published Drawings: Presentation of Floor Plan Drawing and Its Revision.

_Drawings and Media

Kazuo Shinohara was one of the leading architects of post-war Japan and a professor-architect who taught at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
Unlike Tange, Isozaki, and others, Shinohara mainly designed houses without public use, and he emphasized presenting his work to society through publications like magazines or oeuvres. In other words, Shinohara, like Le Corbusier discussed in “Privacy and Publicity” by Beatriz Colomina, was an architect who also considered architectural presentation in the media as a target of design.

Shinohara is known to have strictly checked the photographs and drawings of his own works when they were published, with emphasis on his published draiwngs, he would revised the drawings of his previous works to express his own concepts clearly. Shinohara's drawings, which were often redrawn, changed their presentation over time, and the abstract presentation of his later works had an influence on many architects. It can be thought that these changes in drawing reflect the changes of Shinohara's special concepts.

In this research, we aimed to clarify the relationship between ‘abstraction’ and ‘concrete’ in Shinohara's drawings by checking the types of drawings used in the publication of his works, and by examining the method of presentation of the floor plan and its revision, especially for the works of the first half of his career, which were published many times.

_Why Published Drawings are a problem?

Since architectural magazines were widely read as an important medium for contemporary architecture in Japan, Shinohara also emphasized publishing his works in magazines.
In my thesis, I analyzed the articles on Shinohara's work published in “Shinkenchiku(新建築)” and “Shinkenchiku Jutaku Tokuhsu(新建築 住宅特集)”, which were the only magazines that Shinohara published his works throughout his career, and the drawings published in his monographs.

First, basic drawings such as floor plans, section and section details, and elevation account for more than 80% of the drawings used in the publication. While most of the works up to the second style used both plan and section, the third and later styles often used elevation drawings as well.
I think this reflect the change in Shinohara's style from the first style, which focused on composition of plan, to the fourth style, which focuses on the composition of form.

_Revision and Presentation

Mr. Koji Takeda, one of the architects from Shinohara laboratory, wrote an essay about the changes in the presentation of the published drawings. In his essay, he points out that Shinohara's drawings changed to an abstract style throughout the 1970s, especially the plan drawings.
In order to examine how the drawings of the works were revised each time they were published, and to examine the characteristics of such revisions, I will examine the drawing presentations of the floor plans published in most of the publications of the works in the first half of the period, because these works were published many times.

Comparing the drawings to see if they have been revised or not, we can see that most of the drawings were revised in the publications in the 1970s, as mentioned by Mr. Takeda.
A detailed examination of the revisions revealed changes not only in the lines of appearance like the joints of flooring and furniture, but also in the shapes of the sectional lines that show the outline of the space, such as walls and door frames.
This revision of the drawings at various levels is a characteristic of Shinohara's published drawings. Particularly in the presentation of furniture, in the drawings used in the catalogue of the exhibition in Paris(1979), all furniture other than kitchen and toilet facilities were not drawn, thus expressing the autonomous architecture that Shinohara pursued.

*Koji Takeda(武田光史), 'The Ever-changing Presentation of the Published Drawings(変遷し続けた発表図面の表現)' “Kazuo Shinohara House Drawings(篠原一男 住宅図面)” Shokoku-sha(彰国社), p.146-147, 2008.

_Changes of the Presentation

For the presentations that we have examined so far, we compared floor plans of the same work and summarized the changes in expression that had occurred. Then, the changes in presentations can be classified as follows:
{abstraction} -simplification or omission of elements
{concretization} -redrawing of elements in more detail or of omitted elements
{change} -changes without difference in the level of abstraction

A common tendency among all the works is that there is a lot of {abstraction}, and we can find that the presentation of drawings was greatly simplified, especially in the late 70s.
This is consistent with Mr. Takeda’s point that there was on abstraction of drawing expression done in the 1970s.

And, besides the point already wrote, I find that many other changes had already been made to the drawings from the time they were published in Shinkenchiku at the time of completion to his first collection, “16 Houses and Architecture Theories(16の住宅と建築論)”.
In addition, even in the publications of his works after the 1980s, there are not a few cases which have been revised, and in particular, {concretization} has characteristically occurred. This may reflect that Shinohara's thought has changed from the 1970s, to his third and fourth style.

_Patterns of Change in Drawings

In the revisions of the published drawings that we have seen so far, there are the combination of characteristic changes and particular the changes that have occurred in specific areas and rooms.
By these changes set into patterns, I categorize [Outlines] that clarify the configuration of the architecture and [Symbols] that represent the use of the rooms by arrangement of furniture.

The pattern of change has a characteristic tendency in each work.
First of all, the pattern of simplifying the outline of the room ([Outline], in interior) and the pattern of showing the area of the bath and kitchen ([Outline], in interior) can be seen in most works, and it can be said that this is a general change in Shinohara’s presentation drawing, which clearly shows the part with function while simplifying the drawing expression.

On the other hand, there are some patterns that tend to differ from style to style.
For example, the patterns which the exterior wall structure is clearly shown ([Outline], in boundary) can be seen in many of the first style, mainly in works with wooden structures.
Among them, in “House in White” and “Umbrella House,” there is a pattern of omitting the structure that appears in the interior ([Outline], in interior) at the same time, suggesting that he used different ways to depict the same element in different places in the same work. In these works, we can see the attempt of drawing expression to simplify the outline of the room while expressing the structure on the exterior wall to show the composition of "division", which is the characteristic design method of the first style.

In the first style, there was a pattern in many works to clearly show the frame of the interior and exterior boundaries ([Outline], in boundary), but in the second style, there was a pattern to omit the frame of the interior and exterior boundaries ([Outline], in boundary) in all works.
One possible reason for this is the difference in the structure of each style, but it is thought that while the first style uses a drawing that shows the complete configuration of a building, the second style uses a drawing that shows the continuity of space beyond a building and the fragmentation of walls.

In this way, as Shinohara changed the plans used to present his works to a simplified style, I find that he changed the presentation of the plan drawings through the process of revising them to clearly represent his design concepts such as 'division' and his 'style'.

_Styles and Creations: Studies on Media

In the end, what do the changes in Shinohara's published drawings, as we have seen, mean?

The 70's, when Shinohara made a major change in the presentation of his drawings, was also the time when he defined his own works as a 'style'. When Shinohara shifted from the first style, which was related to traditional Japanese architecture, to the second style, which consisted of inorganic cubes, he expressed that he had changed his way of design.
However, in the transition to the third style, he came up with the idea of defining his own way of design as a 'style.'.
In his essay titled "The Third Style," Shinohara states that there are two ways of being a 'style,' one that is perfected into one thing, like Mies, and one that creates new styles one after another, like Picasso. At the time of the transition to the third style Shinohara stated that he sympathized with the way Picasso shifted his style.

Shinohara has challenged various design methods throughout his career, and each new attempt has always been created by developing the methods that he had previously realized. At the phase of designing a work, the changes in style are gradual.
For example, the second style of shaping with cubes has already been partially attempted in "Suzusho House" and the two "House in Hanayama". While revising the published drawings of his past works, Shinohara set these transition of design in style into a 'style.'
In other words, Shinohara's act of revising the presentation drawings is a kind of self-interpretation of his past works.

Shinohara, who throughout his life designed basically small houses that were no more than private possessions, has become an internationally renowned architect thanks in large part to the print media. Even today, photos and drawings of Shinohara's work can be seen being shared daily on Instagram, and his influence is timeless. Shinohara put equal importance on the actual act of design and the act of presentation in the media, and in my opinion, the practice he attempted on paper is still an important for the architectural design.