JAPANESE SPATIAL CONCEPTION: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF ITS ELEMENTS IN THE CULTURE AND TRADITIONS OF JAPAN AND IN ITS POST-WAR ERA

CHING-YU CHANG, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The objective of this thesis is to examine the distinctive conceptions and expressions of Japanese space and to identify their sources in Japanese culture, language and philosophy. Despite the rush of Western influence, these native characteristics persist throughout post-war Japanese architecture, and are assimilated into the spatial planning of their contemporary architecture. This thesis begins with an analysis of those spatial elements, and the way in which they are used and perceived that is distinctively Japanese. Linguistic, artistic, literary, religious as well as the philosophical components of Japanese culture have influenced and contributed significantly to the use of space for the Japanese. Since language profoundly conditions the expression of a people's thinking and feeling, and spatial conception is naturally experiential and cultural, a clear understanding of Japanese linguistic expression is essential. In order to show how the Japanese express their spatial conception, analogies that demonstrate distinctively Japanese spatial concepts have been drawn from literature, art and architecture. The historical Japanese teahouse embodies the spatial elements compatible with the tea ceremony and with culturally important traditions. The teahouse suki-ya has become the prototype not only for historical Japanese space, but for contemporary architecture in Japan. The evidence shows that the Japanese are very much concerned for space and the interpretation of space. There is a richness of words that describe space and feelings from all senses in Japanese, despite this language's general lack of vocabulary. It is clearly an indication that one should not separate the Japanese spatial concept from external sensory experiences. This is, therefore, in strong contrast to Kant's notion of space, based on "a priori" reasoning. There is ample evidence that a distinctive Japanese spatial concept does exist, and is dynamically alive within Japan. Despite the rush of individualistic Western influences, it persists throughout the post-war era. The distinct spatial concept is summarized in one word: suki. Suki, the gap space, is the fundamental ingredient for making the sequential experience of Japanese space. This thesis has also demonstrated how the language, religion, culture, and tradition influenced the formation of a spatial concept. In turn, it opens and suggests a new dimension toward the spatial investigation of other cultures.

Subject Area

Architecture

Recommended Citation

CHANG, CHING-YU, "JAPANESE SPATIAL CONCEPTION: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF ITS ELEMENTS IN THE CULTURE AND TRADITIONS OF JAPAN AND IN ITS POST-WAR ERA" (1982). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8307295.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8307295

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