Kon Wajiro: A quest for the architecture as a container of everyday life

Izumi Kuroishi, University of Pennsylvania


In the rapid modernization, Japanese architecture faced with cultural conflicts and confusion in forming its paradigm. A Japanese architect Kon Wajiro (1888-1973) attempted to reconstruct architectural paradigm by questioning the idea of architecture from fundamental and empirical viewpoints. He studied Western philosophies and theories extensively, and critically examined them by returning to concrete knowledge of reality in fieldwork, developing comparative cultural studies of history, and by expanding architectural ideas with interdisciplinary studies: ethnography, geography, social science, psychology, craft and mode. He started his study from on Japanese peasant houses looking for the origin of Japanese architecture, and, since he believed in the existence of primary disciplines in everyday fluid phenomena and in the potential of common people, he gradually developed a theory of everyday life from his phenomenological fieldwork. In the application of his theory to house redevelopment project, Kon offered an alternative architectural paradigm reviving heteronomous taxonomies of architecture and discovering creative meanings in place, habit, mode, imitation, commodity, trivial details and adapting modification in craft, which had been lost in modernist discourse. Especially, with his fieldwork drawings and other projects, he indicated that architectural creation was based on imaginative "understanding": the unification of objective and sympathetic knowledge of man's way of being. Thus, in his architectural paradigm, he exemplified the idea of design as the unification and development of theory and practice by fieldwork. Through his students his influence continued into the present. However, for the ambiguities and lack of structure in his argument, his works had not been recognized as architectural consistent works. His learning of Western theories was not fully examined. This study aims to reconstruct Kon's works from 1910 to 1950 with a hypothesis that he attempted to create architectural theory with overarching concept: "architecture as a container of everyday life," based on the fragmented materials from his archive. Particularly, by situating Kon's works in a wider cross-cultual context of architectural modernization, and by explaining how and from what he was influenced, how he interpreted known theories and applied them to his facing realities would be examined. This study clarifies unknown aspect of Japanese modern architecture and its critical meaning about the notions of philosophy, theory, science, creativity, and history in architecture.

Subject Area

Architecture|Cultural anthropology|History

Recommended Citation

Kuroishi, Izumi, "Kon Wajiro: A quest for the architecture as a container of everyday life" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9840211.