Tribute to Masters of Modernism

Fusaichiro Inoue (1898- 1993). who lived north of Tokyo in Takasaki City, was a well known patron of the arts and left behind a considerable legacy for the people of his hometown. After studying painting, sculpture and architecture in Paris, he returned to Takasaki City and founded a movement that promoted the use of Western design in traditional Japanese crafts for export.

Through his connection with the Modem Movement in Japan, Inoue came into contact with several important architects. In 1934 he invited the influential German architect Bruno Taut to Takasaki City. Taut helped popularize the use of Western motifs in Japanese arts and crafts, and later became a co-partner of the shop Inoue set up for selling textiles, tableware and home furnishings in Ginza. In 1945, as World War II ended, Inoue helped establish the Takasaki People's Orchestra, (now the Gunma Symphony Orchestra). The Gunma Music Center, where the Gunma Symphony Orchestra now performs, was also Inoue's brainchild. He proposed that Antonin Raymond (1888-1976) be the architect of the Music Center, which was completed in 1961. Incidentally, Inoue also influenced the choice of the architect for the Gunma Prefecture Museum of Modern Art. designed by Arata Isozaki in 1974

Raymond was a Czech-born architect who migrated to the US to work wrth Frank Lloyd Wright, and accompanied Wright to Japan in 1919 to work on Tokyo's Imperial Hotel. Raymond stayed on in Japan after Wright left, designing over 400 buildings in the US and Japan. He became an important figure, one of the pioneers who introduced modern Western architecture to Japan. Inoue, who admired Raymond's creativity, befriended him before the war. When Inoue's house burned down in 1952, Inoue, with Raymond's permission, decided to build a replica of Raymond's newly completed house. Raymond's house was built in simple cubic forms representative of the early Modern Movement. Inoue's single-storey rectangular house stands behind a Japanese-style garden among bamboo trees and a stone lantern. It has a central patio with a living room on one side and the bedroom, a Japanese reception room and the kitchen on the other. A series of shoji doors gives the living room great versatility. When these doors are fully open to the terrace, one can enjoy a full view of the garden. Raymond designed the exposed cedar beams and halved diagonal timbers in this room. The walls are covered with rotary lauan veneers; while shoji doors and windows skirt the rooms. The low, overhanging eaves. 150 centimeters in depth, protect the shoji paper from rain and control the flow of light. The architect has used considerable skill in combining common construction materials and a simple interior, while harmonizing Japanese elements with Western modernism,

Inoue lived in this house for 41 years. After his death, the house was put up for public auction. With donations from local citizens grateful for Inoue's patronage of the arts, the foundation Inoue had set up while he was alive made a successful bid on the house, then restored the house to its original beauty. The Inoue House, now maintained by his foundation, has been open to the public since 2002.

Raymond House Japan Inoue

Above: An unusually wide frameless fusumo separates the living room and hall. A Western-style stove in the room's center co-exists with Japanese wood and paper elements. North-feeing shoji windows near the ceiling filter the sun's rays to create delicate plays of light and shadow in the room.

Right: A desk has been built-in at the north side of the living room. The halved diagonal cedar log beams recall a minka house. Raymond here skillfully combines Japanese and Western design features.

Previous pages: A series of shoji doors opens onto the patio, extending the interior outward. In a traditional Japanese house, shoji screens slide between posts, but can only open halfway. In contrast, the architect for this home designed a sill beyond the posts, so the shoji doors can open wider jApAN STYl E

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Above: In keeping with the philosophy of the owner and the architect, this simple building is in harmony with its environment. The stone-paved floor is protected by low, overhanging eaves. The eaves mimic the deep thatched overhangs common in traditional Japanese architecture to protect a house from frequent rain. There is no rainwater pipe, so a gravel channel has been designed in the garden to receive the rain as it drips from the roof.

Right: The patio facing the Japanese garden connects the two wings of the house, and is also used as an entrance hall.

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