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Exhibition showcases Japanese architecture in : past, present and future

The Pavillon de l’Arsenal is hosting a special exhibition showcasing the impact architects from Japan have had on . From the first building in 1927 to the dozen projects currently underway. 

“” will run until September 14 at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, the city’s urbanism and architecture museum in the 4th arrondissement. As well as the significant landmarks that are already dotted around the city, architects from the island nation are overseeing several significant new developments as part of the Greater expansion.

The first taste ians had of architecture from Japan was through the International Expositions that took place during the late 19th and early 20th century. The Exposition Internationale de l’art et de l’industrie took place in the capital in 1867, coinciding with the Meiji restoration which marked Japan’s new openness to the world after decades of isolation.

Shimizu’s Teahouse, 1867 © BMIAA

Usabaro Shimizu attended the exposition, showcasing a traditional Japanese teahouse (above). Junzo Sakakura followed in his footsteps 70 years later when the International Exposition was again held in . This time around, a full-size pavilion building (below) was exhibited, undoubtedly wowing attendees with its style that was worlds away from European standards at the time.

Sakakura’s Pavilion, 1937 © BMIAA

They had to wait until the 1990s to really make their mark on the city’s landscape. The Tour Pacific in La Defense, completed in 1992 to mark the 200-year anniversary of the French Revolution, was designed by Kisho Kurokawa, while Kenzo Tange designed the Grand Ecran building at the Porte d’Italie in the 13th arrondissement.

Grand Ecran building, 13th arrondissement © Wikicommons

Upcoming projects are a sight to behold, too. The renovation of La Samaritaine, pictured below, got the green light two years ago after local opposition stalled the project. Architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa are overseeing the transformation of the old department store into a multi-use building, including retail space and a hotel.

La Samaritaine’s new form © SANAA Architects

And the Mille Arbes – 1000 Trees – project is perhaps the most daring yet. The innovative development was an entrant to a competition to ‘reinvent’ and won first prize. Sou Fujimoto architects designed it in partnership with Manal Rachdi OXO Architects.


Greater , a massive program of urban development, is going to see one major development designed by a Japanese architect added to the city’s building stock each year. The most significant of these will be the renovation of Saint-Denis station to the north – overseen by Kengo Kuma and Associates – which will become the busiest station in the Ile-de-France region once Greater ’ transport links are completed.

Saint-Denis Pleyel © Kengo Kuma and Associates

title image: exhibition room © Photographer: Antoine Espinasseau / Pavillon de l’Arsenal

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