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Jonathan M. Reynolds. Moekawa Kunio and the Emergence of Japanese Modernist Architecture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. 336 pp. 8 color ills., 154 b/w. $60.
For anyone who has put together a reading list on Japanese architecture, Jonathan Reynolds's carefully researched book Mackawa Kunio and the Emergence of Japanese Modernist Architecture (1) is a welcome addition to the current skimpy selection of published works on the topic. Most books discussing twentieth-century Japanese architecture are monographs with little text, and, because of the realities of architectural publishing, these formats allow a less than critical view of their respective subjects. (2) Reynolds's hook is particularly valuable because almost half of his discussion concerns the years before 1945, and much of it the period from 1920 through the end of World War II. While very little was constructed during the inter-war years, Japanese architects continued to develop their ideas on paper, and important stylistic and conceptual shifts took place in the field. The emergence of a Japanese modernist architecture, naturally an important topic in any survey of the twentieth century, is addressed in few texts in either Japanese or English. (3)
In the book's introduction, Reynolds establishes his intent, not to offer a conventional biography, but to show through Maekawa Kunio's career how modernist architects fought for and eventually succeeded in establishing their approach as the norm. As the title suggests, the book is not solely about Maekawa: roughly one-quarter of the text and one-third of the illustrations deal with work by other architects. At the same time, Maekawa is clearly worthy of close study, as one of the few Japanese architects who played a significant role on the international stage. He worked in the offices of Le Corbusier and Antonin Raymond, became a close friend of Charlotte Perriand, employed Tange Kenzo at the beginning of his career, wrote influential texts promoting modernist architecture in the prewar period, and designed some of Japan's finest postwar buildings. Yet he remains little known, especially abroad, because of a dearth of published material on his work; Maekawa is even said to have actively prevented one monogra ph from being published. (4)
The book's first chapter begins in 1850--more than half a century before Maekawa's birth--with the introduction of Western "modern" architecture into Japan. In these early years, a "Western" architecture style was often employed for …