Architecture

Architecture
as Art

Architecture
as Art

Architecture
as Art

Architecture
as Art

Architecture
as Art

“Houses are containers of the soul, and they express something of their inhabitants.”

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In 1973, just out of college, I set off for a year in Japan under the auspices of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. The subject of my study was Japanese folk pottery. I intended to travel to as many of the ancient kiln sites as I could during the following year, and to find a place where I might serve an apprenticeship. It was a transformative year of immersion in another culture, its language, and its arts. Japan, and especially its ceramic arts, had long held a fascination for me. By choosing to study folk pottery, I was also choosing to look at the ancient traditions of Japan, still alive and vital despite industrialization and the impact of the Pacific War.
  
The folk pottery villages were scattered throughout Japan, its kilns dating back many centuries. They tended to be located in remote places, where clay was abundant and where potters could both farm and make their wares. Thus my year of study also necessarily involved visiting and living in traditional agricultural towns, surrounded by rice fields and hills of clay.
  
For much of that year, I lived in thatched-roof farm buildings whose sheltering forms were like the hills themselves. The simplicity and beauty of the timber frames holding up the steep pitches, the delicacy of sliding wall screens separating room from room, inside from outside, and the ubiquitous veranda,

or engawa, with polished wood floor holding the edge between the house and the garden made lasting impressions on me. Each day was an education in language, in a different cultural perspective, and in aesthetic sensibility, not to mention the techniques learned daily at the potter’s wheel.

I was immersed in an aesthetic tradition that affected everything I saw: architecture, garden design, and the arts (where no distinction was made between “fine” art and craft). I immersed myself in the world of Kyoto and its ancient temples and gardens. The aesthetic of the Zen temple and its garden, where I studied meditation, supported eloquently its spiritual teachings about letting go. Thanks to the kindness and friendship of my sensei, Tatsuzo Shimaoka, and his family, I was deeply welcomed in Japan.

I came to see architecture not as separate from its garden or its larger landscape, but as a variant of an aesthetic attitude to all materiality. My year in Japan moved me forward in my historical and technical understanding of the ceramic arts. But more than this, the experience led me to a way of seeing. This way, new to me, was not so much a nostalgia for the old ways, but rather an observation of what it might take, aside from historic mimicry, to create an aesthetic that was truly embedded in its locality.

—Stephen M. Sullivan

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“Each day was an education in language, in a different cultural perspective, and in aesthetic sensibility”

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© 2021 ORO Editions.
All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

© 2021 ORO Editions. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

© 2021 ORO Editions. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

© 2021 ORO Editions. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

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