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Yoshio Taniguchi 谷口よしお Bauhaus バウハウス

Yoshio Taniguchi

Like last week’s Art Deco style, there is not much in style of Bauhaus architecture movement in particular here in Japan, though there is some architect favored in modernism, and International Modern. I was doing further research and it is not from the Bauhaus period, but found a Japanese modernism architect. His name is Yoshio Taniguchi (1937- ), a son of the modernism architect, Yoshiro Tanigushi (1904-1979) and best known for his redesign of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which was reopened November 20, 2004.

Why his name is not too popular in Japan like Tadao Ando is that, he did not appear in media, nor applied many design competitions before like Ando, but he constantly making world level modernistic architecture as his job.

“He studied engineering at Keio University graduating in 1960, and studied architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, graduating in 1964. He worked briefly for architect Walter Gropius, who became an important influence.

From 1964 – 1972, Taniguchi worked for the studio of architect Kenzo Tange, who was the most important Japanese modernist architect. While in the Tange office, Taniguchi also worked on projects in Skopje, Yugoslavia and San Francisco,

California (Yerba Buena),
living on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley while involved in the latter project. (I did not even know Yerba Buena designed by a group of Japanese architects.)

Kenzo Tange

He also collaborated with his father Yoshiro to built, Kanazawa city, Tamagawa Library, 1979, Isamu Nogushi, American landscape architect Peter Walker, Shinsuke Takamiya for Fukui Sougo Bank, 1976, Shiseido Art House 1976, and artist, Genichiro Inokuma, for Marugame city, Inokuma Genichiro Museum of Contemporary Art, 1991. Taniguchi is best known for designing a number of Japanese museums, including the Nagano Prefectural Museum, Higashiyama Kaii Museum in Nagano and Kawaga prefectures,
and the Gallery of the Horyu-ji Treasurer at the Tokyo National Museum.

Taniguchi won a competition in 1997 to redesign the Museum of Modern Art. The MoMA commission was Taniguchi’s first work outside Japan.

Taniguchi has since won a commission to design the Asia Houes for the Texas Branch of the Asia Society. This $40 million project will be located in Houston’s museum district and will be Taniguchi’s first free-standing new building in the United States.” It will be done in 2009.

His signature style is concrete wall with clear glass, and high ceiling to look around the whole view of interior from any level of the structure. It is simple, and aesthetically impressive. It is suitable for museum structure that makes good effect of inviting of natural light, as well as flexibility of display of art works.

Museum of Modern Art in New York is the best example of his International Modern style. It was established November 7, 1929 at 11 West 53rd street, Manhattan, New York. It was originally designed by Edward Durrell Stone and Philip Goodwin in 1939. It was said that the first ‘International Style’ building in America, which had boxed shaped design, smooth wall, and large glass surface. “Phillip Johnson then created the sculpture garden in 1934, and added a East wing in 1953, in 1984, Cesar Pelli created 53 story residential tower on top of the museum, to raise money needed for the museum’s growth. In 2004, Yoshiro Taniguchi created both a substantial further expansion along the street, and a major transformation of the original buildings, crating a unified museum space and integrating the different phases of buildings. The renovation project nearly doubled the space for MoMA’s exhibitions and programs and features 630,000 squares feet of new and redesigned space.” (

“Yoshio Taniguchi have created with surprising openings of the building that bring the whole gallery together, while not subordinating the exhibits to the building. The pristine but austere black stone facing of the new buiding contrasts with a new milky-white glass skin over the garden façade of the original building. (itself echoing another Japanese architect, Jun Aoki’s Louis Vuitton Store three blocks to the North along Fifth Avenue, completed the same year.)”

It means that he tried to integrate former MoMA buildings together and for visitors to be able to look around the building and work of art from any directions, but he also tried to integrate buildings in a same district as a part of the building in New York. (As I can see the same concept as Victorian houses integrate San Francisco city as a whole.) Interesting to know that architects (in general) not only concern about the building itself, but also, concerning about the cityscape how this building fit in the city. The New York MoMA is not a massive structure as the Metropolitan Museum, but as a design, it just fits right between the financial buildings.

I also want to introduce some other buildings of his works, so you might know better with the similarity and consistency of his modernism style.

Coincidentally, I went to visit his designed, Marugame Genichiro Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art during the winter break. It was built in 1991, right in front of the JR train Marugame station. I assume the little stone park was also design to integrate the station and the museum. My film was old and messed up the photos, but there are better images in the website.
“…The Principal façade on the plaza is a triple height plane which folds over to frame the grand entry stair and an opaque volume enclosing the exhibition space.

The visitor may enter directly from plaza level into the exhibition gallery, choose to take the grand stair to enter the exhibition gallery at the second level or to access the Art Library, Museum Hall, Workshop and Creative Studio or continue to the upper level which leads to and exterior courtyard. This courtyard contains sculpture by the artist and a wall washed with water. Another wall of glass is façade of the café from which visitors can look into the serene courtyard whose walls frame the sky.

The museum is compose of three exhibition galleries, the first is a double-height cubic space that overlooks the entry and information lobby on the ground floor and is gently illuminated by natural light from a horizontal band of clerestory glazing. The overhanging planar roof protects the works of art from daylight while framing views out to the city from the upper level.

The second gallery, at the same level as the first, is illuminated only by artificial light, a glowing rectangular band in the ceiling where it meets the wall. Finally, the third exhibition gallery located on the third level is more rectangular in volume and larger in area.” (

As New York MoMA, his simple massive structure make art works stand out more, while the building acts a part of the cityscape with glass window. Meaning that, it is almost as hanging art works outside of a plain land in the air. The design is good, but as I interviewed from the residents at Kagawa prefecture while traveling, people who live there are not too much interested in contemporary art, and people who visit there are from outside of the prefecture, mainly from main land (Honsyu island), Japan. So it is kind of odd that modern style building standing in the middle of a small fisherman, factory district of little bay area town in Shikoku island. Just because Genichiro Inokuma came from Margame city, but have lived in New York most of his life, Inokuma wanted to do something for his city. But different from New York, the building does not fit in the place itself. (with my own impression that I visited.)

“Taniguchi uses a similar architectural language of horizontal and vertical planes, yet in a different context, at the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures at the Tokyo National Museum in Tokyo.” (

“Gallery of Horyuji Treasures Tokyo is one of the museum buildings in the Tokyo National Museum complex in Ueno Park, replaces an existing buildings on the same site that had served mainly to preserve the works of art in storage of the Horyuji collection. The Horyuji Treasures consist of over 300 valuable objects, mainly from the 7th to 8th Centuries, which were donated to the Imperial Household by Horyuji Temple in 1878.” (

The Ueno Park is a large parke in the middle of downtown Tokyo, Ueno district. (It is like a Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.) It used to be the precincts of a Kanei Temple during the Edo period, and now contains Ueno Zoo, Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, and the National Science Museum. So even though the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures stands in busy downtown Tokyo, you feel calm and relax from experiencing walking around the building and the old Buddhist art and craft that are exhibited inside.

“It character is subtly defined through a spatial play of transparency opacity and reflection and the relationship between vertical and horizontal planes, solid and void, and interior and exterior.

… At fisrt the main façade of the building is seen on the other side of a shallow pool of water, its vertical louvers and columns reflecting onto the surface of the water. It is not until the visitor gets closer that the entry axis shifts to reveal a concrete walkway at the same level as the surface of water leading to the entry door which is defined by what seems to be a floating horizontal plane projecting from the glass façade.

Because of its verticality, emphasized by the reflective surfaces of the materials, the frontal façade at first appears to be scale-less. A metal-clad plane that frames the exterior spaces of the building rises vertically two stories as a wall, folds horizontally to become a roof and vertically again to become another wall. (It looks like a wrapping cover with concrete.) Suppoting the horizontal slab of this folded plane are four vertical columns symmetrically placed. …Tall round columns are the envelope of the glass façade, which contains the entry lobby and wraps around the side to contain a café at ground level (same idea as the Inokuma Museum, and New York, MoMA), and research room on an intermediary level. (That means that the glass façade follow the same shape as the concrete wall as repetition of the design.) The scale of this façade is defined by clear glass that rises up to door height where closely spaced extruded aluminum vertical louvers begin. This zone of glass also allows for continuity between interior and exterior.” (

To me the horizontal lines, I almost feel as a bamboo blind or Japanese style wooden lattice wall that you can see through outside view without window, and brings natural light. The pool also almost has a feel of a Koi (a carp) pond in a Japanese garden with reflection of these trees across from the pool. And the columns have a feel of a shrine gate. It is a modern structure, but I think it was successfully designed for the gallery of the ancient temple treasure.

Lastly, I will post the images of the Japanese site of the Naka Waste Incineration Plant. It is a waste plant that collects garbage, and burn, and recycle it here in the factory. But it looks different from the other plain concrete wall plaint, because of the skeleton image of the metallic pips through glass wall. Interesting enough, they plant trees in between glass and the thick pipes, as if Taniguchi concerned about the design not to be too mechanical and inorganic. He quote in the site in Japanese that he has seen and referred many garbage plant around the world and consider the design not to look as a “garbage plant.” He just wanted the building as the part of the city space, not the one that people do not want to look at. I will also attach the image of the waste plant of the artist, architect in Austria, Friedensreich Hundertwasser which he referred to. The building is stand by the bay and the hallway looks straight through the ocean. At the top of the stair, the shape of the wall of the stair looks as if it is a interior of a ship. And interior view also look as a contemporary museum or some Science Fiction film location set.
(Japanese site. Naka Waste Incineration Plant)

Yoshio Taniguchi谷口吉生


  1. Japanese architecture inspired the bauhaus movement -- see katsura imperial villa

  2. There are photos of his redesign of the MoMA


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