13 February 2018


co+labo radović   a report: our Villa Hyuga exhibition in Stockholm, in the space it inspired  
From the Exhibition announced at this blog, below, the curator and co+labo PhD candidate Marco Capitano reports:
There were 300+guests at the opening reception, and among the panelists were Vestre's CEO, Daniel Rybakken (two-time winner of the Compasso d'Oro), and Eero Koivisto. The Norwegian Ambassador to Sweden was the host, and the Japanese ambassador to Scandinavia. At the press conference there were a number of journalists, including Dezeen, Interni, Elle Decoration. Here are the movie and Marco's summary for WEST OF JAPAN/EAST OF NORWAY:
The exhibition „West of Japan/East of Norway“ attempted a daring architectural comparison. It juxtaposed, for the first time, Knut Knutsen’s Norwegian Embassy in Stockholm and Bruno Taut’s Hyuga Villa in Atami, Japan. Knutsen (Norwegian architect, 1903-1969) took inspiration from Japanese architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright - a connoisseur of Japan himself - for the design of his embassy building in Stockholm (1948-1952). We know this from his statements, documents and drawing references. Architectural historians have been emphasizing it for decades. The Norwegian Embassy, brought back to its pristine condition after a careful renovation, comes to host photographs and drawings of Hyuga Villa, a likely source of inspiration to Knutsen, built in 1936. Thanks to a new photographic interpretation of the embassy building, the exhibit clarifies how a certain “Japanness” seeped into Knutsen’s design, presumably borrowing from Hyuga Villa, from Taut’s books on Japanese architecture, and from Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto (17th century).
Hyuga Villa and the Norwegian Embassy embody a personal reflection on Japanese architecture, mediated through European sensibilities. As a Jew, Bruno Taut (German architect, 1880-1938) fled from the growing Nazi movement in the mid 1930s. His stay in Japan culminated in Hyuga Villa (Kyū Hyūga Bettei). Taut’s project was first presented in the international French architectural magazine “L’architecture d’aujourdhui” in 1937, with a text written by the architect himself, paired with plans and photographs. The project, a crosscultural breeding between European and local architectural language, was rediscovered in its full width thanks to exhibitions and symposia in 2016-17.
Knutsen owned several books on Japanese architecture. One was “Japanische Architekur” (1936) by Tetsuro Yoshida (Taut’s friend and collaborator), still in the family’s possession. It is more than likely that he also knew (or possessed) Taut’s books on the same subject. Knutsen was commissioned, together with the Norwegian architect Arne Korsmo, to design the Norwegian pavilion for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937. This was one of the reasons why he was a subscriber to “L’architecture d’aujourdhui”. The presentation of Hyuga Villa in the 1937 magazine must have been of special importance to Knutsen, based on his general interest in Japanese-European relationships.
Taut was able to spend three years in the East, before settling in Istanbul, at the crossroad of oriental and western cultures. It is now our intention to show how his legacy travelled to the North thanks to Knutsen, as his readings must have brought inspiration all the way to the Norwegian Embassy in Stockholm. Or so it seems.
Photos below: Marco Capitanio, in conversation with the Ambassador of Japan to Scandinavia Mr Jun Yamazaki and his wife, and co+labo double degree student at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Mei Morimoto (elegant, in white).
Exhibition was curated by Marco Capitanio and Ole Rikard Høisæther. The exhibited photographs of the Norwegian Embassy were taken by Luca Ferrario, and those of Hyuga Villa by Dave Clough. Photos reformatted for this blog were taken from a larger selection available at the Norwegian Embassy Facebook page.