Tokyo’s Kyōshō Jūtaku

Title: Tokyo’s Kyōshō Jūtaku: Engaging Feminist Sensory Creative Practice

Author: Cathryn Klasto

Year: 2020

Abstract: This transdisciplinary thesis occupies the in-between space of architecture and art and takes the cultural, social, spatial and urban existences of Tōkyō’s kyōshō jūtaku (small house) as a focus point. By concentrating on the fourth generation of houses and architects (2001-), it argues that in order to understand the history, present and future of this housing model, there is a need for anglophone representations to move beyond design obsessed narratives which often rely on stereotypes and fictionalised imaginaries of Japan. To challenge this and offer an alternative lens of looking, the thesis embodies and advocates for situated slowed down architectural research, which centres insider-outsider conversations and intimate experiences of the everyday.

Overarchingly, as a way of rejecting the image of the kyōshō jūtaku as a static architectural object, the thesis theoretically works to connect the model to a macro public-private network. Applying Peter Sloterdijk’s theory of foam, the thesis demonstrates how Tōkyō operates as a foamy network which in turn produces individual cells, or houses, which function as micro containers of urban life. To access the influence of the macro foam structure of the city on the individual cells, the thesis extends Atelier Bow-Wow’s methodological approach of zooming which encompasses both zoomed in site encounters and zoomed out ecological perspectives. This is achieved through curating an original methodology coined feminist sensory creative practice (fscp) which has a qualitative foundation of feminist ethics, sensory ethnography and artistic engagement.

As a way of revisioning how these houses are understood, the thesis goes one step beyond the macro public environment of Tōkyō and the micro private existences of the houses, by discussing how the kyōshō jūtaku relates to Isozaki Arata’s conceptualisation of Japan-ness. Through the term, Isozaki challenges the foreign gaze and the outsider interpretation of what constitutes a Japanese architectural identity, but in turn creates his own set of limitations. The thesis demonstrates how fourth generation architects are developing nuanced understandings, meanings and practices of Japan-ness which develop the theory in new localised directions. As a way of materially responding to these interpretations, the thesis creates five art works and spatial writings, which aimto challenge how theory can be represented and disseminated.