Exhibitions can have consequences, often unintended.

Initially inspired by Zaha Hadid’s competition win in 2012 for the New National Stadium of Japan, the current exhibition at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery has unfolded against a backdrop of controversy swirling around the architect’s proposal. By presenting a comprehensive survey of Hadid’s oeuvre and thinking behind her protoplasmic forms, the organizers admirably sought to redress a “palpable lack of information regarding its designer” and bring some light to the heated debate.

However, the contrast between the vigor of Hadid unbound and her emasculation evident in the renderings of the scaled-back stadium have instead provoked Arata Isozaki to throw his own weighty stone into the mire, castigating the current design as a “dull, slow form, like a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away,” demanding that Hadid be given the opportunity to redo the project from scratch.

Despite enlightened intentions, the show has unfortunately only added fuel to a remarkably intense fire.

“Zaha Hadid” at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery runs till Dec. 23; www.operacity.jp/ag/exh169/index_e.php

Space exploration:
Space exploration: ‘Domain Boundary Diagrams’ and ‘Wallpaper 3-1’ (right) | HIROSHI HARA

The personal space of Hiroshi Hara

Hiroshi Hara is probably best-known publicly for the eclectic theatrics of grandiose buildings such as the Kyoto Station building and the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka, but among architects his influence flows more from his work as a thinker and educator at the University of Tokyo.

Hara’s lifelong quest has been the pursuit of the question: “What is space?,” which, in addition to the conventional medium of architectural design, he explored through surveys of vernacular villages in North Africa as well as through philosophical speculations.

For this exhibition, held in the recently refurbished and reopened Ichihara Lakeside Museum in Chiba Prefecture, Hara’s explorations take the form of large sheets of text copied from classic works of philosophy and literature, forming the intellectual matrix of Hara’s conception of space. Viewed from a distance, they resolve themselves into landscapes — a translation from text to space.

“Hiroshi Hara: Wallpapers” at Ichihara Lakeside Museum runs till Dec. 28; lsm-ichihara.jp/exhibition/2014/hiroshihara

Intellectual design: Installation view of
Intellectual design: Installation view of ‘Arata Isozaki: 12×5=60’ | TADASHI OKAKURA

Arata Isozaki — architecture’s literati

The waves generated by Arata Isozaki’s intervention in the Olympic Stadium debate gain power not simply from the logic of his arguments, but also from the weight of his prestige.

Hara’s erudition is deep and rich, but among living architects Isozaki is the paragon of the architect as bunjin (man of arts and letters), whose intellect spans the contemporary and traditional cultures of the East and West, as well as diverse fields beyond architecture. The scope and character of these interests can be glimpsed at an exhibition at Watari Museum of Art (Watari-um).

A full-size replica of a tiny tree house forms the centerpiece — Isozaki’s version of the Ten Foot Square House, the classical abode of the bunjin, as described in Kamono Chomei’s “Hokoji,” and the architect’s own actual summer retreat. Arranged around this are 60 pieces, organized in groups of 12 according to five themes encompassing thoughts, places, collaborations and travels, all from beyond the usual boundaries of architecture.

The literati may seem like an outmoded figure found only in dusty Chinese classics, yet even in 21st-century Japan, an architect-bunjin’s words may yet be the strongest building material.

“Arata Isozaki: 12×5=60” at the The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art runs till Jan. 12; www.watarium.co.jp

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