“When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan,” a new exhibition celebrating the spirit of architecture and craftsmanship through Japanese woodworking tools, patterns and models. On view to the public from March 11 to July 11, 2021, the exhibition features a diverse array of hand tools—planes, axes, saws—and joinery techniques that have been used to build Japan’s wooden architectural masterpieces for hundreds of years—from temples and shrines to bridges. The exhibition unpacks how the intangible qualities of making, such as the consummate experience, knowledge and the honed skills of master carpenters, have been transformed into significant built forms. This site-specific installation, conceived by contemporary architect Sou Fujimoto in collaboration with Brooklyn-based Popular Architecture, explores the coexistence of nature and design, highlighting an enduring connection between traditional Japanese wooden construction and modern architecture.
A diverse array of tools—planes, chisels, saws—have played an important role in the development of architecture in Japan, and this philosophy extends to Japan’s cultural heritage today. Integral to the processes of master carpenters (tōryō) is their extensive knowledge of the local environment and of wood as a material. Using natural resources and learning from their predecessors’ practices, they construct buildings using a refined methodology. Their philosophy of sustainability—for example, joinery can be restored or repaired as needed by future craftspeople—has been handed down over generations. The site-specific exhibition design, conceived by the esteemed architect Sou Fujimoto in collaboration with Brooklyn-based Popular Architecture, introduces major themes from the exhibition and is in dialogue with the gallery’s spaces, highlighting an enduring connection between traditional Japanese wooden construction and modern architecture.