ArchiExpo e-Magazine - # 16 - Japan: Global Inspiration - ArchiExpo e-Magazine

Japan: Global Inspiration

This issue has you shaking in your boots on Japanese soil. Luckily, the Japanese offer innovative solutions for structures that resist earthquakes and similar natural disasters. After escaping a near-death experience due to unsteady ground, we take you into the typical Japanese bathroom setting for cleansing and relaxing. Architect and designer Fabrice Knoll gives sound advice for recreating the Japanese bathroom design. The West has been observing the wonders of Japan for years. Find out why in Japanese Architecture and The West.

You’re in for several treats this round, as always, with more on Studio Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Ring, The World’s First 3-D Printing Pen and more. We take you from last year’s trade show Big5 in Dubai last November to Buenos Aires to visit Foster + Partners’ eco-friendly City Hall recently completed.

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It’s a case of when, not if the next major earthquake will come.

As the world was harshly reminded by the 9.0-magnitude Great East Japan earthquake and resulting tsunami in 2011, Japan is beset by seismic activity. The country experiences an earthquake every five minutes, 2,000 of which each year are large enough to be felt. Put into a global context, approximately 20% of the...

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A ‘how to’ piece by architect and designer Fabrice Knoll


In an archipelago where space is a luxury and perfection a normal achievement, the primary, philosophical source of inspiration for an urban bathroom comes from centuries-old traditions. The Onsen, or natural hot spring, is still in the Japanese mind when they think of their urban bathrooms; cleaning the body, and cleaning the mind.

The Japanese need to gain space because of their crowded cities. For their bathrooms, they seem to be obsessed with three things: hygiene (to the extent of consecrating an entire museum to the toilet), nature (even if only symbolized by one plant) and space (a study in well-thought-out ergonomics).

Thinking Ergonomics in the Right Way

During my studies in architecture, I was fascinated by a Japanese editor who consecrated whole books in giant format to one piece of architecture by Tadao Ando, I.M. Pei or Frank Lloyd Wright. Now I understand that it all grows out of the same search for quality and integrity. The same approach goes for the bathroom, a small room in which you need to install a bathtub and/or shower, a vanity basin and often a washing machine, the toilet being separate most of the time.

Several features in Japanese bathrooms make them different from any others and accentuate their approach to well-thought-out ergonomics. In order to properly utilize space, the shower often serves as a passageway. They use tiny shelves and narrow furniture to obtain functional products in a non-cumbersome design. Most of their products and spaces provide more than one function—putting the light in the basin, for example.

House in Karuizawa II by Horibe

House in Karuizawa II by Yasushi Horibe Architect & Associates

A Room for Cleaning, a Room for Relaxing

It is often explained that the typical Japanese bathroom consists of two rooms, an entry space with a sink where you undress and the actual bathroom, equipped with a shower and a deep bathtub. The idea is that you shower first; once clean, you then soak in bathwater between 40 and 43 degrees Celsius.

You use soap only outside the bathtub so that none gets into the bathwater. This means many members of a family can use the same hot bath (ecological). The bathtub often overlooks a natural setting or an indoor Zen garden, in order to relax and reflect.

Villa M in Fujizakura by Ken Yokogawa Architect & Associates exemplifies the proper nature-to-human ratio. This villa, along with other examples, can be seen in an article on ja+u (Japanese Architecture and Urbanism) entitled “The Art of the Japanese Bath.” The bath area in Kidosaki Architects Studio’s House in Asamayama and Ken Yokogawa Architect Associates’ Kasahara House offer views of such an amazing natural environment.

A Hotel Bathroom in a Small Parisian Space

Mr Jean-Marie Blanc, general manager at four-star hotel Ampère, in the 17th district, wanted to revamp the hotel’s bathroom style completely.  We proposed organizing the new bathroom as an individual micro spa, where the ergonomics would compensate for the lack of space.

Hotel Ampère Paris Fabrice Knoll

Hotel Ampère

We used Made white tiles by Iris Ceramica to give small shiny reflections of the lighting, as well as a soft touch in the shower. Following the Japanese model, we achieved a sense of nature by implementing the sun-like orange E-wall by Atlas Concorde. On the same note, the use of colored LED lighting on the shower screen that shows a drop falling into water and the backlit bubbles on the mirror serve as reminders of nature.

Both the Inspiration screen and the Desire mirror we selected by Glassolutions increase the sensation of available space. The space between the door and the shower also provides standing room in front of the sink. The sink itself has a wood finish and the tiled floor (E-wood by Iris Ceramica) imitates a wooden floor painted white; this offers a feeling of extended space.

We chose the shower tray by Kaldewei combining a sense of space (no joint, no accidents in the tiling), security for the guest and an easy-to-clean drain for maintenance. For the washbasin, we went to Duravit, and added the Starck organic faucet by Axor that looks like petrified wood.


Here’s an inspiring article on Elegant Bathroom Design Ideas for Your Home: New Bathroom, New You

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Japan: a global laboratory for architecture, spewing forth innovation

Mention the term “Japanese design,” and the typical Westerner is likely to conjure up images that date from the days of samurais and ninjas: understated elegance, reverent use of natural materials, exacting craftsmanship, and the wabi-sabi embrace of imperfect, fleeting beauty. Say the same words to an architect or...

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    Japanese architect Hiroshi Nakamura wins the Hospitality Building LEAF award 2015 with his Ribbon Chapel project.

    The ‘metal ribbon’ is as symbolic as it is functional. Two winding staircases start at different places, intercross and finally meet—creating the ribbon. The staircases lean on ‘one another,’ doting the building the name Wedding Chapel for its ability to enrich human relationships with nature.

    Its environment adds to the delight of the design, set in a luxury resort overlooking green scenery, mountains and sea. The 15.4-meter-tall structure melds the use of timber and glass panels beautifully, with a touch of zinc alloy that resists whether conditions.

    An annual ceremony that unites over 200 international architects and designers, the LEAF awards 2015 (Leading European Architects Forum) took place October 21 in London.

    Renowned professionals as trusted judges for 2015:

    Michael Clark–Director, Aedas

    Alan Crawford–Founder, Crawford Partnership Architects

    Valerie Evans–Director, Architecture, Atkins Global

    Firas Hnoosh–Director, BDP

    Božana Komljenović–Associate, Zaha Hadid Architects

    Lukasz Platkowski–all Buildings Practice Area Leader, Principal, Gensler

    Heinz Richardson–Director, Jestico + Whiles

    Jim Rimelspach–Principal and Founder, Wilson Associates

    Peter Shaw–Global Board Director, Aedas


    Design agency Blazysgérard, founded by Alexandre Blazys and Benoît Gérard, kept busy over the year and released a new collection of tiles for Surfaces & Co. In...


    Mosa Tile Pattern Generator may appeal to those questing for uniqueness. Launched in 2013 as a mural tiling generator, this free online tool was recently...

    “This is where urban development is still taking place.” Dutch architect Daan Roggeveen moved to China seven years ago to launch, with journalist Michiel...

    Despite the conveniences of modern technology, wires restrain us. Most of us have experienced the frantic search for a charger or electric plug as cell phone batteries run low (like the YouTube video below).

    Corian surfaces by Dupont, a leading global brand for surface material, innovates stylish and durable products. In 2015, Corian introduced a wireless charging surface for mobile devices. A transmitter hides within the surface of a counter or tabletop. It transmits energy to a receiver that is either in or attached to the smartphone or tablet placed on the surface. For devices without an internal receiver, a wireless ring-shaped receiver plugs into them. Qi or PMA enabled devices already incorporate a receiver in their body so no attachment is needed.

    The charging surface is available in a variety of attractive patterns and colors, allowing them to fit into the design of homes or businesses.


    Ludovic Nachury

    Journalist and innovation enthusiast for more than 10 years, Ludovic Nachury is ArchiExpo e-magazine’s editor-in-chief.

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    Winifred Bird

    Winifred Bird is an independent journalist based in the United States who writes about Japanese architecture for publications including Dwell and Interior Design.

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    Rob Goss

    Rob Goss is a British writer based in Tokyo and author of four books on Japan, with several more on the way in 2016.

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    Frederick Bernas

    Frederick Bernas is a journalist, filmmaker and photographer living in Latin America.

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    Fabrice Knoll

    Fabrice Knoll is an architect, designer, photographer and writer.

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    Olga Sterkhova

    Olga Sterkhova  writes and translates in three languages: Russian, English and French.

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    Erin Tallman

    American artist Erin Tallman is a journalist for various online publications and is the Editor in Chief of ArchiExpo e-magazine. She has published three books, including her first novel.

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    Hilary Edesess

    Hilary Edesess is a freelance journalist based in Marseille, France. She blogs about culture, art and urban design.

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    Erin Gigl

    Erin Gigl is a freelance design and travel writer, editor and artist.

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