top of page

non-typological architecture

Akira Imafuji, honorable mention Shinkenchiku residential design competition 1992

Unbearable Lightness

A ‘House with No Style’ and Blank Architecture in Japan

Brendon Carlin for Burning.Farm


Many of those who were students or young architects between the 1980s and 1990s know very well the ‘Schinkenchiku Residential Design Competition’ organized yearly by the well-known magazine ‘Japan Architect.’ In those years, students and architects participated en-masse, often producing quixotic, absurd but always beautiful entries. For every iteration, the journal tasked a well-known architect to provide a brief and to be the only judge. In 1992, Rem Koolhaas was the judge and his brief provoked participants to design a house with no style. Koolhaas expressed all his disgust with the legacy of Post-modern architecture—still strong in the early 1990s—especially with the total excess of style, taste, the ‘frivolous,’ and the ‘decorative’ which he saw as “perpetuating architecture’s inability to produce any new content.” 


In this article, Brendon Carlin argues that the winning entry of the 1992 ‘House with No Style’ competition, an endless catalogue of house floorplans can be assumed as a synecdoche of contemporary Japanese architecture whose pastoral minimalism hides a history of conflicts, reforms and crises that affect the project of domestic space. Yosuke Fujiki’s beautiful and disturbing floorplans make explicit the blank ethos of Japanese architecture revealing how unbearable its lightness really is. Here we see how a single, forgotten ‘winner’ of an open competition can cast light back to an entire chapter of architectural history.

bottom of page