Where most of The Japanese House is all about the interiors and life in the crowded city, the exhibition also finds room to breathe in a second monumental installation: Next to the Moriyama House, the Barbican commissioned Terunobu Fujimori to create a unique tea house, made of charred timber and white plaster. Its large round window looks out over a garden, where traditional tea ceremonies are explained to visitors by the Urasenke Tankokai UK Association.
Walking through the installations, one slowly realizes that the lighting in the gallery adjusts, light to dark to light again — a subtle, sped-up dawn-to-dusk simulation. But where the exhibition could fall into caricature, or a Western “Disney-ification” of Japanese culture, it doesn’t — the diversity of each structure and architect featured in the exhibition is examined in such detail that the installations are welcome opportunities for exploration. What could be seen as fantastical is grounded in the complicated history of Japan’s changing urban landscape, where tradition is not forgotten but refigured in countless ways.