When you think of the traditional architecture of Japan and Scotland, it is easy to think of them as a million miles apart. However, in today's modern society, architects are fusing Eastern and Western ideas to create amazing spaces for future generations to enjoy. One example of this is acclaimed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. Kuma is responsible for design projects that have taken place both in Scotland and in his native Japan, where work is still ongoing on Tokyo's Olympic Stadium.
The stadium will form the centrepiece of the Japan 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games. The lattice timbered stadium has an overtly green feel to it, with circulation areas around the edge of each level of the stadium adorned with plants and trees. Kuma, who is one of Japan's leading architects, stated this was done to pay respect to the surrounding land which is predominantly wooden parkland.
The stadium is a far cry from Zaha Hadid's initial plan for the Tokyo structure. Hadid's vision for the stadium was one that was far more futuristic in theme. In contrast to this, Kuma is well known for his use of natural resources, and the stadium's oval design with a latticed framework has a distinctly natural look.
As work is finishing up in Tokyo, another of Kuma's projects is complete in Scotland. Though there is a stark contrast between the cities of Tokyo and Dundee, Kuma's own unique creations will soon become a centrepiece of both cities. The centre is the first ever design museum established in the UK outside of London, and it also marks Kuma's first British design.
Kuma described his design of the new V&A Museum as a 'new living room for the city', a place where you can relax and spend time in comfort. It was a design that clearly struck at the heart of the judging panel, as it won the proposal competition with a unanimous decision.
Kuma's relationship with Scotland harks back to his student days while studying in Tokyo. He stated in an interview for the V&A that he was heavily influenced by acclaimed Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh in his early days, and that Mackintosh was somewhat of a hero figure to him.
It is fitting then that Kuma's new building is the premier home of the work of Scottish designers just like Mackintosh. The V&A is the first ever dedicated home celebrating Scotland's outstanding design heritage. One of Mackintosh's most famous designs, 'The Oak Rooms' was even rebuilt in full in the new centre which is the first time the design will have been constructed and displayed in full in well over 50 years.
The V&A Dundee is considered to be the most innovative and exciting project to happen in Scotland in recent years. Anticipation was high for its eventual opening in the summer of 2018, which also coincided with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and was just under a year before construction on Kuma's national stadium in Tokyo is due to finish. Now that the Museum is open, it has received accolades from around the world, as well as increasing visitor numbers to nearby Dundee attractions including Discovery Point and Arbroath Abbey. Time magazine credited the V&A with being one of the world’s greatest places to visit in 2019.
Despite being separated by distance, Japan’s influence on Scotland is clear and has certainly been an influential one. From Dundee’s V&A, to a Japanese Olympic stadium from a man inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh the links between the countries continue to be beneficial for both.