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Photo: Courtesy of Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum.
Photo: Courtesy of Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum.

Japan Society
333 East 47th Street, NYC
When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan
Through July 11, 2021

Japan Society has reopened to the public with its first exhibition since closing in-person viewing when the pandemic began last year. The site-specific exhibition, designed by Sou Fujimoto in collaboration with Brooklyn-based Popular Architecture, explores the techniques, tools, and forms of traditional practices in Japanese architecture and craftsmanship.

The exhibition features a variety of hand tools and wooden models reflecting joinery techniques that have been used for centuries to build Japan’s wooden architectural masterpieces, such as temples, shrines, and bridges. On display is a diverse array of tools—including planes, chisels, and saws—that have played an important role in the development of architecture in Japan. The exhibit also examines the intangible qualities of master carpentry craftsmanship in Japanese architecture. Integral to the processes of master carpenters (tõryõ) is their extensive knowledge of the local environment and of wood as a material. Using natural resources and learning from their predecessors, they construct buildings with a philosophy of sustainability—that joinery can be restored or repaired as needed by future craftspeople—that has been handed down over generations.

A series of related public programs, including lectures, hands-on workshops, and virtual gallery tours, complements the exhibition. Japan Society’s head-quarters, designed by Junzo Yoshimura, opened to the public in 1971 and was New York City’s first permanent structure designed by a Japanese citizen. It commemorates its 50th anniversary in 2021.

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