Parallel World by Jan Vranovský


As much as Japan is known for outstanding and often radical contemporary architecture, the vast majority of its cities consist of houses without any conceptual or architectural aspirations. These buildings often emerge directly from the limits of their initial condition and context, becoming “diagrams of forces” (a term used by Le Corbusier) that formed them, stripped of the clutter of the architect’s personal ambition. In fact, the vast majority of buildings in Japan are not designed by architects at all, but rather by licensed engineers. Similarly, a large proportion of the city space is, to a degree, “grown”, organic, formed step by step as a chain reaction rather than as part of a pre-conceived plan. This pragmatic, but very dynamic and constantly transforming (metabolizing) space typically becomes very dense in its local centers, where the various forces, rule-sets and processes overlay, leading to often unexpected, sometimes even bizarre situations and emergent, non-premediated phenomena. Finally, unique Japanese traditions and cultural specifics, often unconscious and spontaneous, permeate through all this, together with local technical and practical specificities, mostly connected with disaster prevention. The result of all this are buildings, streets and cities completely different from those we know in the West: often seemingly chaotic and scruffy at first sight, but simultaneously fascinating, alive, bizarre, complex and deeply Japanese.

Parallel World is a photo series that attempts to capture the ordinary yet complex space within Japanese cities, not through their entirety, but rather through fragments, details, uncanny relationships and emergent contexts. This allows viewers to assemble their own image of the generic, archetypal contemporary Japanese city. This logic follows the actual experience of exploring and perceiving Japanese urban space, which usually cannot be read through a rigid structure or architectural landmarks (so typical for many Western cities, especially in Europe), but rather through fragmented, randomized, scattered and often transient moments and details.

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