From around the turn of the century until the 1920’s, brick — real brick — was the building material Japan used to convey a “foreign” look as the country went though modernization reforms. However, brick has no seismic properties, and such building materials had disastrous consequences when the 1923 earthquake hit Tokyo.
Decades later, almost all apartments built in Japan from the late ’60s to the early ’80s were covered in reddish brick tile glued to the concrete walls. The brick look’s comeback is shrouded in mystery. There is probably some reference to it in Isozaki’s “Japanese-ness in Architecture,” but alas, his book is so dense that I never finished reading it. Marshall Berman writes that modernism is at the same time an expression and a rejection of the modernization process. It seems as if there was a collective agreement to adhere to Berman’s formula when these apartments were built. Today, these red brick-tile buildings are slowly disappearing. The buildings are being torn down, replaced with apartment blocks, which, due to renewed building laws, can reach twice the height of their predecessors. The new reinforced concrete buildings are clad in tile as well, but red has mostly been replaced by beige or grey. Perhaps this is because the late Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara didn’t like red buildings, but now it appears that the consensus amongst those who decide what color to clad their buildings in the architects have decided that red will no longer be used.
NO MAN EVER LOOKS AT THE WORLD WITH PRISTINE EYES
– RUTH BENEDICT
For me, I consider our Brick House as a “Fuck-You” message to Ishihara, but for our client, a couple whom grew up in a red-tiled apartment, the tile brings about feelings of nostalgia. In terms of the programme, on the ground floor there is a small office space, while the bedrooms are located on the second floor. On the third floor is the living space. A small staircase leads to the roof, where there is a small guest room and an open deck with a tiny pool.
Project Name: Brick House
Location: Meguro-ku, Japan
Function: Residence, Office
Completion date: 2014
Red Brick, Tokyo, Ishihara, Modern Japan, Tokyo Apartment, Japan-ness in Architecture, Nostalgia