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What the Ex-Noguchi Room tells us

What the Ex-Noguchi Room tells us

What are the differences between the Noguchi Room and the relocated Ex-Noguchi Room? First, let’s go inside the Ex-Noguchi Room. It’s located on the third floor of today’s South Building on the Mita Campus.

In the video, Niikura will guide us in from the entrance in the drawing below.

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The white, semi-transparent curtains currently installed in the Ex-Noguchi Room are meant to suggest the interior space of the former Noguchi Room, as explained in the video. Of course, curtains have a totally different presence from building elements like walls, and the impression inside the space is completely different. Above the fireplace, the ceiling is no longer there, and it looks strange, with only the previous ceiling panels affixed to the second-floor ceiling. The furniture Noguchi designed is still there, so you may think there’s no reason to despair, despite the missing walls. However, this relocation was not intended to reproduce the original, and thus the loss goes beyond the original spatial configuration.

We have mentioned that relocation strips away geographical context, and context as composite art, but internal modifications of the room also damaged its unity. The current Ex-Noguchi Room has completely lost the value that Taniguchi and Noguchi strived for, as composite art based on interrelationships between architecture, sculpture, and gardens. Currently, Mu is the only sculpture placed nearby, but photos from before the relocation show slight differences in its position and angle. Therefore, this is not a reproduction of the old room. It can only be regarded as a reminder of how it was before.

Mu changed Left: Noguchi Room (before relocation), Right: Ex-Noguchi Room (today)
Viewing from the inside, the positional relationship between Mu and the building has changed (Left photo: Takeshi Taira, source: Keio University Art Center)

Although the wall layout is reproduced to some degree, it’s obvious that, in the current state, the meanings of the Noguchi Room have been destroyed on multiple levels. As shown in the video, the architect Kengo Kuma (1954- ) handled the spatial design for this relocation. The changes he made were a bitter choice forced upon him due to the Isamu Noguchi Foundation’s rejection of relocation in “as is” form. In any case, the current situation is clearly an extremely inadequate relocation.

We are compelled to say that, in becoming the Ex-Noguchi Room, value as a cultural property was substantially lost. Even so, it is fortunate that the space and furniture designed by Noguchi, and the building designed by Taniguchi, remain partially intact. Since the room now has this form, we must take it as a lesson—as a monument that renews our commitment to ensuring that similar events never happen again. In that sense, this room has acquired a new meaning.

Kengo Kuma’s recollections on the white curtains

“I proposed a single sheet of semi-transparent curtain. I wanted to create an atmosphere where, as if in a dream, one could hazily see the past through a white mist. The walls of the New Banraisha, and the second-floor floor slab, were replaced with these curtains. Thus the architectural elements (walls, openings, garden) of the restored “New Banraisha” are perceived as filtered, hazy images. You might call it a scene suspended in air, existing in the zone between reality, memory, and imagery.” Kengo Kuma “Preservation/Creation” (in Japanese) Shinkenchiku, Vol. 80, No. 8, July 2005, p. 123.
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Invitation to Ex-Noguchi Room: Preservation and Utilization of Cultural Properties in Universities

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