Traditional Japanese Lacquerware Inspires A Uniquely Modern Effect

Featuring spectacular views of the sacred mountains of Kyoto, the Xchange Apartment by TANK architects transforms a typical (drab) Japanese condominium into an inspiring guesthouse for artists and creators that integrates traditional Japanese techniques, such as Urushi-Nuri – a type of lacquerware – into techniques not normally used in construction.

The Urushi-Nuri technique calls for lacquer resin impregnated jute fabric reinforcement of a wooden base, forming a rigid composite structure beneath the polished upper coat. This composite technique is similar to today’s FRP (Fiber Reinforced Plastic) layering. The architects therefore chose FRP, selecting  translucent resin typically used for bathroom floors to mimic this method. The translucent resin is polished to reveal the underlying glass-fiber layers over the wooden base, resulting in a translucent, yet complex visual texture, while achieving material strength and waterproofing necessary for a high-impact floor.

The Japanese have traditionally repaired broken ceramics by gluing fragments together with Japanese lacquer and gilding the seams with gold powder to enjoy the beauty of imperfection as “Kintsugi”, literally meaning “to join with gold”. In construction, traditional plastered mortar cracks when it sets. This cracking is usually deemed as inferior work, and current improved mortar seldom cracks. TANK Architects explain that they noticed that this cracking resembles broken ceramics. Using traditional mortar, they then emulated the art of “Kintsugi” in the living room by joining the cracks with gold coloured epoxy-resin, thus transforming what was considered imperfect into a subject of beauty.

The mirrored bathroom doors double as a changing room when opened while  highly polished metal surfaces reflect the room interior and surrounding scenery producing a kaleidoscopic effect.

At a glance, each element may be simple, but as a whole serves a intuitive and creative atmosphere for the creative resident!

Els Zijlstra