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The Adaptation of Concept of Oku in Contemporary Japanese Residential Building

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Nicholson Man Hou

on 13 December 2013

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Transcript of The Adaptation of Concept of Oku in Contemporary Japanese Residential Building

Concept of Oku
The Adaptation of
Concept of
O k u
as Modern Spatial Layout Strategy
in Contemporary Japanese
Residential Buildings

as Modern Spatial Layout Strategy in
Contemporary Japanese Communal Buildings

What is Oku
in Japan?
“Oku” is written in character of “ao” both used in Chinese and Japanese language and also shares the similar literal meanings:
intimate and deep
exalted and
found and recondite
What is Concept of Oku in architecture?
REACH DEPTH expresses Oku clearly by
branching frequency of the path way.

The FREQUENCY of “Reach depth” clarifies the
1. usage,
2. stillness and
3. liveliness
of the place by Oku.

What is Concept of Oku in architecture?
What is the origin and history of Oku?
Architect Fumihiko Maki’s 1979 book Miegakure Suru Toshi referred to the paradigmatic Japanese village located along a river valet at the base of a forested mountain. For the villagers, the mountain is imbued with a spiritual life, but it is not a place or a spirit that can be known. The mountain is a MYSTERIOUS PART of the collective unconscious, evoking a mystery that is neither sinister nor benign. It only lurks, and its presence constantly reminds the villagers that SOMETHING UNKNOWABLE LIES BEYOND.
the innermost core of a system of layers of space
inner space lying somewhere in the deep end
experience of approaching “Oku” is like there is always something in front which encourages people to keep moving forward and search deeper
Comparative study
between Chinese traditional architecture and Japanese traditional architecture in
Adaptation of Concept of Oku
Chinese and Japanese traditional gardens were not dominated by architecture or restricted in geometric and symmetrical layout.

Chinese traditional private gardens were focused more on CIRCUITOUS ROUTE DESIGN and aimed at making routes TORTOUS AND MULTIVARIANT.
CONTRADISTINCTION used in garden space by means of multiple changing between narrow enclosed space and open bright space enriches visitors’ SPATIAL EXPERIENCE and helps to create SENSORY DEPTH in garden space.
Setting of ‘VACANCY’ and ‘LAYERS’ is an efficient way in increasing sensory ‘depth’
The large tract of water can be considered as the ‘vacancy’ in Chinese private garden.
Overlap of close-view layer, virtual layer
and substantial layer are employed in Chinese private gardens.

VIRTUAL LAYERS: Refers to water, plants, rocks, lattice windows, verandas, bridges.

SUBSTANTIAL LAYERS: Refers to architecture, brick walls, hills (which TOTALLY OBSTRUCT LINE OF SIGHT).

Japanese Traditional Gardens
Four-Courtyard siheyuan,
Courtyard Hierarchical Arrangement
Along the north-south axis, based on the hierarchy and “Gate and Courtyard System”.

LEVEL OF PRIVACY rose gradually from the front to the rear along the north-south axis and the CLIMAX was the second courtyard which was obvious and visible in the whole residence.
Space contradistinctions in
Chinese garden, Liu Yuan.
The word “sit” is used as a synonym of “meditation” which implies that sitting, APPRECIATING and THINKING was a major way for FINDING THE TRUTH in Zen philosophy.

Hence, appreciation was valued in Japanese Zen gardens.

A JOURNEY was considered to be a way of finding the truth in Zen spirit.

Motif of journey was accentuated by means of a 'PATH' DESIGN.
Comparison of ‘centre’ location in Japanese Shinden and Shoin style architecture.
was placed in the REAR and APPROACHES
from the front door to the back were TORTUOUS.
In the spatial concept of Oku, a vague/ambiguous/indistinct, pallid covering is usually created as a stop and as something to make a mysterious space around. For instance, sometimes we look through the obscure screens, the halo view of the outside happenings and spaces are achieved. But the access to the outside is limited due to the screens.
Result: Inaccessible, mysterious existence.

What is the characteristics and factors forming the spatial layout strategized with
Concept of Oku?

Characteristics and Factors
forming Concept of Oku
The three elements contribute to
create the sensory ‘depth’:

1. the route.
2. the layer qualities.
3. the space characters between layers.

Characteristics and Factors
forming Concept of Oku
Areas x Lines
Linear element
Areal element

The sense of Oku occurs on a PLANAR platform, there is not much ALTITUDE VARIATION during the experience of approaching “Oku”.

The sense of AREAL element is more conspicuous than LINEAR element.

How is Concept of Oku used as spatial layout strategies in contemporary
Japanese residential architecture?

The reflection of Japanese spatial customs
and ethics in Japan’s contemporary architecture


Although technology tends to imply a new invention, ingenuity, almost like a panacea but it doesn’t lead us to the new utopia.

He believes that in the process of decision-making, the architect is required to rely on this ethical and traditional principles as well.
Gender Equality Center (GEC), 2000, Nihonmatsu (Fumihiko Maki):
- Multiuse community center
- In this building, a delicate screen of aluminium and wood louvers encloses forth and fifth floors. The vertical louvers cloak a variety of functions, from seminar rooms and research labs to guest rooms.
- Apart from their physical performance, they reflect deep meanings rooted in traditional Japanese conception of space:
Light emanating from behind the louvers hints at something within, but the screen does not allow direct visual access. Thus, as he or she mounts a series of ramps and stairs, a visitor catches glimpses of the space; these mysterious spaces remind the traditional Japanese concept of Oku. (To glimpse something that is hidden)

KATSURA Imperial Villa
REACH DEPTH expresses Oku clearly by
branching frequency of the path way.

The FREQUENCY of “Reach depth” clarifies the
1. usage,
2. stillness and
3. liveliness
of the place by Oku.
Full transcript