The Japanese word chikei – which Norihiko Dan chose for the title of his exhibition – is not easily translated. It can be broadly understood as meaning “landform” or “topography”, and seen as an interface between human beings and the earth. In this sense, however, chikei conveys a certain ambivalence. On the one hand, it is the ground that gives rise to the lives of people, plants, and animals. It is also the ground on which architecture is built, as a means to protect us from these other living creatures.
It is precisely within this ambiguity that the Japanese architect sees great potential, which he describes as follows: “Architecture and chikei share the quality of being both form and fundament. Chikei, recognized as a form, can also become the ground if our standpoint shifts. Similarly, architecture and chikei can merge seamlessly when they become soft and pliant in our conceptual process of design. It is all the more unfortunate that chikei is generally cleared and flattened out, and only then does the architectural story begin.” As examples of a successful synthesis of both meanings, Norihiko Dan notes the complex cave architecture of Cappadocia, Turkey and the Yaodong dwellings of the Loess Plateau in China that continue to be used today. Here the spaces are carved directly into rock or earth, so that chikei and architecture come together in a unique amalgamation.
The exhibition approaches its subject by means of three components. An installation with plateaus of various heights on the gallery floor transforms the space into an abstract landscape. This is enriched by a series of large-format papers that Norihiko Dan molded using a special folding technique. Both abstract and sensual, this work is complemented by models and pictures of current projects designed to embody the synthesis of chikei and archi-tecture.
Norihiko Dan studied architecture at Tokyo University and at Yale University, and established his studio in 1994 in Tokyo. His most important projects include the expansion of Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 1 in Taiwan (2013), Sun Moon Lake Visitors’ Center in Nantou County, Taiwan (2010), and the Hiyoshi Dam complex in Kyoto, Japan (1999). In 2015, a monograph on the architect’s works was published by Jovis Verlag, featuring contributions by Aaron Betsky and Fumihiko Maki.