Mind & Matter


Next to Nothing

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Teshima Art Museum by Ryuei Nishizawa and Rei Naito. Photo: Noboru Morikawa


Winners of the recent Pritzker Architecture Prize, SANAA demonstrates mastery in the craft of editing. When I interviewed Kazuyo Sejima in Tokyo for my upcoming book, Matter in the Floating World, I asked if there was a point at which she had gone too far in designing minimal spaces. Sejima skirted my question, but then SANAA project architect Florian Idenburg said, “When I visited the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa during construction, I thought ‘Ah, this is too cold, too white, too much abstraction.’ But then, when we came to the opening, all the art was installed and many people were there. It had become a building for people. I think architects forget that people will come as well as art, and those things will soften the texture.”

In the Teshima Art Museum, SANAA partner Ryuei Nishizawa has created a space so minimal that it even challenges Idenburg’s sentiment. Comprised by a single thin-shelled concrete pod structure with no columns, Nishizawa’s collaboration with sculptor Rei Naito houses just one work of art: a piece called “Matrix” that consists of groundwater seeping up through the floor. An elliptical, razor-edged oculus provides dramatic views of the sky within the upper surface, while the lower surface exhibits continually shifting pools of water that reflect this view. The result is a focused experience situated within the thickened threshold between land and sky—design at its most minimal and primeval state.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.