Encounter of Architectural Ideas

written by Cathelijne Nuijsink


In 1965, the Japanese publishing house Shinkenchiku-sha launched an international housing ideas competition in order to rejuvenate its long-running architectural magazine Shinkenchiku [New Architecture, 1925-]. Every year, the magazine has invited an esteemed architect to set the theme for that year’s international housing competition and to be its only judge. What sets this competition apart from other competitions is its international outlook. From its very first edition in 1965, the competition has always published its announcement, as well as the winning proposals and the judge’s comments in both Japanese (in the Japanese-language magazine Shinkenchiku) and in English (in its sister, English-language variant Japan Architect). Moreover, it not only invited prominent Japanese architects to serve as judges and introduce their agendas for the house of the future, but equally called on international architects. The impressive list of architects that have served as judges, ranging from Richard Meier, Peter Cook, Charles Moore, Philip Johnson, Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel and Rafael Moneo to Japan’s most respected designers Kazuo Shinohara, Kenzo Tange, Arata Isozaki, Toyo Ito and Kazuyo Sejima, does not only attest to the power of this design competition in gathering architects from all over the world around the theme of housing; above all, it demonstrates that the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition was deliberately set up as a contact zone in which local and foreign ideas regarding house and home met, informed and inspired each other.
The worldwide implications of this long-running competition have been beyond the expectations of the organizers. From institutional successes within a particular school, such as the Architecture Association School of Architecture in London, to the participation of peripheral architectural cultures, as well as the internal dialogues between two judges, the competition operated on different levels as a cross-cultural encounter of architectural ideas.