Building in Context

Contemporary Japanese Architecture in Switzerland


This exhibition will pay tribute to the unique relationship between Japan and Switzerland in contemporary building by presenting the process behind the design and the construction of works by Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima, Ryue Nishizawa (Sanaa), Kengo Kuma, Shigeru Ban, and Riken Yamamoto.

Sejima + Nishizawa / SANAA Rolex Learning Center (Lausanne, EPFL campus)
Kengo Kuma Under One Roof (Lausanne, EPFL campus)
Shigeru Ban Tamedia Headquarters (Zürich)
  Swatch and Omega Headquarters (Bienne)
Riken Yamamoto The Circle, Zurich Airport (Zurich/Kloten)


2014 marks the 150th anniversary of Japanese-Swiss diplomatic relationships, an occasion that will lead to many celebratory events taking place in both countries. The year presents a good opportunity for a critical, comparative look at recent practices in architecture and urban design in Switzerland and in Japan, and how these are influencing each other.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        “For millennia Japan has been absorbing the cultures of a wide variety of nations located westward (…) In a sense, Japan has been a testing ground for global culture over a very long period of time. Until about twenty years ago, you often heard Japanese culture being dismissed as all copies, no originals. Yet having passed through the mania of the bubble period, it’s now an indisputable fact that Japan has become a nation that export culture”
Hitoshi Abe, introduction from “After the Crash: Architecture in Post-Bubble Japan” by Thomas Daniell, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2008


Both Switzerland and Japan enjoy an heroic history in contemporary architecture that benefits from wide international recognition and that exports itself successfully. Recently, our small country has played host to great Japanese architects who have and will build major works. It is now time to think about the causes and effects of these very productive exchanges, and to understand why and how this momentum continues.

Returning to Hitoshi Abe’s statement, he states that “Creativity is not able to emerge solely within one’s own territory but must instead emerge discretely and diversely in the boundaries between territories. The forefront of this process lies in the interactions between different cultures.”

We want to represent architecture as a cultural phenomenon that attests to the increasing necessity for intercultural studies and reconsider our attitude to creativity within our own era of globalization.