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TO DEC. 12
For centuries, the Japanese accepted that their wooden houses would burn down from time to time; neighborhood conflagrations in the city that would later be renamed Tokyo were poetically termed “the flowers of Edo.” After World War II reduced whole cities to ash and rubble, however, the prevailing attitude changed. New building codes encouraged structures made of concrete, and later—as the country became richer—glass, steel, and aluminum, in increasingly abstract forms. That can be seen in buildings such as the Tokyo International Forum, the most famous of the structures depicted in this exhibition of architectural photographs. The big news, however, is that shifting tastes, shrinking hubris, and more modest budgets have led to a reinterpretation of traditional forms. Among the buildings shown here are Ryujin Community Gymnasium and Oguni Dome, both large-scale structures built mainly with wood under revised codes. Japanese architects still love abstract industrial forms such as the ones shown in Okayama’s Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art and Yokohama’s Tower of Winds, a suitably poetic name for an unusually luminous ventilation tower. And, as Hotel Kawakyu demonstrates, they remain under the spell of Disneyland. But some of the most striking buildings here, including Naha’s Josei Elementary School (pictured) and Kagawa’s wedding hall, return to simple, serene traditional forms for inspiration. There are even some examples of contextual architecture, notably Shiga’s Museum of Tile Art, an unexpected example of back-to-the-futurism in a country where modern architecture has long been too proud to sing harmony. On view from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to Dec. 12 at the Japan Information and Culture Center, 1155 21st St. NW. Free. (202) 238-6949. (Mark Jenkins)