Building Landscape

Takashi Homma’s photographs of architectural monuments transcribe their forms and textures into anonymous landscapes.

poster for Takashi Homma Exhibition

Takashi Homma Exhibition

at ac SALON
in the Omotesando, Aoyama area
This event has ended - (2007-11-01 - 2007-12-16)

In Reviews by Darryl Jingwen Wee 2007-12-10

Takashi Homma’s latest exhibition works quietly to dismantle buildings into their components, leveling their status as ‘icons’ to the point where they almost dissolve into their ‘Architectural Landscapes.’ Including shots of several well-known twentieth-century buildings by architects like Le Corbusier, Arne Jacobsen, and Oscar Niemeyer, Homma avoids panoramic and holistic views of his chosen buildings. Instead, for several of these buildings he has created a sort of photographic diptych, one photograph above another in the same dimensions, contained within one picture frame. In this way he emphasizes the temporal – perhaps even cinematic – qualities of the architecture, understood serially through a variety of sections and perspectives, rather than the magisterial frontal and totalizing perspectives that tend to end up in architectural monographs. Instead of its construction, Homma is more interested in his chosen building’s situation (understood in the broad sense): a shot of Corbusier’s church at Ronchamp is reduced to a close-up study of abstract geometries featured in the irregularly shaped windows lodged in its façade. Significantly, these are captured independently of the famed tectonic qualities of its roof. Above this, Homma has placed a shot of a lone handpainted signpost, poking up from the top of the hill visible from the perspective of the church. Collectively, you get more of a rolling sense of the surrounding landscape from this, rather than from any immovable, ‘iconic’ section view.

Throughout the show, Homma prods the ‘architecture’ closer and closer toward ‘landscape,’ testing the elasticity of these definitions. Monuments are denied their traditionally central pride-of-place and made to fit in as just another component of a larger landscape. Famous buildings usually command a photograph centered on them, with the surroundings huddled round. Homma proposes a less heavy-handed approach. He is equally interested in how these buildings are situated within their context and environment, and how this environment finds its own place when challenged and hemmed in by the architecture.

The more generic the architecture, the more conspicuous the surrounding landscape becomes in contrast. A shot of a strip mall McDonald’s on the outskirts of Melbourne is obscured by the foliage of the sullen trees standing resilient in a concrete carpark. Homma is less interested in the generic motorway architecture than in the landscape effects that pool around it. Architecture tailors its own landscapes to suit itself; in the case of McDonald’s you could blame it for helping contextless landscapes to spread outwards all around it. A drive-in like this engenders a landscape of similar sprawl and artificiality.
Homma mostly sees it another way, though. In most of the photographs, the architecture is either subsumed within a larger landscape quite independent of it, or host to a variety of micro-landscapes hidden within it. In Gerrit Rietveld’s Schroeder House, this is traced in the De Stijl off-kilter grid motif that is really a kind of graphic landscape transcribed onto the façade of the building. In another photograph, Homma shoots Le Corbusier’s Une Petite Maison only in terms of its interior sections, so that instead of exterior views of the façade in clean Modernist angles, the everyday clutter squirreled away inside the house becomes its own ‘landscape’: light switches cropping out of otherwise bare walls, bathroom fixtures that are variations on relief, light, and shade. For Arne Jacobsen’s House in France, Homma practically ignores its formal and tectonic aspects, and instead chooses to show us the tiles in the garden, assorted weeds nestling between them, local shrubbery, and accidental rocks – a varied ‘landscape’ in which the brick of the house is only one among the several distinctive textures of the French countryside.

For all their fame, Homma deliberately sidesteps the issue of architectural monumentality in photographing these buildings, in favor of a more materialist approach. He reappraises these buildings in their details, in a sense of their construction, seized in an almost anonymous section photograph. This penchant for anonymity and literalism is most bluntly captured in the diptych of Niemeyer’s flying-saucer-like Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum, where a panoramic shot is juxtaposed flatly with another shot of its architecture-studio scale model, taken from the same perspective. It’s slightly reductive and essentializing, but at the same time bracingly materialistic (in the broad sense). In these photographs, Homma shows us the coming together of consciously designed architecture and the somewhat more incidental environment that surrounds it, thereby reframing – and perhaps more importantly, reuniting – these man-made and natural geometries that litter our landscapes.

Darryl Jingwen Wee

Darryl Jingwen Wee. Born and raised in Singapore, Darryl graduated from Harvard College in 2006 with a BA in French, and currently works as a writer, translator and interpreter based in Tokyo. He edits and translates TAB event listings and writes about art, architecture and food for WSJ, Art Asia Pacific,, Bauwelt, Paper Sky and Singapore Architect. » See other writings


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