The Uncompleted Materiality of the Void - Exploring the "Non-Perfect" Characteristics of Materials

Kristina Fridh

Project Period: 2012-2013
Type: Senior Research Project
Program Area(s): Material Conditions


The starting point in the project is the concept of the void and characteristics of emptiness in relation to material and materiality in Japanese traditional and contemporary art forms including architecture. “The Void”, which is connected to Zen Buddhism, is given a changeable shape in different traditional Japanese works of art. In crafts, for example, the glazing of the tea bowls in ceramics that are used in the Japanese tea ceremony, has crackled and the shape is often asymmetrical, non-perfect. Here a “hidden beauty” is expressed, something incomplete, and the observer is involved, fills in himself and completes the form. The incomplete evokes a subjective experience of beauty, and the phenomenon has created several Japanese aesthetic expressions and concepts of beauty, for example shibui and yugen. This “non-perfect” creates a relation to materials – the involvement of a perceiving subject forms a link between subject and object, and this link is the material and the materiality.

The contemporary Japanese architect Kengo Kuma stretches and examines the boundaries for the materiality of materials to create new contexts in unexpected applications of materials, which causes surprising, haptic experiences. Those subjective processes erase architecture and make it disappear, that is to say, not the materials in themselves but the complex and changeable experiences and the perceptions of them that Kuma is directing. This connects to the Japanese traditional ideas about creating something non-perfect in different forms of art to involve the subject and dissolve the borders between subject and object. In this research project, Kengo Kuma will be contacted to develop further and deepen the conversation that already has been started in the earlier research project “The Materiality of the Surface”, but also to visit his latest buildings and explore the new projects. The point of departure is a phenomenological approach and hermeneutic interpretations.

Researcher(s) Bio and Publications