Ancient pottery inspires architect“I do not consider this award to be exclusive to my work. I consider it as a paving stone for my young Korean successors in architecture.”
Architect Itami Jun’s voice trembled as he gave his speech at the French embassy in Tokyo where he received the “Grade de chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres” from the French government.
The Korean-Japanese Itami Jun has always been an outsider on the Japanese architectural scene. But at the ceremony, he stood very tall.
“The aesthetics of my architecture lie in localness. My originality; from a site’s nature and tradition.”
Aged 68 and finally gaining international recognition, he maintains his humble viewpoint. “I think I finally got what architecture is. It is a new beginning for me.”
“I was never regarded as a member of the Japanese architectural industry. But I think they have been shocked recently. The ‘New Architecture’ magazine is featuring my work in their new year issue.”
Represented in his works on Jeju Island 2001, Korean pottery has been a huge influence. This is due to his contemplation on connecting localness, tradition, nature and space.
“The Joseon Baekjae potteries are a textbook for my architecture. I am easily influenced by the colors and the lines that those pots have. The qualities of the Joseon Baekja potteries act as a basis for my architectural works. Those qualities are life, love and warmth all mingled together.”
With offices in Seoul and Tokyo, he works in both cities - plus Jeju Island - back and forth, all within a week. He frequently demands his colleagues, some young enough to be his children, to worry about reviving Korean traditional architecture in a modern context, rather than copying western buildings.
“My recent projects are based on Jeju Island. I would like to emphasize the roundness of the Jeju hills in my work. There is a life trail there.”
by Jeong Je-suk