One of Japan’s most eccentric architects, Terunobu Fujimori designs and builds houses that look like they belong in a fairy tale. His houses are often balanced on crooked legs, with weeds and flowers sprouting awkwardly out of their shingled roofs -- imaginative and playful structures that turn mainstream architecture on its ear. Avoiding the use of advanced technology, Fujimori creates ecologically sensitive and extremely energy-efficient buildings that utilize materials such as volcanic rock, earth and charred wood. His famous dream-like tea houses are suspended on rickety stilts and appear to be floating on air.
Terunobu Fujimori had his first building erected at the age of 44 (the Jinchokan Moriya Historical Museum was commissioned by his hometown, Chino City in Nagano). Enveloped by local stones and hand-cut planking, the Museum marked the beginning of the architect’s controversial career. His own residence, the Dandelion House, has strips of volcanic rocks affixed to the façade and is overgrown with plants. The Flying Mud Boat is a tea-ceremony room built in front of the Chino City Museum of Art in Nagano. It is a shell-like structure suspended on metal wires and wooden supports. Another tea house, the Irisentei Tea House rests on a series of spindly tree legs and is accessible only by ladder.
Fujimori’s trademark is charred cedar, obtained through an ancient Japanese technique that seals the wood against rain and rot. This simple, elemental material that connect the architecture to the ground from which it comes, gives his houses an almost fantastical appearance of cave-like dwellings. The rich silvery brown color of the cedar, along with the earthy appearance of mud and sturdiness of wood trunks creates a feeling of familiarity enriched by the vernacular imagery of his houses.
The ecological aspect of his buildings is, according to Terunobu Fujimori, of secondary importance while designing. As a historian, he finds inspiration in the man’s battle against the elements. Nevertheless, his buildings often show a radically green approach that comes simply from working with nature.