Sejima's architectural approach

Embracing Simplicity, Transparency, and Empty Space in Villa Design

Kazuyo Sejima, the co-founder of the renowned architectural firm SANAA with Ruye Nishizawa, is celebrated for her distinct design approach characterized by simplicity, transparency, and formal austerity. One of the intriguing aspects of SANAA's work is the peculiar ambiguity in the expression of materiality and the emphasis on empty space. This article explores the role that empty space plays in realizing the Japanese aesthetics of simplicity, ambiguity, and ephemerality in Sejima's villa projects. Through a case study of the Los Vilos Villa in Chile, the Villa in the Forest (1992), and the Weekend House (1997), we will focus on three key elements: transparency, in-betweenness or in-between space, and emptiness, which find their modern expression influenced by the visionary architect Arata Isozaki. The Japanese aesthetic of simplicity, ambiguity, and ephemerality is subtly applied through the seemingly neutral expression of materiality in SANAA's architecture.

1. A Manifestation of Arata Isozaki's "In-Between" Concept?

The Los Vilos Villa SANAA, an architectural marvel created by the esteemed firm SANAA, has garnered attention for its unique design. In the words of the architects themselves, "The roof descends to the ground in places and gently divides the space beneath into segments, which determine the form. There are no walls to speak of - it is like a building of ground and roof only in the midst of abundant nature." This statement raises the question of whether this work could have been inspired by Arata Isozaki's "in-between" concept, also known as MA. Interestingly, SANAA will be participating in the third MA exhibition in Iran, further fueling speculation about the connection.
SANAA's description of the Los Vilos Villa SANAA highlights the unique design elements that define the space. The descending roof, dividing the area beneath into segments, creates a distinct form. Notably, the absence of walls contributes to the perception of a structure that is composed solely of the ground and roof, blending harmoniously with the surrounding nature. This raises the question of whether this design concept draws inspiration from Arata Isozaki's "in-between" concept.

Arata Isozaki's "in-between" concept, often referred to as MA, explores the interplay between spaces and their surroundings, seeking harmony and balance within the transitional zones. It delves into the concept of "in-betweenness," where architecture exists as an intermediary between contrasting elements. The description of the Los Vilos Villa SANAA resonates with Isozaki's concept, as the absence of walls and the merging of ground and roof create an ethereal space that blurs the boundaries between interior and exterior, architecture and nature.

While the statement from SANAA suggests a connection to Isozaki's "in-between" concept, further research and collaboration are required to ascertain the true influence. The third MA exhibition in Iran provides an exciting platform for architects and design enthusiasts to explore this potential relationship and engage in meaningful discussions about the intersection of architecture, nature, and the concept of "in-betweenness."
The Los Vilos Villa SANAA stands as a testament to the innovative and thought-provoking design principles embraced by SANAA. The architects' statement, describing the villa as a structure composed of ground and roof amidst abundant nature, raises the question of whether Arata Isozaki's "in-between" concept, also known as MA, influenced their work. With SANAA's participation in the third MA exhibition in Iran, the opportunity for collaboration and exploration of this potential connection arises. As the dialogue continues, the Los Vilos Villa SANAA serves as a captivating example of architecture that blurs boundaries and fosters a harmonious relationship between built and natural environments.

Note: The article explores the potential connection between SANAA's statement and Arata Isozaki's "in-between" concept, highlighting the possibility of influence and collaboration. The mention of SANAA's participation in the third MA exhibition in Iran adds context to the discussion.


Los Vilos Villa

2. Villa in the Forest (1992): Timeless Elegance

SANAA's Villa in the Forest, a part of the MOMA Museum of Modern Art collection since 1996, showcases Sejima's mastery of transparency, in-betweenness, and emptiness. The villa's design features large windows and glass walls that dissolve the boundaries between the interior and the surrounding forest. This transparency not only allows natural light to permeate the living spaces but also creates a visual connection to the outdoors. The in-between spaces, such as transitional zones and voids, play a significant role in the design, creating a sense of movement and flow. Furthermore, the strategic use of emptiness, both in the form of open areas and voids, adds a layer of ephemerality, allowing light and shadow to play with the architecture throughout the day.

3. Weekend House (1997): Exploring Material Ambiguity and Empty Space

The Weekend House demonstrates Sejima's ability to create intimate spaces through the manipulation of materials and the utilization of empty space. The seemingly neutral expression of materiality in the house adds to its enigmatic character. By carefully selecting and treating materials, Sejima achieves a delicate balance between solidity and transparency. This material ambiguity, along with the strategic use of empty space, creates an atmosphere of calmness and serenity. The emptiness within the house allows for a sense of openness and freedom, enabling residents to experience the architecture in a personalized and dynamic way.

Sejima's work with SANAA showcases her exceptional ability to create architectural experiences that embody simplicity, transparency, and formal austerity. The peculiar ambiguity in the expression of materiality, combined with the emphasis on empty space, adds depth and intrigue to her designs. Through the case study of the Los Vilos Villa, Villa in the Forest, and Weekend House, we have witnessed how Sejima expertly utilizes transparency, in-betweenness, and emptiness to realize the Japanese aesthetics of simplicity, ambiguity, and ephemerality. Sejima's architectural approach, with its seemingly neutral expression of materiality and emphasis on empty space, invites occupants to engage with the spaces in unique and personal ways, creating a harmonious and transformative living experience.

Renowned Japanese Architects and Artists to Participate in MA Exhibition in Iran

Tehran, Iran - SEP 1, 2023 - Villa Magazine is thrilled to announce the participation of a distinguished group of contemporary Japanese architects and artists in the upcoming third MA Exhibition, set to take place in Iran in 2023-2024. This exhibition serves as a tribute to the visionary architect Arata Isozaki, honoring his wish for this event before his passing.

The Villa Magazine's editorial board will be actively engaged in hosting insightful discourses, conducting interviews, and producing captivating documentaries featuring esteemed Japanese architects, artists, and professors. Renowned figures such as Ruye Sejima, Shigeru Ban, Jun Aoki, Mokoto Sei Watanabe, Riichi Miyake, and more will share their perspectives on the profound impact of the In-betweenness (MA) concept pioneered by Arata Isozaki. They will explore how this concept has fostered architectural innovations and stimulated meaningful conversations and cultural exchanges.

This collaboration between Villa Magazine, Archi-Depot Tokyo, and the Japan Foundation aims to delve into the transformative power of the MA concept and its role in shaping architectural landscapes and artistic expressions. By showcasing the works and ideas of these contemporary Japanese architects and artists, the MA Exhibition seeks to ignite dialogue, inspire creativity, and foster cultural exchange.

The MA Exhibition promises to be a landmark event, providing a platform for architects, artists, design enthusiasts, and the general public to immerse themselves in the visionary creations and insights of these esteemed Japanese participants. Villa Magazine invites everyone to mark their calendars and join this immersive architectural and artistic experience in Iran in 2023-2024.

For media inquiries, please contact: 

About Villa Magazine:
Focusing on Experimental Villa projects, Iconic/Solo houses, and Hidden/Lost/Forgotten single-family treasures, Villa Magazine is a leading publication dedicated to exploring and celebrating the world of architecture, design, and innovation. With a global audience of architects, artists, designers, and enthusiasts, Villa Magazine provides a platform for thought-provoking discussions, insightful interviews, and captivating visual content that inspires and informs.


Related News:
+ MA Exhibition 2023
+ MA Exhibition 2023
+ Esteemed Japanese Architects to Participate in MA Exhibition in Iran
+ Arata Isozaki Writing Architecture
+ Jun Aoki MA Exhibition IRAN
+ SAANA Los Vilos Villa


Related Articles: 
+ Endless Kazuyo Sejima villa in the forest
+ Shigeru Ban - Villa works
+ Exploring the Significance of Villa Projects and Solo Houses of Japanese Architects
+ Exploring the Significance of Villa Projects and Solo Houses of Japanese Architects 2
+ Arata Isozaki Experimental houses 
+ Jun Aoki's Unbuilt Houses