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What Architects Can Learn From Kintsugi

In a 16th-century Japanese legend, a servant of the samurai Toyotomi Hideyoshi accidentally fell while preparing for the tea ceremony and broke the owner's favorite tea bowl. Before Hideyoshi punished his assistant, the tea master Hosokawa Yusai stepped in. Hosokawa re-glued the bowl pieces with gold paint and returned the pottery to the warlord. This gesture of sympathy moved Hideyoshi, and news of this act inspired a new art form of restoration in Japanese ceramics. Kintsugi, a term derived from kin (gold) and tsugi (reconnect), is a method of repairing tea sets with lacquer and metal or gold powder. Kintsugi does more than just repair an item, it is said that the modified version is more attractive and valuable than the original version. In her new book Kintsugi: The Poetic Mend (Herbert Press), Bonnie Kemske explores the literal and metaphorical ability of practice to transform objects in a way that celebrates the trauma of the past while enhancing its value. She compares this method with the West to make things "like new", just like the concept of flexibility. On the contrary, kintsugi is a festive rebirth process that makes objects "better than new", similar to the concept of anti-fragility of the essayist Nissim Taleb. In recent years, kintsugi has found followers among artists of different disciplines, including painting and jewelry design (this practice even appeared in the movie "The Rise of Skywalker"). This art form is also considered a way to improve physical and mental health. "Kintsugi is the art of improving past damage," wrote author CĂ©line Santini in Kintsugi: Finding Power in Imperfection (Andrews McMeel Publishing). "The Golden Rectangular Way can be understood as a kind of art therapy, which invites you to transcend the struggle and turn into gold." Obviously, this famous restoration method has wide applicability in creative practice. As the artist Makoto Fujimura wrote, "All types of art recognize that the work must be broken to regain its vitality." What about architecture? The built world is full of cracks. The sheer amount of materials used in buildings and infrastructure means that fractures caused by geophysical and atmospheric forces are unavoidable and occur frequently. In fact, we plan to make cracks a regular part of the design process. For example, control joints and expansion joints are laid in concrete or seamless bricks, for example, to basically determine the location of cracks in advance and effectively hide them in visible places. Architects tend to think that cracks are ugly and disturbing. The breakdown of building materials provides clear evidence of failure; understandably the construction industry is eager to avoid it. Some artists apply the gold connection method to the surface of the building. For example, Rachel Sussman (Rachel Sussman) filled the cracks in the aged asphalt pavement with gold paint. Victor Solomon's Kintsugi Court applies this art form to the surface of a decomposing outdoor basketball court. Japanese company Studio Tank applied gold dust-infused epoxy resin to the cracks in Kyoto apartments to achieve a similar effect. Although these jobs are visually appealing and stimulating, the construction industry is unlikely to adopt this method as a standard application. Nevertheless, the kintsugi provides important benefits as both formal and spatial practice. Buildings are constantly being renovated and remodeled throughout their useful life, although the evidence of such changes is not always obvious. Reusing dilapidated buildings with new procedures and material languages, a juxtaposition that creates an intentional contrast, can be an effective design strategy. This method is similar to the kintsugi variant called yobitsugi, which means putting together and recreating the broken container by inserting new pieces. The original kintsugi method consists of regrouping all the original pieces, and when not all the original pieces are available, yobitsugi is used to create a mixed mosaic of old and new pieces. There are many examples of yobitsugi in architecture, including the Menokin Glass House project designed by Machado Silvetti Architects. When the historic home was rebuilt in Warsaw, Virginia, the company did not intend to restore it to its original state. On the contrary, the missing parts of the structure and facade are being replaced by new materials, and a large piece of structural glass will be wrapped in a corner of the building. Or consider the Mill City Museum along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, a project of MSR Design. When Washburn Mill exploded in a fire in 1991, the Minnesota Historical Society made a bold decision to build a new museum and education center within the remains of the mill. FAIA's MSR design director Tom Meyer developed a plan to insert new glass and steel structures on site while retaining many of the existing features of the original plant, including damaged limestone walls. Other examples include the refurbished Sant Francesc de David Closes monastery in Santpedor, Spain; the Fahle house by Koko Architects in Tallinn, Estonia; and the 192 Shoreham Street building in the Orange project in Sheffield, England. Although the high-contrast juxtaposition of the old and the new is common in the architectural environment, the yobitsugi method of respectfully reconstructing the missing elements with new materials is worthy of further exploration. The same is true for kintsugi, which provides an inspiring way to repair damaged artifacts and buildings, making them stronger and more dynamic than before. Like Hosokawa's generous gesture, kintsugi impressed us because it is essentially about respect. Only what we care about deserves the time and careful attention that the art form requires, and evidence of this care becomes an inherent part of the renaissance version. As one of the most important material heritages of civilization, architecture is undoubtedly a valuable platform to show this respect.

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