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  Name   Yoshio Taniguchi,  (谷口 吉生)
  Born   1937
  Nationality   Japan
  Official website    

Yoshio Taniguchi is rare among architects, being steadfastly unwilling to dedicate any effort to promoting his work. He seldom lectures or participates in symposia, he refuses interviews, and he is notoriously difficult to the few journalists and academics who do gain access. However, this taciturn position is justified by his architecture. Although his buildings are certainly photogenic, it is impossible to appreciate their spatial and contextual strengths without physically experiencing them.

Taniguchi’s maternal grandfather was one of Japan’s earliest architects and later became the head of the Tokyo branch of a major construction company. Taniguchi’s father, Yoshiro Taniguchi, was a contemporary of Kunio Maekawa and a respected architect in his own right. Although little known abroad, Yoshiro Taniguchi was entrusted with several commissions on behalf of Japan’s royal family, and he also designed notable religious and commemorative structures. Originally inspired by northern European modernism, Taniguchi’s father also designed his own house—a laboratory for the father and an inspiration to his son. In some ways Yoshio Taniguchi’s work is the fruit of two generations; he shares many objectives with his father, especially an appreciation for serial experience and for compositionally pure organization.

Yoshio Taniguchi holds fond memories of childhood visits to construction sites, but he also feared that his father’s reputation stood as too significant a challenge. He initially decided to pursue a related field, taking a degree in mechanical engineering from Keio University in 1960. His father, however, conspired with Kiyoshi Seike to encourage the younger Taniguchi to go to the United States; Taniguchi graduated from Harvard University with a master’s degree in architecture in 1964. He was the first Japanese architect to receive licensing following an architectural education exclusively gained abroad, and he took Japan’s licensing examinations only following some difficulty.

While at Harvard, Taniguchi met Kenzo Tange, and he joined Tange’s office and his Tokyo University research laboratory on his return to Japan in 1965, staying with the firm until 1972. Taniguchi’s approach from this period closely resembles his mentor’s methods, with an inclination to pursue culturally significant projects, enriching them through collaboration. Taniguchi works frequently with graphic designers, sculptors, and other artists, most notably Gen’ichiro Inokuma and the tea master Hiroshi Teshigahara. Both Taniguchi and his father collabo rated with sculptor Isamu Noguchi, and Yoshio Taniguchi is currently on the Noguchi Foundation board. The landscape architect Peter Walker has also worked with Taniguchi, expressing architecture and landscape as a seamlessly integrated art form. Together they have designed the IBM Makuhari Building (1991), the Marugame Museum of Contemporary Art (1991), and the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art (1995).

Taniguchi’s first working experiences were as part of a design team (along with Arata Isozaki) working on Tange’s plans for the rebuilding of Skopje, Yugoslavia. Two features of this plan, an encircling “City Wall” punctured by prominent “City Gates” at crucial locations, seem to have influenced Taniguchi’s work. Embracing protective walls with highlighted entry points recur in his exquisite, carefully proportioned plans. Amplifying this strategy, boxes nested within boxes establish an increasingly removed domain where Taniguchi controls a heightened experience. His architecture is precise, serene, and understated, often informed by contrast. Movement through his earliest buildings juxtaposes centripetal and centrifugal spaces, and in later works, dark alternates with light.

Despite the crisp, modernist appearance of his work, Taniguchi strives for a timeless character and is comfortable embracing Japan’s design traditions. Many of his finest works, including the Tsukuba City Theater (1999) and the Tokyo National Museum of Horyuji Treasures (1998), are successors to Katsura Imperial Villa: delicate, complex, and highly refined. His sparing use of exquisitely apt materials demonstrates both artful restraint and subdued elegance. Diaphanous screens, slender columns, and tapered extremities are evident in his frequently published sections and detail drawings and result in an exaggerated thinness. These knifelike planes demarcate expansive, fluid spaces. Buildings extend into their surroundings through the controlled use of shakkei (borrowed landscape), and the edge between interior and exterior is often articulated by a stepped configuration said to resemble geese flying in formation, further blurring the distinction between inside and outside.

With the exception of the Tokyo Sea Life Park Aquarium (1989), Taniguchi’s work is at its best when it is strictly orthogonal. His architecture is based on movement through an uncompromising three-dimensional spatial matrix, determined not only by an organizing lattice but also by a complex layering of horizontal and vertical planes. Sharply drawn lines link contiguous spaces whereas taut, uninterrupted planes extend from one room to the next. Taniguchi is concerned with the processional character of his buildings and their spaces; as a consequence the quality of light has become increasingly important in his designs. Glowing interiors draw one deeper into these buildings through bounded, cavelike enclosures. He plays with a notable range of light effects, from single beams breaking dim rooms to large, brightly lit volumes. Taniguchi has also experimented with varying degrees of translucency, from the extraordinary clarity resulting from the insubstantial-looking glass cage of the Kasai Rinkai Visitors’ Center (1996) to the milky surfaces of the Toyota Museum of Art, achieved with two mullionfree layers of fritted glass.

In 1975 Taniguchi opened his own office, but the intervening years have yielded a relatively small number of published buildings. Most of Taniguchi’s buildings are public works, and many of these are art museums, including the Higashiyama Kai’i Gallery for the Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum (1990) and his competition-winning proposal for the Museum of Modern Art (1997) in New York. Despite the public nature of these commissions, he has been able to develop supportive relationships with his clients. His buildings are often the result of generous budgets and schedules, and a number are repeat projects for the same client. Even among Japanese architects, who enjoy a great deal of support and flexibility during design and construction, Taniguchi’s craftsman-like design process and his constant presence on the construction site are considered extreme. As one frequent collaborator has noted, “Every step of the process of design and building is lovingly overseen and often reviewed. No detail remains unconsidered. No idea is unchallenged, often changed even during construction. Basic materials are considered and reconsidered right until their final installation.” Taniguchi makes a point of acknowledging the contributions of experienced constructors, and he uses these relationships to exploit the latest material and technological innovations.

The result of his intense focus on each project is a pristine perfection. Taniguchi’s dignified and uncompromising architecture has led more than one author to revive the idea of an architectural morality that sets him apart.




1937 Born Tokyo, Japan;

1960 Graduated from Keio University, Bachelor’s of Mechanical Engineering;

1963 Graduated from Harvard University, Master of Architecture;

1964–72 Taniguchi worked for Kenzo Tange;

1975 Established Taniguchi, Takamiya, and Associates;

1979 Taniguchi and Associates was established;

1980 award from the Architectural Institute of Japan (for the Shiseido Art Museum);

1987 the Japan Academy of Art Prize (for the Ken Domon Museum);

1994 the Togo Murano Memorial Prize (for the Marugame Gen’ichiro Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art);

1994 the Public Building Award (for the Tokyo Sea Life Park).



Because of Taniguchi’s notorious reticence, there is very little available on his work. There are, however, two monographs that offer an up-to-date overview of his work. These are listed first. In addition, two articles attempt to summarize his work, and these are also noted.

Taniguchi, Yoshio, The Architecture of Yoshio Taniguchi, Tokyo: Tankosha, 1996, and New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999

“Yoshio Taniguchi” Japan Architect 2\ (Spring 1996)

Buntrock, Dana, “Yoshio Taniguchi, Minimalist,” Architecture, (October)

“The Work of Yoshio Taniguchi,” Casabella 62 (November 1998)

    Tange, Kenzo (Japan)











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