Industrially produced versus crafted. Mass manufactured versus customized. Machine deployable versus hand buildable. Standardized (no challenge) versus experimental (innovation). Homogeneous versus diverse. Generic (global) versus site-specific (local). This is the battle undertaken by Kengo Kuma: fighting the hegemony of twentieth-century industrial materials. And this fight has been a constant throughout his entire career. Whether in the use of stone, wood, metal, or any other material, each of the polarities above have guided, project after project, his obsessive search.
These are sometimes small battles - developing a specific way to connect one material with another, for example, or rescuing an old technique to be applied in a new way. But each of those battles is integrated within larger works so that a body of knowledge is created to enrich the way architecture can be understood. His exhibition at the Biennale allows us to look at each of the experiences as an autonomous challenge or as a bold attempt to fight against the building industry’s tendency towards banality and mediocrity.