Kyoto City Landscape Policy 2007 / Contemporary Architecture I

Contemporary Architecture in Kyoto – Waro Kishi


The “flatness” of Kyoto has been controlled by the landscape ordinance, especially for the north. Most of the urban services, historical heritage, temples, shrines, and traditional townscape was situated. This area has been defined in the landscape policy as the conservation area of Kyoto. While in the south, development is comparatively unrestricted. [1] Infrastructures and industries occupied the land. Despite the situation in Tokyo, where architects can create strong powerful works by designing unusual forms as a way to challenge the extent of architecture; the architects in Kyoto chose the other direction as a way to bridge the city’s culture and the urban aesthetics .


“ I had to find coexistence between history and contemporary-ness. In Kyoto, history isn’t in the museums, it’s all around you, and you should live in that history, but at the same time you should live in a contemporary way, because so we are. “    – Waro Kishi, 2017


K Associates is a Kyoto based architecture firm founded by Waro Kishi in 1993. He graduated from the Department of Architecture of Kyoto University and has focused his practise on the materialisation of space. [2] There are more than half of his works situated at the centre of Kyoto, along the historical region. His works introduce precise decisions that changed the way we perceive space, which he defined as the “in – betweenness” of something. This requires a lot of conversation and negotiation between the municipal government in order to provoke changes or new insights towards this traditional townscape.


House near Kyoto Gosho

This project is located in a residential district directly projected from the west of Gosho (an Imperial Palace). [3] On this 73 square meters site, the exterior parts are conformed by the regulations such that the condition of the interior space must not be directly revealed from the exterior. Kishi carefully introduced a long and thin courtyard on the northwest corner that is invisible from the outside but allows lights enter into the interior. The 90 centimetres setback of of the facade create an inner balcony space for the residents to meet with the exterior.


Instead of striking for high rise buildings, or introducing technologies into his design, he believes the richness of Kyoto is the culture itself, which there must be a way for history and contemporariness to coexist.



[1] Kishi, Waro, and Hiroshi Watanabe. Waro Kishi: Buildings and Projects. Stuttgart: Axel Menges, 2000. p. 13

[2] Crudeli, Andrea. Home, away from home. A conversation with Waro Kishi , Kyoto. Feb 7, 2017

[3]Kishi, Waro, House near Kyoto Gosho,  K Associates Projects, 2011


Buck, David N. Responding to Chaos: tradition, technology, Society and Order in Japanese Design. Routledge, 2016. p. 86

2 Comments on “Kyoto City Landscape Policy 2007 / Contemporary Architecture I

  1. It seems that Waro Kishi is an architect who believes in the power of the living vernacular environment over the preserved or ceremonial. I interpret that as an appreciation for the local and the ordinary, which reflects the deeper cultures and sensibilities of a place rather than separate historical buildings. Hopefully this ideology can be put in more cities over the world to keep the spirit of the locality alive.

  2. As conservation is an essential part in Kyoto’s city image and architects seek for an approach through which history and contemporary can coexist, I’m wondering what’s the underlying essences behind Kyoto’s heritages, is it a certain lifestyle such as courtyard housing, a certain sort of building elements unique in Kyoto, certain decorative patterns, certain material adopter or building crafts of significant value. With a clear vision of this it would be interesting to study how kyoto’s architects selectively include cultural aesthetics in their design and how kyoto’s heritage adapts itself or situates itself in the 21st century.

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