1991 – Kounji Temple – Ryoji Suzuki

Not fare from Kenzo Tange’s Yukari Bunka Kindergarten, Kounji is a Zen temple of the Soto sect that has been newly introduced into a quiet residential district. Buddhist temples in Japan are associated with funerals, and the prospect of encountering doleful mourners and smelling burning incense on a regular basis was no universally welcomed in the neighbourhood. A temple long established in the district might have had the clout to push trough any building program, but a newcorner obviously had to be more circumspect. To appease nearby residents, the architect took advantage of the depressed, bowl-like topography of the site to lower the building’s profile. He organized the temple around a sunken courtyard more than seven meters below the street level.

In Japan, guidelines on the design of Buddhist temples do not exist. An abbot is free to bild his temple any way he likes, as long as he has the support of core parishoners. In this case, the chief priest wanted a traditional main hall with a tiled roof, but he had modern ideas in other respects and did not mind the auciliary facilities being modern in style.

Designing a main hall in the traditional manner was a challenge for Suzuki, who was mor familiar with the details of Italian Baroque architecture than those of Buddhist architecture. Rules of proportion had to be observed, though in one respect, the curcumstances were unprecedented. Most temple roofs are pitched steeply to make them more visible to someone looking up, but at Kounji, that would have produced a top-heavy apperance. The roof was therefore pitched at a lower than usual angle. A steel frame structure is used to support the roof, though nonstructural wood columns are introduced here and there for effect.


Name: Kounji Temple │Type: Ritual place│Architect: Ryoji Suzuki│Completed: 1991

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