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Japanese architecture

Domestic Architecture

The regard for a natural environment is also consistently reflected in secular building. In the Heian period complex building schemes, known as shinden-zukuri, were devised for the court nobles. A number of elegant rectangular houses were joined by long corridors that surrounded a landscaped garden and pond. During the Kamakura period (late 12th–14th cent.), the shinden-zukuri was modified for the samurai class, and clusters of separate buildings were united under one roof. During this period the standard for domestic architecture was set and has been maintained to the present day.

The principal style of Japanese dwelling of the upper class is unexcelled for its refinement and simplicity. Interior posts form a supporting skeleton for the roof. The exterior walls usually consist of movable panels that slide in grooves. Wood panels (used at night or in rainy weather) alternate with screens of mounted rice paper (used in warm weather). The interior of the house is flexibly subdivided by screens ( shoji ) into a series of airy spaces. Important rooms are provided with a tokonoma, an alcove for the display of a flower arrangement and a few carefully chosen objects of art. Often a separate space is set aside for the tea ceremony, either incorporated within the house or constructed as a pavilion in the garden.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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