Friday 23 October, 6pm
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Ray Lucas (University of Manchester) will address the Japanese festival – Matsuri – and its relevance to architecture. Whilst a specifically located example, the subject speaks to larger themes under discussion in contemporary discourse in architecture, anthropology and event studies.

The work is the result of over 6 years of field visits, often for short periods to specific events, and will focus on the annual Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa, Tokyo, documenting the mobile, temporary, peripatetic, informal, appropriated and embodied architecture of the festive state of the city. The examples discussed bear the hallmarks of radical 1960s architecture by Cedric Price and Archigram, but with a basis in community going back centuries.


The aim of the work is to establish an Iterative Aesthetics; that is to say, a sensitivity to the temporality of design. In arguing that these festivals constitute architecture, contact is made with the literature on vernacular architecture that discusses buildings made by non-professional or non-specialist architects. This literature has moved significantly from its origins in celebrating traditional craft forms of building towards a sophisticated understanding of the patterns and improvisations underlying architecture practiced otherwise. Here, specialised Mikoshi builders are as important as shop-keepers who arrange a territory in front of their premises; as important as the neighbours who block a road to have a party or the peripatetic streetfood stall holders who pitch up at one festival after another. This architecture’s pleasure and sophistication often lies in its temporality rather than visual spectacle (although that is undeniably present in many cases), positioning the work in a place similar to Venturi, Scott Brown & Rauch’s (1960) on Las Vegas, finding a great many lessons for broader architectural and urban practices in these longstanding festivities.

The talk will elaborate the methods of a Graphic Anthropology discussed in the author’s earlier work (2020) and developed through collaboration with Tim Ingold, Jo Vergunst, Liz Hallam, Wendy Gunn, Anne Douglas, Mike Anusas, Jen Clarke, Rachel Harkness, and a range of other interlocutors in the ‘Knowing from the Inside’ research project. The work has also benefitted from discussions with Darko Radovic, Davisi Boontharm, Ohno Ryuzo, Yamada Kyota, and others based in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kyoto.

Ray Lucas is Reader in Architecture and Head of Humanities at Manchester School of Architecture. He is author of Anthropology for Architects (Bloomsbury, 2020); Drawing Parallels (Routledge, 2019); and co-editor of Architecture, Festival and the City (Routledge, 2018).


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