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Toru Asano

(b Tokyo, Jan 18, 1901; d Tokyo, March 22, 1977).

Japanese writer, director and painter. Although he entered Tokyo Imperial University in 1921 with the intention of studying philosophy, he soon left to study in Berlin, where he became absorbed in painting and drama. Initially fascinated by the work of Vasily Kandinsky and by Constructivism, he later became dissatisfied with the detachment of Constructivist works from the concrete properties of objects; he decided it was possible to provoke concrete associations, and to obtain a variety of sensory effects using real or ‘ready-made’ objects. He named this method (a kind of collage or assemblage) ‘conscious constructivism’. An example of this is Construction (1925; Tokyo, N. Mus. Mod. A.)

On returning to Japan in 1923, he formed the small avant-garde group Mavo. He continued to exhibit works while publishing provocative criticism in art magazines and the Mavo magazine (founded in 1924). He immediately became a central figure in the avant-garde art movement of the Taisho period (...

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Hajime Yatsuka

(b Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefect., July 24, 1904; d Tokyo, Feb 2, 1979).

Japanese architect and writer. He graduated from the architecture department of Tokyo Imperial University in 1928 and established his own office in Tokyo in 1930. He began his career as an avant-garde designer. His first work, the Hydraulics Laboratory (1932) at Tokyo Institute of Technology, was a radically functionalist building, regarded as one of the first Constructivist works in Japan. He also criticized Le Corbusier in 1930 for élitism and a lack of practical concern. However, the Hydraulics Laboratory and other modernist works of this period such as the Keio Kindergarten (1937), Tokyo, reveal a classical sense of order in their composition, and, during his visit to Germany in 1938, he was most impressed by the Neo-classical works of Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Heinrich Tessenow.

After his return to Japan, he adopted a style quite different from his earlier modernism: buildings designed for Keio University, Tokyo, after World War II, for example the Department of Medicine (...