Copy/Photography: Timothy Liao

When I first saw an advertisement for “Kengo Kuma: Park of Materials” exhibition, it immediately caught by attention because of the word “materials.” Regardless of which field of design including product, interior, packaging, etc., all of them involve the fundamental element of material. Take Japanese design for example, they have long been infamous for their expertise and knowledge of various materials’ compositions and characteristics that has allowed them to become stunning designers. Upon also seeing the name of an internationally-renowned Japanese architect associated with this exhibition, I knew I could not miss out and had to visit the exhibition.

Kengo Kuma is famous for his countless architecture and building designs that reflect his design philosophy of modesty. What does modesty mean in terms of design philosophy? For Mr. Kuma, it means that every building or architectural design needs to take into account the natural environment and local cultural. Each design should be fortified around where those natural habitats and people coincide. His design philosophy also incorporates the tenet that architecture is alive and should be built around connecting people to each other rather than built to serve as a memorial or monument. If buildings can make people feel happier and more prosperous then this can have a positive ripple effect on those who may not reside directly in the building, but will still visit or pass by. Kengo Kuma’s designs are just this, they are known around the world to be the center of gravity in many locations that draw people together.

In order to fulfill Mr. Kuma’s modesty design philosophy, materials becomes a crucial element. For an architectural design to be modest, its needs to lessen how much it takes away from the radiance of the local environment. When people are gathered together or participating in an event located inside a structure that is considered a “modest design,” one will be able to easily understand the different materials and components that make up the architecture as they will easily portray and demonstrate its unique characteristics. Kengo Kuma’s designs are iconic and easily identifiable, they are known to reflect the Buddhist concept of non-self (in Hindu it’s referred to as anatta) or the notion of humans coexisting with the environment. Mr. Kuma has ample experience and research into a variety of key materials such as wood, bamboo, sheet rock, paper, glass, bricks, etc., as well as working with all the different geographical elements from water to air and light. Its from his findings and experience that he has been able to master how to create architectural masterpieces that perfectly coexist with the natural environments.

At the end of 2018, the “Kango Kuma: Park of Materials” exhibition took place in Taichung at the CMP Block Museum of Arts. The exhibition sprawled across both inside and outside locations, illuminating his notion of modest design. His outdoor exhibitions included over 30 projects that represented 30 years of his work with various materials including bamboo, wood, paper, dirt, rock, gold, metal, resin, fiber, glass, and more. He used these exhibits to explain how they were used in each of his designs.

The exhibition’s conversation started with the ticket stub and began the conversation on the use of materials.

This exhibition was divided into 5 major sections: A# – CMP Block Museum of Arts, B# – Large-scale Works, C# – Image Narratives, D# – Architectural Models, and E# – Collaborative Creations

A#-CMP Block Museum of Arts

“We are not just a museum, but rather an experiential environmental that serves to advance the concept of aesthetics.” Over the past six years, this venue has been the center of explaining many of Taichung’s development stories from a design perspective.

When first walking into the exhibition, I was a little curious why the first section was only about discussing the history of this exhibition venue. But later I realized that this venue has already made a deal with Kengo Kuma to renovate this museum and will make a new opening in 2020 for everyone to be able to visit and enjoy.

B# – Large-scale Works

Being the first time in Taipei to have an art exhibit incorporate outside displays, the attendees could easy transfer from the inside projects and information to seeing the models displayed outside.
The first works to be seen in the outdoor section was the famous Kodama and Tsumiki constructions. This is the first time Kengo Kama displayed his previous creations in a 1:1 ratio in Asia and the first time to be outdoors was selected to be here in Taiwan. Regardless of age, all visitors could find enjoyment in these displays because if the art and design doesn’t interest you then maybe the fact that it resembles a toy building brick recreational park! Visitors could even use miniature models to use the individual pieces that mimic the main exhibits and create their own unique architectural masterpieces.

C# – Image Narratives

How do grand architectures get born? How do the materials that create them interact? Through audio and imagery, the exhibit explained 11 different skills that Kengo Kuma has used in his previous works.

At the unique outdoor exhibition venue of CMP Block Museum of Arts, visitors could rotate amongst various different cottages that offered different stories about Kengo Kuma’s style and portfolio development. Each house provided different multimedia to explain the different stories. The designs of these houses even reflected Mr. Kuma’s modest design philosophy as each one was designed with mirrors that reflected the nearby nature exemplifying the notion of design coexist with the natural environment.

D# – Architectural Models

The exhibit offered around 40 different models of genuine works created across the entire globe.

Section D was a very important section of the exhibition as visitors were able to see over 40 models of Kengo Kuma’s genuine work creations. From these models, visitors were able to see how Kengo Kuma’s team was able to take concept ideas and turn them into real-life creations as well as understand the intricate details that demonstrate the realism of each design and interaction with the natural setting including how the light penetrates through each construction. Since the real works were all created in different years, it was fascinating to also be able to see how Mr. Kuma’s modesty design concept evolved over three decades and how it got applied in different parts of the world.

This time the exhibition in Taiwan focused on about 10 different materials including glass, fiber, wood, stone, brick and others as well as how some have implemented some materials local to Taiwan such as pearl textiles and bamboo from Miaoli.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the space to explain each model, but I hope you can enjoy the photos I have shared below that document some of the pieces exhibited at the event and illustrate Kengo Kuma’s design concepts as they relate to materials and structures.


The concept of breaking down materials and bringing them back together in a simplistic way to create intimate constructions.


The use of taking small components and combing them together to create large and sturdy entities.


Using small units to collectively work together and prop up the creations.


Gottfried Semper recognized that many forms of architecture are created using weave techniques.


Sometimes the important details are hidden away at first glance, but can serve an important purpose for the spatial design.


Landscaping is a great opportunity to connect the design of multiple structures to make them more harmonious with their natural surroundings.

After exploring this section of brilliant designs, visitors were also introduced to Kengo Kuma’s plan to renovate the CMP Block Museum of Arts which is expected to be completed in 2020. Mr. Kuma expects to connect the architectural space with the landscape and to use lots of natural materials to create a natural coexistence that will be familiar to the locals. This project is certainly worthy of expectation!

E# – Collaborative Creations

Kengo Kuma’s exhibition in Taiwan is the first one that included an interactive piece that involved inviting the audience to come and help to finish together called Namoko (sea cucumber in Japanese).

Right before the exit, there was one last display that was a symbol of common belief between Kengo Kuma and CMP Block Museum of Arts which is that art involves interaction. That is why Kengo Kuma invited all attendees to take the zip tie that was attached to their exhibition ticket and help add it to the Namoko piece to finish the design.

As a way to reflect his gratitude to the citizens of Taichung for helping finish Namako, he said that “the future version of the CMP Block Museum of Arts will be a figurative love letter gifted to them as thanks.” The mission of CMP Block Museum of Arts is that art is not only reserved to the professionals, but it is something that everyone can take apart of and enjoy in their lives. The new version of the museum will be built into an interactive architectural exhibition park where everyone can participate in the operation, opening up the gap between people and the building.

Documenting this exhibition experience is too difficult in a limited amount of space because it truly elicited more thoughts and ideas that I can write down in one blog. I included a video I created from my visit which I hope can add to passage and give you a better understanding of the exhibition overall.