February 03: a house for viewing the moon in

2012/02/03 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1579 Prince Hachijō Toshihito was born.

The prince grew up to be a well-educated man with deep cultural interests.  Like many aristocrats of his generation he was under the spell of a tenth-century novel about an amorous princeling called the Tale of Genji.  He set out to build a villa that would live up to the scenes he imagined in the story, in particular, the passages that describe the reflection of the moon on water, and the elegant parties of courtiers who gather to watch the moon.

His creation was the core of Katsura Imperial Villa, construction of which was carried on by his son and others.  In all, it is the epitome of Japanese villa architecture.  Asymmetrical pavilions arranged around the modularity of tatami mats seem to be placed casually around a verdant garden of shrubs, trees, rocks, flowering things, and plays of water.  Screen walls open to reveal images of the landscape that are perfect enough to appear on a hanging scroll.

It all looks so natural, because really none of it is.  All natural materials (meaning non-industrially-produced) to be sure, entire thing is artifice, a fiction like the story that inspired it.  Like all great fictions, both written and built, it creates a new world that we are all the better for having visited.

Image: “Geppa-ro: Shokin-tei View” by jpellgen (from this source)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jpellgen/3681381609/

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You are currently reading February 03: a house for viewing the moon in at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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