Delvendahl Martin’s inspiration: Katsura Imperial Villa, Kyoto

IMG_2869_Main entrance to the villa complex at Katsura Imperial Villa

Nikolai Delvendahl and Eric Martin explain how the modernist view of the imperial palace misses all the emotion

Katsura Imperial Villa and Garden, Kyoto, Japan

Completed: circa 1615-56

We were already working as Delvendahl Martin Architects when we saw Katsura. We had read about it as a key example of traditional Japanese architecture, but mainly from the point of view of modernist architects, who were impressed by how both its aesthetics and its approach to building in modules based on tatami mat dimensions related to modern construction.

But when we visited, separately, we both found Katsura to be very different to what we imagined. We’d expected the very modern references, and it was certainly inspirational from the point of view of its clarity, modularity and clean lines. But nothing really prepares you for how the villa works in relation to human scale.

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