When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan
Opening Thursday, March 11

Reserve Tickets

As its first exhibition upon reopening to the public, Japan Society is pleased to present When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan. Opening on the tenth anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the exhibition celebrates the resilient spirit of Japanese architecture and craftsmanship through woodworking tools, architectural patterns, and models. Featuring a variety of hand tools and wooden models reflecting joinery techniques that have been used for hundreds of years to build Japan’s wooden architectural masterpieces (from temples and shrines to bridges), the exhibition unpacks the intangible qualities of craftsmanship, such as consummate experience, expertise, and the honed skills of master carpenters in Japanese architecture.

A diverse array of tools—planes, chisels, saws—have played an important role in the development of architecture in Japan, and this philosophy extends to Japan’s cultural heritage today. Integral to the processes of master carpenters (tōryo) is their extensive knowledge of the local environment and of wood as a material. Using natural resources and learning from their predecessors’ practices, they construct buildings using a refined methodology. Their philosophy of sustainability—for example, joinery can be restored or repaired as needed by future craftspeople—has been handed down over generations. The site-specific exhibition design, conceived by the esteemed architect Sou Fujimoto in collaboration with Brooklyn-based Popular Architecture, introduces major themes from the exhibition and is in dialogue with the gallery’s spaces, highlighting an enduring connection between traditional Japanese wooden construction and modern architecture.

To celebrate the reopening of Japan Society, we are designating March as TAKENAKA CORPORATION’S Free Admission Month. Visitors can reserve complimentary advance timed tickets online, dispensed a first come, first served basis.

View our visitor guidelines and safety protocols here.
Admission from April: $12/$10 students and seniors.

Exhibition-Related Programming

Trowel Chisel
Carpentry Tools Demonstration (Online)
April 2021 (TBD)
May 2021 (TBD)
Join a master carpenter (toryo) in this two-part series of demonstrations highlighting how to use traditional Japanese carpentry tools and techniques. In partnership with Kezurou-kai USA, each event will focus on a different tool. This is a free event with advanced registration required.

Logging Broadaxe
Carpentry Tools Workshop (Online)
April 2021 (TBD)
Join a master carpenter (toryo) in this two-hour workshop as they demonstrate traditional techniques in Japanese carpentry and share strategies for tool usage. In partnership with Kezurou-kai USA. Advanced registration is required (maximum capacity of 20). Tickets: $50/$40 members

Roughing Saw
Family Workshop (Online)
June 6, 2021, 1:30 PM EDT
This educational workshop invites guests to create their own architectural space inspired by the exhibition, using materials found in the home. For families and caretakers with children aged 5–11. Advanced registration required (maximum number of families 20). Tickets: $30/$24 members. Event registration includes 2 tickets to the on-site gallery exhibition.

Sou Fujimoto
Sou Fujimoto (Online)
June 24, 2021
This keynote lecture by the acclaimed Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, who supervised this exhibition design, discusses his work and connections between contemporary architectural practice and traditional craftsmanship. Tickets: $12/$10 students and seniors; free for members. Event registration includes admission to the on-site gallery exhibition.

Selected Works

Exhibition Preview

Digital Catalogue

A complimentary downloadable digital publication with full color images, and commissioned drawings and design by artist Nathan Antolik, with a supplemental coloring book of tools also available. Download will be available from March 11, 2021.

Visitor Information

Note: The Gallery is temporarily closed for the installation of our spring exhibition, When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan, opening on March 11.

Gallery Hours (opening March 11):
Thursday—Sunday, 11 AM—5 PM, with timed tickets
Closed Monday—Wednesday and on major holidays.

Timed Tickets:
Reservations open February 11 for Individual and Corporate Members and February 25 for the General Public
$12/$10 students and seniors
Free Admission from March 11—March 28, courtesy of the TAKENAKA CORPORATION - first come, first serve, with advance timed ticket reservations
Free Admission always for members, patrons with disabilities and an accompanying Personal Care Assistant
  Docent-led Tours, Online:
Upon request
Take an immersive, multimedia tour of the exhibition led by a Japan Society docent. Two weeks advance request recommended.
Pricing: flat rate (up to 40 people) for adults ($150); University students and seniors ($100)

Student Group Tours:
K-12 school groups can schedule virtual gallery tours for an interactive art experience led by trained museum educators, who incorporate close-looking, personal connections, inquiry, and related activities for K-12 students. Two weeks advance request recommended.

When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan is supported by Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum, Japan.

Additional funds are generously provided by TAKENAKA CORPORATION, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.

Takenaka NYDCA

Exhibitions and Arts & Culture Lecture Programs at Japan Society are made possible, in part, by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund, the Mary Griggs Burke Endowment Fund established by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, Masako H. Shinn, Raphael and Jane Bernstein, Friends of the Gallery, and an anonymous donor. Support for Arts & Culture Lecture Programs is provided, in part, by the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund.

Transportation assistance is provided by Japan Airlines, the exclusive Japanese airline sponsor of Gallery.

Image: Courtesy of Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum.
Catalogue image © Nathan Antolik, 2021.

Calendar of Events

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