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By Y. Taniguchi. New York: Harry N. Abrams. 1999. [pounds]79.95

Some years ago on a trip to Japan I sat in a three hour traffic jam with Yoshio Taniguchi on our way to the Tokyo Aquarium, a multibillion yen project then under construction. On arrival at the vast building site, the foreman handed Taniguchi a dozen or so tiny transparent sachets - each containing a cementous powder in a different shade of grey.

I observed as the contents of each sachet was carefully examined, first in bright light, then in shade, then sprinkled onto the tiled floor. I remained mystified by this ritual, until Taniguchi explained that he was selecting 'the correct shade of grey' for the grout. This small event epitomizes Taniguchi's uncompromising and relentless attention to detail.

Taniguchi is one of the few architectural giants practising today for whom design is far more than the pouring Out of an elusive 'talent' but a discipline. A discipline that demands honing of the senses and training of the eye - where Corbusier 'learned to see' and continually sharpened his senses through his paintings and sculptures, Taniguchi practises the art of calligraphy, repeating a particular stroke on reams of scrap newspaper perhaps hundreds of times.

As in calligraphy, where the space created by the stroke assumes a higher significance than the stroke itself, Taniguchi's architectural spaces assume a power far beyond the form of the walls and columns that contain it.

As you turn the pages of this sumptuous book you learn to appreciate that basic universal principles like generosity of spirit, humanity, proportions and composition drive his work and invariably give rise to outstanding buildings. In the past 35 years Taniguchi has avoided transigent style but practised architecture as a discipline based on underlining principles.

Taniguchi continued his father's inspired tradition to work with his great mentor and friend the sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Their collaboration at the Ken Domon Museum of Photography, richly illustrated in the book with 16 superb colour pages, resulted in an architectural masterpiece hardly known to anyone outside Japan.

Up till now Taniguchi has resisted publication of his work, perhaps because the power of his exquisitely executed details and the serenity of his spaces can easily be lost on the printed page and can only truly be felt on a journey through his supremely crafted buildings.

Nonetheless this resplendent coffee table book with its staggering 440 crisp and luscious photographs must be the next best thing to a trip to Japan. This long overdue title will inspire many architects outside Japan and allow them to discover the work of one of the world's few great architectural heavyweights.
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Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1999
Next Article:ROMANIAN MODERNISM: the Architecture of Bucharest, 1920-1940.

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