Kathryn Findlay

kathryn findlay

When we first put together ‘My Japan, My Britain’ for Japan400, we were looking for ways to celebrate the encounter between Britain and Japan. Some encounters are recent, some are long-standing and all express finding something special in each other’s culture.

One person who symbolises this encounter was Kathryn Findlay, a brilliant and pioneering architect who, with her husband Ushida Eisaku created a new expressionist genre of architecture in Japan described as both modernist and surreal and typified by the organic ‘Soft and Hairy House’ built in 1994 in Tsukuba, Japan. Kathryn graduated from the Architecture Association in 1979. She became Associate Professor of Architecture at Tokyo University, Visiting Professor at the Technical University of Vienna and UCLA, and Honorary Professor at the University of Dundee and went on to create a significant and influential body of work in the UK. Sadly, Kathryn passed away early in 2014 but we discussed with her the ‘My Japan, My Britain’ project and she was an enthusiastic supporter. At the time of her death, on 10 January 2014, Kathryn was announced as winner of the 2014 Jane Drew Prize for her “outstanding contribution to the status of women in architecture”.

Therefore, on the occasion of re-launching ‘My Japan, My Britain’ with the Japan Society, we would like to share with you her magical thoughts about Suikinkutsu (水琴窟). Her daughter Miya says ‘I remember my mum doing impressions of the sound that a suikinkutsu makes. It was a sort of ‘plop plop’ sound and she was so enthusiastic! Even just the memory of this sound would make her feel calm and peaceful’.


Kathryn Findlay’s sketch of a Suikinkutsu (水琴窟)

Kathryn was always inspired by Japan, and in turn, Kathryn continues to inspire young architects and artists and all of us interested in the creative connections between Britain and Japan.

“My favourite sculpture does not have an author. It is generic and invisible. It is a hollow metal sphere with a hole cut into its top and buried under the earth and when it rains, the rainwater percolates the soil and drips into the hollow sphere and you hear the echo of water dripping into the metal cave. And it gives you an exchange of heat into cool and the sound is calming and there is nothing to see …’’

Find out more about Suikinkutsu, here 
Details of Kathryn’s projects including the ‘Soft and Hairy House’ can be found here.


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