Charting A Parallel World

Photographer Jan Vranovsky captures the modest and understated serenity of Japanese architecture in his series ‘Parallel World’

At first gathering photographic research to inform part of his studies as an architect, Vranovsky has been documenting modest, unassuming places across Japan that draw parallels in modernism, Japanese architectural tradition and building principles.

From quiet back streets to large industrial spaces, his images capture a slice of calm and balance in a city known for its population density. Whilst many of the photos focus on scale and proportion in seemingly mundane spaces, incidental pattern and occasions of colour suggest life without the presence of people.

“After a while, I began to notice certain patterns in behavior of the city, distinctive features repeating in curious way throughout it’s urban fabric.”

In a statement about his work, Vranovsky says, ‘One thing I really appreciate in Japan is how they understand history, tradition. In Japanese understanding, (architectural) history is mainly the information: knowing how something is done and keeping this information alive, if the society finds it relevant. Very few buildings in Japan are made of original materials, everything is perpetually being rebuilt’. For a city in which buildings have an average life span of thirty years, his photos suggest at the possibility for change.

In contrast to this way of thinking Vranovský explains, ‘In Europe, we seem to be still quite obsessed with an idea that history is the actual piece of stone or brick, rather than the knowledge and tradition behind it. While the physical matter is always doomed to expire at some moment, the information can survive and evolve through reproduction. If we keep looking only at preserving the physical substance, we’re dangerously missing the point, and, ironically, we might kill the continuity completely.’

Human plays a huge role in my shots precisely in his absence. As we’re often used to see a city, (particularly Tokyo) as a shear backdrop for crowds of people and human activity, the simple act of striping the streets of any human element and turning the backdrop into actual subject is on its own a statement.

The resulting urban landscapes are full of unexpected, beautiful combinations and details, formed without intention, but rather emerging on their own as part of a living, breathing architectural ecosystem filled with tranquility and almost disturbing quite–ness.

Honest architecture that fits its initial conditions, without any architect’s ego or stylistic constriction.

In a city where the average lifespan of a building is around 30 years, these spaces suggest both the vulnerability and possibility of the city.

While skirting the edges of construction sites, Vranovský also developed a fascination with the hidden side of residential Japanese architecture – the backs and undersides of dwellings.

SourceParallel World, Biancissimo