Temporal Architecture: Poetic Dwelling in Japanese buildings

  • Michael Lazarin


Heidegger’s thinking about poetic dwelling and Derrida’s impressions of Freudian estrangement are employed to provide a constitutional analysis of the experience of Japanese architecture, in particular, the Japanese vestibule (genkan). This analysis is supplemented by writings by Japanese architects and poets. The principal elements of Japanese architecture are: (1) ma, and (2) en. Ma is usually translated as ‘interval’ because, like the English word, it applies to both space and time.  However, in Japanese thinking, it is not so much an either/or, but rather a both/and. In other words, Japanese architecture emphasises the temporal aspect of dwelling in a way that Western architectural thinking usually does not. En means ‘joint, edge, the in-between’ as an ambiguous, often asymmetrical spanning of interior and exterior, rather than a demarcation of these regions. Both elements are aimed at producing an experience of temporality and transiency.

Author Biography

Michael Lazarin

Michael Lazarin was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1950. As an undergraduate, he was a double major in mechanical engineering and philosophy. Lazarin received a PhD from Duquesne Universtiy in 1980, with a dissertation on Heidegger and Hölderlin, directed by Father Andre Schuwer. He taught literature in China from 1982-94 and since then literature and philosophy in Japan. Lazarin teaches Western literature and art history at the undergraduate level at Ryukoku University, a 370 year-old Buddhist university in Kyoto. His graduate seminar is a three-year rotation of Aristotle’s Poetics, Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy, and Heidegger’s critique of technology and Japanese aesthetics.

How to Cite
LAZARIN, Michael. Temporal Architecture: Poetic Dwelling in Japanese buildings
. FOOTPRINT, [S.l.], p. 97-112, june 2008. ISSN 1875-1490. Available at: <https://journals.library.tudelft.nl/index.php/footprint/article/view/689>. Date accessed: 18 feb. 2019. doi: https://doi.org/10.7480/footprint.2.2.689.