Tsuyoshi Tane: The Garden House

18.11.2023 – 26.05.2024

Vitra Design Museum Gallery

The presentation »Tsuyoshi Tane: The Garden House« at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery is dedicated to the recently constructed Tane Garden House on the Vitra Campus. With a footprint of barely 15 square metres, the house combines a rooftop viewing platform for Campus visitors and a meeting room for the gardeners who tend the grounds. Tsuyoshi Tane understood that this project was small in scale, but large in meaning. This is reflected in the Japanese architect’s unique design approach, which is based on an intensive research process that explores the local context in order to utilize traditional handicrafts as well as regional resources. The exhibition, which was conceived by the architect, presents study models, architectural mock-ups and drawings of the building, along with impressions of the close collaboration with local artisans. 

The idea to build a garden house on the Vitra Campus was initiated by Vitra Chairman Emeritus Rolf Fehlbaum. In a 2020 message to Tsuyoshi Tane, Fehlbaum wrote: »The Oudolf Garten and the Tane Garden House will be the first manifestations of the increasing awareness of climate change on the Vitra Campus. It is therefore essential that the Garden House – in terms of material, construction, and way of being used – meets high standards of sustainability.«

Tsuyoshi Tane uses the term »above ground« to describe his approach to the project, questioning the overuse of »underground resources« as a standard in our building culture. The use of renewable above-ground materials such as thatch and wood was partially inspired by historic buildings in the Swiss open-air museum Ballenberg, and Tane collaborated with local craftspeople to implement this project with regional materials and building techniques. As someone who puts great emphasis on the importance of neighbourhood networks, Tsuyoshi Tane sought out artisans in the vicinity, whom he refers to as »neighbours«. 

Like an archaeologist, Tane started with a long period of exploration, researching the »memory of the place« where the project was being planned. Tsuyoshi Tane calls this approach »Archaeology of the Future«. The presentation in the Vitra Design Museum Gallery reveals how such archaeological research and the ensuing creative process gave rise to the final building on the Vitra Campus. Over one hundred concept models and mock-ups capture the dynamic transformation through multiple phases of trial and error. The structural components are not only parts of the building, but also document the collective knowledge of regional materials and craftsmanship: for example, the traditional thatched roof, the trough fountain carved from a single log, or the ropemaking techniques used for the staircase balustrade. At the same time, the exhibited architectural models demonstrate Tane’s engagement with the garden house typology, from the aristocratic pavilion to the utilitarian tool shed. The result is a contemporary building that strives to minimize its ecological footprint within the local conditions. The exhibition takes an analogous approach, exclusively using materials recycled from the Garden House construction.