President and Representative Director of Karl Bengs and Associates Ltd.
A word from KBAA president, Karl Bengs
When I first arrived to Japan, it was the beginning of the second wave of high economic growth. Wooden buildings lined the streets of Ginza and I felt the “old-fashioned” Japanese aura everywhere. But as Japan’s economy prospered, buildings were made in conformity to the modern lifestyle, and the landscape changed drastically. Wherever I went, I could find neither the unique culture of an area nor the aura of life. The landscapes had become expressionless.
Higashiyama Kaii gave me the words, “A town without old buildings is the same as a person without memories.” If something is old, it is not worthless. Old things are filled with history and memories, and they are more than just things.
With the rise of mass production and disposable items, the Japanese may be forgetting to take care of their everyday things. It is sad to see what is becoming of such impressive culture that Japan had continued until recently. I wish to tell future generations about this fabulous culture through my works.
Minka revival is not just about rebuilding a house. I believe that Minka revival will provide an opportunity for us to review and reconsider the sense of value that arises from Japan’s current “scrap and build” culture.
Born in Berlin, Germany in 1942.
His father was a painter working mainly on the restoration of old paintings in castles and churches.
Bengs found an interest in Japan through the books of Bruno Taut and Japanese “Ukiyoe” prints that his father left behind. (Bruno Taut was a German architect known for his deep appreciation of the beauty of Japanese architecture.)
His first travel to Japan was in 1966. He studied judo and karate at Nihon University then spent the following 7 years in Japan.
Upon return, he began creating architectural designs in Dusseldorf and worked both in Japan and Germany.
He was especially fond of the traditional homes of Japan and began importing old Japanese housing parts to Germany in order to “revive” them there.
He designed mainly residential buildings in Dusseldorf as well as in other European cities such as Cologne, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Paris.
In 1993, he visited the Takedokoro village in the former town of Matsudai and purchased an old thatched “minka,” which was built during the Edo period.
He revived the building and established it as his permanent residence, So-kaku-an.
2001 Niigata Wooden House Competition
2007 Ango Awards, Special Award of Niigata City
2015 Tokamachi City 10th Anniversary Certificate of Appreciation
2017 Prime Minister’s Award for the Hometown Development Grand Prize