UB Architecture in Tokyo
With a population of over 13 million people, Tokyo is among some of the most densely populated cities in the world. Although expansive, Tokyo’s public transportation system allows both residents and tourists alike to get around the city’s 23 wards with ease. As Japan’s capital city, this bustling metropolis boasts a number of impressive architectural achievements including the recently constructed Tokyo Sky Tree, which holds the Guinness Record for the world’s tallest tower. Tokyo offers many exciting sites to explore such as the Mokubakan (an ancient Japanese theater) and Lotus Park. The capital also offers the enchanting Ueno Park where the National Museum is found as well as rows of traditional shops, restaurants, ornate Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Home to both the Imperial Palace and National Diet, Tokyo is where traditional Japanese values and cosmopolitan pop culture meet.
Re-built after WWII, Tokyo has a rich body of structures built on awkward, compact sites with multiple, often conflicting programs. The majority of these buildings are essentially architectural coincidences rather than forming part of the ‘designed’ city. The city also has a paradoxical tradition wherein many structures are habitually demolished and reconstructed. While New York has been thought of as the 20th century metropolitan model, Tokyo has been referred to as a model for the metropolitan future which, put into terms by architect Peter Wilson, is “not due to the appropriateness of its layout or the visibility of its architecture, but because of the apparent absence of these qualities.” The city is at once our laboratory and case study from which we will attempt to cull emergent behaviors and relationships between the physicality and use of urban public space. Concurrently, we will study dozens of high-profile buildings by leading architecture offices from around the world.
The coursework is designed to reinforce direct personal observation and experience as a way to study the complex urban conditions of Tokyo. Our intention is to engage in the emergent behavior of public spaces and develop structures / infrastructures that orchestrate large urban crowds and collectives through physical alterations, linkages, divisions, and suggested relationships. Students will use both analog and code-based design techniques to propose ways to map, visualize, model and analyze Tokyo’s rich variety of urban fabric, programmatic mixes, and constant relations to technology. Students are expected to be speculative, provocative, inquisitive, and inspired by their curiosity.
Coursework (12 undergraduate/13 graduate credits)
The studio is largely in-situ, meeting and working in various parts of the city. Class time in the city will be spent observing and collecting data specific to the production of in-depth and inventive mappings/drawings of Tokyo and designing architectural interventions within the context of these mappings.
• Technical Methods Seminar
This seminar will be comprised of two or more workshop sessions each with a particular focus, led by the program faculty in collaboration with professors and students from Meiji University, the cultural organization FabCafe Hida, and others.
• History, Theory Seminar
This seminar intends to expose students to Japan’s rich cultural heritage as a way to further understand Japan’s historic vernacular architecture, as well as more recent theoretical positions by leading Japanese architects.
**Students are highly encouraged to bring their own laptop computers, as the majority of the work will be done digitally.
The technical seminar is organized into a set of two, one-week long intensive workshops with prominent institutions and organizations in Tokyo. Topics ranged from collaborative design charrettes based on the Nakagin Capsule Tower; a built example of the Japanese Metabolist movement, to unique cultural visits that exposed students to traditional Japanese wood joinery techniques. Workshops for the 2017 program were hosted by Meiji University (Nakano Campus) and FabCafe Hida, within a small town in Gifu that is well known for its traditional wood joinery, abundance of natural resources, and local timber industries. Previous programs have held advanced digital fabrication workshops in collaboration with the Tokyo University of Science and Shioya Sangyo, a prominent metals fabricator based in Onahama.
Class-time is usually split between in-situ coursework, walking tours and dedicated studio space. The program places a particular focus on direct cultural experience, so we spend a portion of class time in the city. For the summer of 2018, it is intended that the group will meet at least three times per week in the dedicated studio space for the entire day to discuss projects, complete work, and hold reviews with guest critics. The studio space will likely be provided by FabCafe Tokyo and their recently opened co-op workspace, 100Banch. Previous trips have held class at Shibaura House, a community organization based in a building designed by the internationally recognized architect Kazuyo Sejima, partner within the Pritzker Prize winning office SANAA. Supplemental classroom space may be provided by Meiji University and FabCafe Hida.
General Daily Schedule (Subject to Change)
week 1 Tokyo tour (1 day), 100Banch (2 days), fieldwork (1 day), architecture walking tour (1 day)
week 2 100 Banch (3 days), fieldwork (1 day), architecture walking tour (1 day)
week 3 Meiji University workshop (4 days), fieldwork (1 day)
week 4 FabCafe Tokyo (3 days), Shibaura House (1 day, mid-term review), travel week preparations (1 day)
week 5 Travel Week (7 days - see below)
week 6 FabCafe Hida workshop (5 days)
week 7 100Banch (3 days), fieldwork (1 days), cultural visits (1 day)
week 8 100Banch (3 days), fieldwork (1 day), architecture walking tours (1 day)
week 9 FabCafe Tokyo (3 days), Shibaura House (1 day, final review), program wrap-up (1 day)
Similar to previous programs, the 5th week of the trip is spent traveling throughout the south of Japan using high-speed rail commonly known as ‘bullet trains’, or Shinkansen. Led by the faculty, the group visits some of Japan’s most important historical and culturally significant architectural sites. The trip also includes a tour of several prominent modern and contemporary buildings from some of the world’s leading architects. See the below schedule for a list of visited locations and historical/cultural visits from the 2017 program. Dates for the summer of 2018 are tentative and are subject to change.
Day 1, June 25 travel: Tokyo to Ise _ visit: Ise Shrines
travel: Ise to Kyoto (3 nights)
Day 2, June 26 Kyoto _ visits (bicycle tour): selected shrines and temples (Ryoan-ji temple, etc), Gion historic district
Day 3, June 27 Kyoto _ visits: selected shrines and temples (Katsura Imperial Villa, etc), Nishiki Market
Day 4, June 28 travel: Kyoto to Nara _ visits: Todai-ji Temple and other historic sites
travel: Nara to Osaka (1 night)
Day 5, June 29 travel: Osaka to Himeji _ visit: Himeji Castle
travel: Himeji to Kurashiki _ visit: Kurashiki City Hall (Tange), Bikan Historic Quarter
travel: Kurashiki to Fukuoka (2 nights)
Day 6, June 30 Fukuoka _ visits: various modern/contemporary buildings by Ito, Holl, Koolhaas, Kurokawa, and Rossi
Day 7, July 1 travel: Fukuoka to Hiroshima
visits: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (Tange)
travel: Hiroshima to Tokyo
Students will be provided accommodations in apartment buildings that are located in popular and distinct neighborhoods throughout central Tokyo. There will likely be two students per apartment with the exception of larger apartments that may accommodate up to three students. All apartments consist of basic amenities such as wireless internet, appliances, furnishings, and laundry. Apartments in previous trips have been in close walking distance to subway stations, providing direct access to the program’s studio space and the majority of Tokyo’s best neighborhoods.
Estimated costs for this program can be found at the top of this page next to Budget Sheets by clicking on Summer.
UB students are encouraged to apply for study abroad scholarships. To learn more about the scholarships available to UB students, please visit our scholarships page.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Please contact the Faculty Program Director: