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 Japan study abroad program is designed to reinforce direct personal observation and experience as a way to study the local architecture, urbanity, culture and history of Japan. The program is evenly divided into both urban and rural experiences. While Tokyo is the home-base, the program will include at least 3 weeks of travel to rural areas to study Japan’s significant historical traditions, in addition to a week-long excursion via high-speed rail to visit several of Japan’s most important historical and culturally significant architectural sites. Locations for 2019 include; Ise, Nara, Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji, Kurashiki, Naoshima, Teshima, and Hiroshima.
The coursework for the seminars and the studio is workshop-driven, collaborative and at times, in-situ. Class time is spent in a public co-working space in central Tokyo with direct access to various digital prototyping tools, and daily exposure to both local and international designers and creative thinkers. While in Tokyo, students will use both analog and digital design techniques to map, visualize, model and analyze the city’s variety of building typologies and paradoxically complex and efficient infrastructure. By contrast, a significant portion of class time will be dedicated to the design, fabrication, and assembly of a full-scale prototype to be completed in Hida; a small town in the Gifu prefecture that is historically distinguished as a prominent location for traditional wood-joinery techniques, abundance of natural resources, and local timber industries. The Hida workshop is aimed at combining current computational design techniques with traditional craft, and provides students with the opportunity to work alongside of experienced experts in both arenas.
The program is supported by Loftwork Inc., FabCafe Tokyo and FabCafe Hida; organizations that foster innovative design-thinking via collaboration, by faculty of Meiji University and Tokyo University of Science, and by Shioya Sangyo; a 100 year old metals fabricator and sponsor of two prior workshops that exposed students to their industrial 6-axis steel laser cutter.
Courses (12 undergraduate/13 graduate credits)
• Studio: Hida Workshop - Traditional Joinery, Contemporary Craft (6 undergraduate/ 7 graduate credits)
• Technical Seminar: Mapping Tokyo - Architecture and Urbanity (3 credits)
• History / Theory Seminar: The Japanese House (3 credits)
*More detail on the coursework will be provided in a follow-up meeting in November 2018. Day/time TBD.
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 and rural regions. For the summer of 2019, it is intended that the group will meet at least three/four times per week in the dedicated studio space to discuss projects, complete work, and hold reviews with guest critics. The studio space is provided by FabCafe Tokyo and their recently opened co-op workspace, MTRL 2F. FabCafe provides free access to various materials and tools, power outlets, a monitor for presentations, printing, food/coffee, and laser-cutting (at a discounted rate). FabCafe Tokyo is a short walk from the main crossing at Shibuya Station, and within an estimated 30 minute commute from student apartments.
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. All apartments consist of basic amenities such as wireless internet, appliances, furnishings, and laundry. Apartments are within reasonable 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: