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Modern Japanese Architecture - AEARU

Enrollment in this course is by invitation only

About This Course

Let's examine how architecture was impacted by Japanese history. We'll begin first of all with Japan's emergence as a new nation in the mid-19th century. Its Western-style capital city of Tokyo grew upon the foundations of 17th-century Edo surrounding a feudal castle. But, before long, changing methods and materials of building foretold a different age. By the end of the 19th century, a radical contrast between tradition and modernism was already manifest in Japanese architecture.

We will first explore the intense Westernization set in motion by the Japanese to copy European and American lifestyles. Then we'll see how architects began to seek out their own version of early 20th-century Modernism. As a starting point, Japanese followed the novel discoveries of the Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier and up-to-date approach of Walter Gropius, director of the German Bauhaus. Meanwhile, Japan had begun to train its own 20th-century architects and evolve its own distinct style. Following World War II, Kenzo Tange became the first Japanese architect to achieve international fame and others soon followed.

Lastly, we've created an interview-based case study with our Teaching Assistants titled “Exploring Tokyo Tech’s Twenty-First Century O-okayama Campus.” Our own Tokyo Institute of Technology (aka Tokyo Tech) possesses a unique and unbroken succession of architects as well as a main campus consisting of their buildings. We will learn about Professor Kazuo Shinohara, one of the most prominent Japanese designers of the second half of the 20th century, plus several of his renowned disciples at Tokyo Tech.

The course aims to discuss and illustrate the roots of Modernist and so-called postmodernist building in Japan, over the past 150 years. Also, how these fit with the 130-year history of Tokyo Tech itself. We welcome you to join us on this journey through time as we analyze and admire Japan’s architecture to better understand its history.

What you will learn

  • How and why today’s Japanese architecture still differs from the West
  • A brief cultural history of Japan in the modern period
  • Greater understanding of the works of several prominent Japanese designers
  • Materials and design methods used by architects in Japan
  • Overall goals and constraints affecting Japanese architects today

Meet the Instructors

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David B. Stewart

Professor Stewart has taught at Tokyo Tech, Japan's leading national university of science and technology, since 1976. After completing a B.A. Hon. at the University of Pennsylvania (1964), he was awarded a Ph.D. from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London (1972) for research on the architect Le Corbusier. He has also been a member of the editorial staff of L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui (Paris) and is the author of The Making of a Modern Japanese Architecture: 1868 to the Present and the monograph Kazuo Shinohara, Centennial Hall, Tokyo.

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Koichi Yasuda

With a B.E./Arch. (1981) and an M.E./Arch (1983) from Tokyo Tech, he originally joined Nikken Sekkei, Ltd., Architects, Planners, and Engineers in Tokyo. He went on to work in New York with the well-known Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi from 1988 to 1990. After obtaining an M. Arch. from Yale University in 1989, he returned to found Yasuda Atelier in 2002 and teach at Tokyo Tech. In 2006 he was awarded a Ph.D./Arch. and became full professor at Tokyo Tech the next year. Today one of the most distinguished architects at work in Japan, Professor Yasuda has also published widely in Japanese on architecture and the city.