Streets, Buildings, and Gardens: Japanese Culture in Constructed Artifacts

Winter Study Abroad: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Naoshima

A Wintermester Program, Streets, Buildings, and Gardens: Japanese Culture in Constructed Artifacts, in Japan for two weeks in January every two years is offered by the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech to all A+D students.

Faculty Member of Record: Prof. Aki Ishida
Course Credits: 3 credits
Type: Off-campus

Learning Objectives/Indicators

All course content and associated research will be directed to advance first-hand knowledge of the architecture and built environment of Japan. The principal learning objective is to study architecture and the urban artifact in an aboard cultural and non-Western context (NAAB Student Performance Criteria # 9: Non-Western Traditions: Understanding of parallel and divergent canons and traditions of architecture and urban design in the non-Western world.)

Prerequisites: Architecture + Design students in 2nd year to post-graduate program with a desire to learn under the guidance of a teacher where a short study tour of Japan could be valuable to their growth and learning are welcome.

Curriculum/Courses offered: For architecture students, ARCH 2984 (Special Study, variable credit course, no prerequisite) or ARCH 4984 (Special Study, variable credit course, no prerequisite) are the courses offered.

Program description

This is an opportunity to see firsthand, under the guidance of a Virginia Tech faculty native to Japan, the influences that traditional Japanese architecture and landscape has had on the contemporary Japanese architecture. The students will observe and begin to identify how the Modern Japanese architects, following the destructions of World War II, endeavored to reconstruct Japan by reexamining the European Modernism and generating an architectural language that was distinct from that of the West. With a decided focus on dense urban contexts of Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka, the students will observe and analyze how traditional and contemporary urban buildings respond to and influence the surrounding site. After returning, the students will organize an exhibit in the Cowgill lobby to present their discoveries, insights, and understandings of their queries.

Credits: 3 (three) credits will be given in the School of Architecture + Design. The instructor will provide required readings for group discussions on particular interest on Japan. They will include essays by Kenzgo Kange, Kisho Kurokawa, Arata Isozaki, Tadao Ando, Kengo Kuma, and Toyo Ito. In additions, we will have pre-trip screenings of films set in Japan, including Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Sans Soleil by Chris Marker, and films by the director Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa.

Travel Itinerary

In order to study Japanese architecture in dense urban contexts, we will visit the two largest metropolitan regions in Japan – Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka. The city of Tokyo suffered significant damages in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the World War II bombing raids. It is a city in which a large portion was rebuilt following 1945. This provides a fascinating context in which to examine the impact of radical thinking of Modern Japanese architects, including Kenzo Tange and Kisho Kurokawa. In the recent economic boom, Tokyo region was the site of many acclaimed buildings by both domestic and international architects including the Yokohama International Passenger Terminal and the Tokyo International Forum.

The ancient capital of Kyoto, unlike Tokyo, was protected from the air raids of the war. As a result, the traditional temples, shrines, gardens, the major processional streets as well as the small side streets remain intact, as if it were a living outdoor museum. This offers a captivating environment in which to study the relationships between the streets and architecture as described by Kisho Kurokawa in his 1963 essay Architecture of the Street. Unlike the Western agoras and piazzas, the Japanese temples and buildings were built along boulevards. He explained that this organization was adopted to accommodate festivals which were the form of processions than mass assemblies in a plaza. We will examine how this relationship between the street and buildings influenced the design of facades and plans of traditional townhouses. Finally, we will see how this intimate connection between the street and building interior is manifest in buildings by Tadao Ando, an Osaka native, in the dense urbanity of Kyoto and Osaka.

For approximate budget and schedule, see the course on the Global Education Office’s website.