Learning from emerging architectural principles

Learning from emerging architectural principles:

If role of architects is to act as constructive intermediary in society between the stake holders who actively change the built environment and the inhabitant, what should today’s architects aim be? In other words what are the key architectural principles that are applied to generate city of today and future?

Hong Kong’s majority of populations evolves around both residential and commercial environment that are constructed by powerful developers, who have been closely working alongside the government’s regulatory land supply policy introduced in 1960’s and in response to acute demographic changes in the past 50 years; Hong Kong population grew from less than 2 million to over 7.5 million between 1960 – 2010 mostly as result of migration from the mainland and the private sectors have been actively working with the government to meet the demands. Another dominant element is social housing estate also regulated by the government; currently about 3.2 million people lives in social housing estate managed by the housing authority, about 46% of Hong Kong’s population (as of 2012). With virtually no small scale private housing development opportunities, architecture principles in this city is often driven by the tremendous power of capitalism. However Hong Kong like any other city is constantly evolving; with various changes expected such as increased demands in quality of built environment by the people of Hong Kong, or need for diversification of development method to deal with regeneration of the old city fabric and ageing demography, are there emerging new architectural principles that can suitably be applied to meet the future conditions of Hong Kong?

School of Architecture, CUHK Japan Summer Trip 2013 organised by Yutaka Yano from SKY-YUTAKA, will visit and study selected list of buildings in Japan, which are built in different times and years spanning across a half century from 1960’s to the present day when the country has experienced profound changes in its cultural, social and economical framework. Japan, one of Asia’s most industrialised nation has been actively urbanising its land and the economy has experienced various changes in the last 50 years; After the Second World War, the country experienced highly successful economical development during 1960-1980, dubbed Japan post-war economic miracle, until the economic bubble in 1980’s with devastating economic crash in 1990’s followed by years of economical stagnation, slow recovery and another set back caused by the natural disaster in 11th March 2011. During these times, Japanese people’s outlook on their city and their reflection about its built environment has changed progressively; in another words, new modern architectural principles in Japan have been reflecting the changes in cultural, social and economical frameworks of their environment.

In the modern history of Architecture, rise of Metabolism in 1960’s World Design Conference in Tokyo, a visionally 20th century modern architecture movement for future cities depicted by a group of young Japanese architects led by Kenzo Tange[1] can be said to reflect the optimistic outlook at that time when the country’s economic development were gaining its momentum. Yet following Osaka Expo 70, which is considered to be optimised realisation of these future cities, the Metabolism movement lost its momentum and the ideas and dreams of cities constructed from advanced technology and industrialised society were never fulfilled. The next generations of Japanese architects including Toyo Ito and Tadao Ando, no longer focusing on utopian visions of future cities but, started to focus on architecture as radical criticism of society at that time and criticism of cities created by 20th century modern architecture movement[2]; The Row House in Sumiyoshi (1976), Tadao Ando’s debut work has courtyard that occupies a third of the small site in order to be able to look up to the sky in condensed urban downtown of Osaka questions the value of human dwelling and coexistence with nature[3], which is in stark contrast to industrialised future vision depicted by the Metabolism movement. Silver Hut (1984), private dwelling house in the suburb of central Tokyo designed by Toyo Ito, is sometimes described by the architect as Primitive Hut, a notion of house with minimal spatial function to promote primitive way of living in the modern age[4]. It is again in stark contrast to the time when the house was built, during the era of bubble economy, when excessive and over speculation was ripe in Tokyo. It is interesting to note, after almost decade of pursuing new architectural design to find an alternative to 20th century architectural movement of geometrical grids covered with curtain walls, Toyo Ito seems to return to the question of primitive house once again with the project “House for All”, a communal space building project for people affected by 11th March 2011 devastating earthquake and tsunami; here Toyo Ito also question the status quo of modern architects, which he feels, have often neglect the social responsibility of designing buildings for its people. Thomas Daniell in his book, “After the Crash – Architecture in Post-Bubble Japan” discuss how architectural design after the post-bubble, especially the public buildings, have become subject to extreme scrutiny[5]; with public project funds drying up, excessive design can no longer be afforded and required. Coupled with increased awareness and understanding towards human ecology, our built environment and need for architecture to coexists with nature seems to be taking centre stage in the recent modern architectural debate.

In order to put perspective on modern Japanese architectural design within wider built environment, it should be noted that today majority of the population lives in houses designed by not an architects but house makers, a large corporation designing and building standardised off the shelves houses, often using prefabricated components. And another majority living in mass housing estate either built by the private sector, often again by the large corporations, and Urban Renaissance Agency or “Koudan” Japanese equivalent of the Housing Authority in HK. We will visit the showrooms of these house makers and mass housing estate as well as Kitagata Housing Estate Building project by Kazuyo Sejima, the project curated by Arata Isozaki in responds to homogeny of typical mass housing estate.

Through the seminars, group discussions and field visit in Japan, students will be encouraged to think and form their own understanding about how architectural design can address our social and economical context and how we can contribute to future built environment of Hong Kong.

[1]Project Japan: Metabolism Talks 2011 by Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist

[2]Architecture Words 8 Tarzans In The Media Forest Toyo Ito. AA Publications ISBN978-1-902902-90-6

[3]Extract from Tadao Ando on the Row House in Sumiyoshi. Gallery Ma website for exhibition “Tadao Ando Architecture Faithful to the Basis” http://www.toto.co.jp/gallerma/ex081003/index_e.htm

[4]Discussion about Silver Hut with Mr. Higashi, senior design director of Toyo Ito and Associates, 201301 at Hong Kong University.

[5]After the crash: architecture in post-bubble Japan ISBN 978-1-56898-776-7

Preliminary Program:

Day 1 Hong Kong / Osaka / Naoshima

Flight from Hong Kong to Osaka, then bus transfer to Naoshima.

Row House in Sumiyoshi, 1976, Tadao Ando

Day 2 Naoshima

Benesse House & Chichu Art Museum, Tadao Ando


Lee Ufan Museum, Tadao Ando


Art House Project Naoshima;


Kadoya, 1998, Tatsuo Miyajima

Minamidera, 1999, Tadao Ando and James Turrell

Go’o Shrine, 2002, Hiroshi Sugimoto

Naoshima Miyanoura Port, SANAA

Day 3 Naoshima / Imabari / Hiroshima


Steel Hut, Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture, 2011, Toyo Ito


Silver Hut, (Originally built in Tokyo 1984), Toyo Ito

Ken Iwata Mother and Child Museum, 2011, Toyo Ito


Day 4 Hiroshima / Gifu / Tokyo


Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, 1955, Kenzo Tange



Gifu Kitagata Housing Apartment Building Sejima Wing, 1998, Kazuyo Sejima

IAMAS Multimedia Studio, Kazuyo Sejima


Night bus to Tokyo

Day 5 Tokyo

Kanagawa Insitute of Technology Workshop, 2007, Junya Ishigami

Za Koenji Thetre, Tokyo, 2009, Toyo Ito

Moriyama House, 2005, Ryue Nishizawa

Day 6 Tokyo

Library for Tama Art University, 2007, Toyo Ito

Library for Musashino Art University, 2010, Sou Fujimoto

Office of Toyo Ito Associates

Day 7 Tokyo


Collezione, Tadao Ando

Prada, Herzog de Meuron

Comme des Garcons, Future Systems

LV, Jun Aoki

Tods, Toyo Ito

Omotesando Hills, Tadao Ando



Yoyogi National Gymnasium, 1964, Kenzo Tange

Tokyo Mid-town and 2121 Design Sight (Tadao Ando)

Roppongi Hills

Day 8 Tokyo

Gallery of Horyu-ji, Ueno Park, Tokyo, 1999, Yoshio Taniguchi

Nakagin Capsule Tower, 1972, Kisho Kurokawa

Flight from Tokyo Haneda to Hong Kong


Architectural Study

Target Participants:

15 Students (BS and MA)

Credit Bearing:

3 credit summer elective. 42 contact hours; 9 hours of seminars (3 sessions in HK prior to visiting Japan), 33 hours of field study and task works. Submission Requirement: A3 Report, Research / Precedent study of Japanese architecture.

Assessment Scheme:

30% Attendance and contribution in the discussions

30% Research / Precedent Study Report

40% Essay (max. 500 words for MArch Students, 250 words for Undergraduate)