Learning from Japanese Architecture


Yutaka has been invited to deliver the monthly seminar in the Comparative Asia Research Network on issues and research in the Asian Region at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Under the title ‘Learning from Japanese Architecture’ the lecture will provide personal insights and research in follow up to earlier teaching seminar series in the Department of Japan Studies.

Date: 1.15pm, 14 April 2018
Venue: Yasumoto International Academic Park, CUHK

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Garden of Generosity

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SKY YUTAKA’s design and installation for The Chinese University of Hong Kong custom interactive signage has been recognised by the ‘Council for Advancement and Support of Education’ (CASE) July / August 2016’s Currents magazine as one of the most innovative and creative “World’s BEST Stewardship Ideas” for educational institutions and top nonprofits.
Selected from international case studies, the design adopts a new approach in recognition strategies and a memorable way of thanking the donors in their support for the university. As part of an overall project signage strategy including way finding for visually impaired users, the interactive bilingual display enables flexibility for a high level of content for current and future use which can be constantly updated and engage with the user.

Architecture and Nature

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Area affected by tsunami, Yuriage, Sendai, Photo 2013-05-01 (Yutaka)

Architecture and Nature:
Today many of us live in a city environment similar to Hong Kong where we have access to seemingly unlimited supply of food, commodity and energy supported by variety of mega-infrastructure network. Standing inside the cities’ densely populated urban labyrinth, one often feels disconnected from the larger natural landscape that surrounds the city itself and I believe this condition poses difficult questions about assumption of the technological solutions and how architects assume design conditions in the city; Do cities really have sustainable framework and mode of development today? Should cities continue to consume and urbanise the land? Can cities and the way they urbanise the land find more viable and balanced relationship with nature? I often felt in the rural area people have greater respect towards the nature and conduct their living with careful consideration with their natural surroundings; What can city learn from the culture and customs developed in the rural area and the way the people carefully inhabit the land?

Almost three years after The Great East Japan Earthquake, many of the villages and towns affected in the Tohoku region are still in the midst of post-disaster recovery process. This disaster is significantly different in relation to the Kobe earthquake in 1995, which is more close to Osaka, a large metropolitan region in Japan; the early recovery strategy for the Tohoku region published by local government of Iwate and Miyagi Prefecture proposes different approaches responding to three different urban profile of the area. All the strategy emphasises relocation of residential area away from low-land where it is prone to future tsunami attack. In some instance, re-location of entire town and its communities away from the original location is proposed. However past studies of post-disaster recovery indicates that towns are usually rebuilt in the same place and with the same general urban form following all but the most catastrophic of disasters. This is because economic and social networks tend to be more resilient than physical structures; The economic functions of the city will usually continue after the disaster, and residents will usually try to locate their homes so as to maintain their pre-disaster social networks.
Indications from the ongoing rebuilding works in the Tohoku region suggests that there are intrinsic problems with the government’s strategy; the local residents resist relocation of residential areas, and relocations without their support and participation are likely to fail. Re-construction work in the Tohoku region, therefore, firmly put the discussion on the issue of community architecture and town re-development. Also given there are likelihood of re-occurrence of similar naturally devastating disaster in this region, there is urgency here to find a viable relationship with nature; It raises fundamental questions about human’s understanding and attitude towards the nature’s power and how we can learn to co-exist with them.

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“Minna no ie (Home for All)” Sendai, Toyo Ito and Associates Architects, Photo 2013-04030 (Yutaka)


(This text was written as part of proposal for Japan Summer Programme 2014 which was chacelled due to school regulation)

FORUM “Searching for the link between Urban Design and Architectural Agenda”

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On Saturday 8th of February between 3-5pm, we held a successful forum for the exhibition Future Platform at Oi!. Thank you for all the participants who kindly spared their time to join the interesting discussions and share their thoughts about our City, Hong Kong, Architecture and Art. We are also grateful for the G2 students who have kindly exhibited their works in support of the exhibition and our sponsors LCSD, Oi!, CUHK, Urban Place Research Unit, Benoy and Diorama Projects.
FORUM, “Searching for the link between Urban Design and Architectural Agenda”
8 February 2014
Oi!, 12 Oil Street, North Point

Admission: free

Colin Fournier, Chief Curator UABB(HK) 2013
Irene Ito, artwow group
Kaman Tam, CUHK G2 Student
Yutaka Yano, Adjunct Assistant Professor CUHK
Moderator: Davina Lee, Diorama Projects

A Collateral Event 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Hong Kong) UABB(HK)with CUHK x OIL Programme

Future Platform Exhibition, “2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism \ Architecture (Hong Kong)” “Beyond the Urban Edge: The Ideal City?”

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Exhibition Venue: Activity Room-2 Oi!, 12 Oil Street, North Point, Hong Kong

Date: 26th January – 15th February 2014


Forum: Oi!, 12 Oil Street, North Point, Hong Kong

Date: 8th February 3-5pm


“Future Platform: Searching for the link between Urban Design and Architectural Agenda”

“Future Platform” presents a series of design proposals for Hong Kong created between 2012 and 2013 by postgraduate students from the Design Studio at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s School of Architecture.  The studio, headed by Yutaka Yano, Adjunct Assistant Professor at School of Architecture, encourages students to form their own understanding of the cultural and socio-economic framework of our city through design investigation, using research as the basis for creating an “architectural agenda”.

The exhibition showcases proposals for Swire Properties’ Taikoo Place Development in Quarry Bay and the MTR’s Union Square and sets out a new master plan for the West Kowloon District using architectural models and drawings.  The studio considered the cultural, socio-economic, planning and land development conditions present in each location, identifying key issues and concerns before redesigning these sites within their site-specific parameters, such as creating room to house an additional 200,000 people in West Kowloon District, searching for innovative engineering solutions to the technical challenges of high rise construction and the problems created by infrastructure in areas of high density.

The resulting design proposals presented in “Future Platform” are a combination of technical innovation and awareness of local cultural and social issues which can not be overcome by engineering solutions alone, for example “how can we preserve or extend the local urban character which has developed organically over many years?”  The exhibition offers a fresh perspective on Hong Kong’s future from a new generation architects and, from a broader perspective, the nature of the role that architects will play in the future.



Tam Ka Man, Kaman,  G2 Studio 2012, CUHK

Li Chong Yan, Tommy,  G2 Studio 2012, CUHK

Tan Ka Wai, Amy, G2 Studio 2012, CUHK

Wong Xue, Silver, G2 Studio 2012, CUHK

Au, Yan Ting, Eunice, G2 Studio 2013, CUHK

Cheung, Hiu Hei Jonny, G2 Studio 2013, CUHK

Chu, Kwan Nok, Benjamin, G2 Studio 2013, CUHK

Wong, Shu Wan Jocelyn, G2 Studio 2013, CUHK

Chan Chi Meng, Michael, G2 Studio 2013, CUHK

Cheng Chi Ying, Shirley, G2 Studio 2013, CUHK

Tsang Wai Ching, Billy, G2 Studio 2013, CUHK

Yung Long Ming, Michey, G2 Studio 2013, CUHK
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Searching for the link between urban design and architectural agenda

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(Union Square Precedent Study, Group Work CUHK G2 Studio 2012-2013)


Searching for the link between urban design and architectural agenda:

Yutaka Yano from SKY YUTAKA, Adjunct Assistant Professor at School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong will present the Faculty Lecture as part of workshop between School of Architecture CUHK and TU-Delft from Netherland on the morning of April 4th at the CUHK School of Architecture exhibition zones.

Yutaka will discuss his reflections on Hong Kong planning framework and challenges faced by architects working in the city today. He will also share some of student’s works from the last semester, G2 Design Studio “Projecting the Future of Integrated Development Building Typologies in Hong Kong”, the design research work which tried to establish link between urban planning issues and the architectural agenda.
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(Union Square Precedent Study, Group Work CUHK G2 Studio 2012-2013)

Learning from emerging architectural principles

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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)

Thinking about Architecture for Tomorrow

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“Thinking about Architecture for Tomorrow” is translated title of public lecture held by Japanese architect Toyo Ito at School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong in October 2012. The lecture followed workshop and discussion forum in the morning with the final year master students. Toyo Ito has been a strong influential figure for my generation of architects, I started studying architecture in 1990’s at The Bartlett school of architecture UCL. I remember when I first visited Sendai Mediatheque building when it opened in 2001 and temporally installation for Serpentine Pavillion in the summer of 2002; as recent graduate and freshly employed architectural assistant of a small architecture office in London, without knowing the design process or ideas behind the building, I have found memory of wandering around the buildings.

20th Century Architecture;
Behind presentation on some of his office’s major work in the past 10 years is his reflection and criticism of the 20th century architecture, characterised by buildings designed for industrialised society and architectural principle with rationalization of program and focus on technology with systematic construction method. He refers to Mies Van Der Rohe who pioneered the new architecture movement in the age of industrialisation in Europe and America at turn of the century and created based for new architectures movement of the 20th century. When looking back at the images of our modern cities today, he feels that 20th century architecture with rationalised analysis of building programs has unitised and segmented our lives, as a result, has created isolated and fragmented society with homogenic cities of glass towers with rigid grid system everywhere without unique character. For the past 10 years, he has been thinking that we are perhaps coming to the limit of these architectural principles and he shares his feeling that there is need for reverting back to more primitive environment where programs in the buildings were less defined and where people could inhabit the buildings like when humans were living out in the nature. He also feels that cities of today no longer have meaningful relationship with surrounding natural environment and need for creating human habitation that has better relationship, architecture that do not rationally divide and shut out the nature.


Background of Architecture in Tokyo:
Behind these reflections and his thought lies background of witnessing the birth and collapse of Metabolism movement, a visionally architecture movement for future cities depicted by a group of young architects in 1960’s including Kiyonori Kukutake, the office where he worked for 4 years prior to setting up independently; the ideas and dreams of cities constructed from advanced technology and industrialised society were never fulfilled. Osaka Expo 70 which is considered to be optimised realisation of these future cities, new generation of young Japanese architects including Toyo Ito begin to realise these dreams have become no more than an opportunity to celebrate the national pride. Having been let down by the dream-like proposals for future cities, the new young generation of Japanese architects no longer focused on utopian visions of future cities and started to focus on architecture as radical criticism of society at that time(1).

Another background is experiencing the transformation of Tokyo where Toyo Ito lived and worked throughout his life. Tokyo was a fascinating city for Toyo Ito, it had feeling of “newness” and optimistic attitude towards its future. However following the crash of the bubble economy Japan suffered over 10 years of down turn, and at the turn of 21st century Tokyo no longer had its former attractiveness. Toyo Ito begin to wonder if his architecture was merely part of capitalism mechanism, that this uninspiring dreamless city Tokyo has become was result of modernity (2).

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Tokyo and Hong Kong:
There are number of interesting comparative aspects of Hong Kong and Tokyo which have contrasting urbanisation characteristics; in many respects, Tokyo is currently focused on the process of regeneration and gradual densification (3). Tokyo is no longer expanding and urbanised like during the post-war rapid population increase and economic growth in the 60’s to mid 80’s. In contrast, the focus in Hong Kong today is still based on the rapid expansion fuelled by the continuing population / economic growth and urbanisation especially for the new town development around the border of Shenzhen.

However, if theory goes that as the current economic and demographic trends stabilise, Hong Kong will also enter different phases of urbanisation following the footsteps of Tokyo focusing more into process of regeneration and gradual densification. In this respect within Tokyo and Toyo Ito’s lecture can we find catalysts or insight into challenges of 21st Century Architecture for Hong Kong? Having gained architectural training in UK and studying architecture in the context of British Modernism Architecture scene, I find Ito’s argument about limitation of the modernism architecture movement striking. For architects in Hong Kong where architecture is created and destroyed by the tremendous power of capitalism (2), where the market is dominated by buildings which are constructed by powerful developers and with virtually no small scale private housing development opportunities, the challenge for the architects seems to lie in the ways to create opportunity to test new direction while firmly engaged in the framework at which Hong Kong city are designed and created.
(1) Architecture Words 8 Tarzans In The Media Forest Toyo Ito. AA Publications ISBN978-1-902902-90-6
(2) Anohikarano kenchiku. Dainihon Publications ISBN978-4-08-720661-6
(3) Dr. Hidetoshi Ohno, The University of Tokyo. “Paradigm shift in urbanisation of Tokyo after the post-war rapid economical growth.” www.fibercity2050.net

Projecting the Future of Integrated Development Building Typologies in Hong Kong

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Yutaka Yano from SKY YUTAKA, Adjunct Assistant Professor at School of Architecture CUHK is running Design Studio G2 in 2012-2013 for MArchi1 students. Key aim of the studio is to establish link between urban planning issues and the architectural agenda. Acute demographic changes in Hong Kong since the beginning of 1960’s and the geographic condition of the city has played decisive role in creating dynamic vertical city of Hong Kong we recognise today. Tracing through the timeline of Hong Kong planning framework, the studio offer students an opportunity to develop insight into Socio-economical circumstances surrounding developments in the city. By projecting our understandings and thoughts for the future of Hong Kong, we will investigate to find an alternative to current model of Integrated Development Building Typologies.


The studio will begin by conducting precedent study into two of the key landmark integrated developments in Hong Kong; the first one is Taikoo Place Development in Quarry Bay by Swire Properties and the second one Union Square Development by MTR Corporation. We will discuss the contrasting aspects of the two developments; one being regeneration project almost singlehandedly driven by private sector spanning over 33 years and still ongoing and the another being part of wider government effort to re-structure the Port and Airport Development Strategy and subsequent reclamation and associated district masterplan study and OZP. Through discussions and conducting precedent study, each student will develop alternative scenario for one of the site and develop masterplan proposal and subsequent partial architectural design.