ARCHITECTURE IN THE FLOATING WORLD: MAY TERM 2011 IN JAPAN
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE
Architecture in the Floating World
ARCH 5550: MAY TERM IN JAPAN
MAY 22-JUNE 13, 2011
A traveling design studio in Japan with a focus on contemporary architecture, urbanism, and
materiality within Tokyo and the Tokaido corridor.
Upper division undergraduate and graduate students with strong design skills
Two four-hour studio sessions plus two three-hour tours per week for the first
two weeks (Tokyo studio); six all day tours in the remaining week (travel throughout Japan)
“Japan is a test, a challenge to think the unthinkable, a place where meaning is finally banished. Paradise,
indeed, for the great student of signs.” – Edmund White
From southern Kyushu to the northern tip of Honshu island, the Tokaido corridor stretches
approximately 1,000 miles across the eastern seaboard of Japan, uniting the majority of the
Japanese population within a vibrant, intensely-interconnected urban artery. As a result, the
bulk of Japanese commercial, governmental, institutional, and cultural activities are consolidated
within the Tokaido megalopolis. To understand the density experienced along this route, one must
remember the fact that Japan has roughly twice the number of people in the U.S. situated within
only 11% of the land area of California.
Such intense interconnectivity has its advantages, however. Japan boasts the most advanced
transportation system in the world, and many of the technological, artistic, and cultural exchanges
that transpire along this seamless network are unparalleled in their quality and sophistication.
Moreover, because Japan imports nearly 80% of its resources, this efficient system allows the
optimization of energy and material use within complex, interdependent social structures.
What architectural possibilities are unleashed within this so-called “1,000 mile city?” How does
an urban scale this extensive relate to the scale of material details? How are conflicts resolved
between privacy and publicity, modernism and tradition, or Western and Japanese qualities?
Participants in this traveling design studio will attempt to address these and other questions
through in-depth documentation, analysis, and critical design proposals situated within Tokyo and
beyond. Working in collaboration with students and faculty from the Tokyo University of Science,
participants will also be exposed to meaningful aspects of Japanese culture and daily life that go
beyond a typical tourist’s superficial perspective of Japan.
Blaine Brownell, AIA LEED AP
Rapson Hall 151P
Office Hours: Monday 10:00-12:00
or by appointment