FIU Architecture Tackles Urban Design Challenges in Japan


FIU has concluded another successful Japan Architecture Abroad Program, a summer study abroad offered by the Department of Architecture.  Over the past six years, and as a result of its growing popularity, FIU CARTA | Architecture has been working to expand its footprint in Tokyo. The program, originally designed by Professor Alfredo Andia, PhD, began in the summer of 2013 with 18 students. Today, the 12-credit graduate program has grown to involve 62 students and 8 faculty members. It focuses on expanding international opportunities for students and faculty in the areas of design, research, and professional engagement.

In the area of Design

FIU has collaborated with Kokushikan University [KU] since 2016 to host a joint workshop focused on creating design solutions to urban challenges in Tokyo. FIU and Kokushikan students collaborate intensively in multilingual teams for two days to create drawings and models. This year marked the third iteration of the workshop, which began with a visit to the project site, and concluded with design presentations and a celebration.  Professor Jaime Canavés created the original opportunity for collaboration by involving Donald Yoshino, FAIA, in the study abroad program. Yoshino’s connection with KU Professor George Kunihiro, FAIA, opened the door to FIU’s engagement. Over 100 students participated in the workshop this year, including 40 from FIU and 60 KU students.  FIU Faculty Directors Canavés, Andia, Goldemberg, Nepomechie, Read, Rosales, and Spiegelhalter have all participated in the workshop at various times since its inception.

The design workshop was expanded from two days to a one-week charrette this year. The 2019 workshop focused on the urban redevelopment district around the busy Shibuya Station Crossing. The area around the railway station has become an international tourist destination. Its world-famous “Scramble Intersection” and the “Hachiko Statue” symbolize the simultaneous chaos and order of Shibuya ward. In this context, the design workshop focused on proposing a new Tourist Information Kiosk to orient visitors in the busy commercial streets of Shibuya.

This year, for the first time, FIU Architecture hosted a lecture at Kokushikan University on the opening day of the design workshop.  Introduced by Professor Andia, renowned Japanese architect Makoto Takei of TNA Architects shared his work with an audience of over 160 students and faculty from both FIU and KU. A lively bilingual Q + A session followed the lecture.

In support of developing a bi-lateral agreement between KU and FIU, Professor Kunihiro visited Miami this past March with a group of his Japanese students.  At FIU, the group engaged with students and faculty, and made presentations about Japanese architecture and culture. Additionally, Prof. Kunihiro met with FIU Vice Provost Meredith Newman, CARTA Dean Brian Schriner, Architecture Chair Jason Chandler, and Associate Dean Marilys Nepomechie.  


In the area of Research

FIU provides exceptional opportunities for our students to excel, and for our faculty members to share their expertise. For the first time this year, in collaboration with Meiji University and the Japan Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Japan), FIU co-sponsored an academic / professional research symposium in Tokyo. Titled Resilience and the Built Environment” the symposium brought together Japanese and FIU experts for 2 panels and a keynote lecture. In addition to our own students and faculty, over 100 persons attended the symposium.  FIU professors Alfredo Andia, Eric Goldemberg, Gray Read and Thomas Spiegelhalter shared their research at the conference.  Nepomechie served as moderator for both panels, and as co-host of the event.

This year, also for the first time, FIU and Keio University jointly hosted a resilience research workshop.  Content for the CRUNCH | M-NEX Workshop on Carbon Neutral Cities, Sea Level Rise, and Resilience | JPI Urban Europe” focused on an EU grant being jointly developed by faculty members at the two universities. FIU Professor Spiegelhalter and Keio University Professor Wanglin Yan led the workshop. Graduate students and faculty researchers from both universities, as well as members of the Jakarta City government, participated in the discussions.

Since the inception of the Japan Architecture Abroad Program in 2013, its FIU Faculty Directors have been invited to present their research and publications at a broad range of academic, professional and industry venues.  Professors Andia, Goldemberg, Spiegelhalter, Read and Yoshino have lectured at the University of Tokyo, Meiji University, Keio University, the Miyagi University in Sendai, the Sekisui Heim Corporation, and/or AIA Japan. Additionally, Professors Spiegelhalter and Vassigh have delivered conference presentations at the Grand Renewable Energy Conference in Tokyo.

In the area of Architecture as a Profession: 

This year, again for the first time, the Florida/Caribbean Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Florida)  invited several prominent Japanese architects to jury its Annual Architectural Design Awards.  Facilitated by Don Yoshino and George Kunihiro, the jury deliberations were held while the FIU group was in Tokyo, and hosted by the Japan Institute of Architects (JIA).​

Finally, FIU student groups have had multiple opportunities to tour the offices of notable architects and builders during their sojourn in Japan. This year, one of the student groups visited the office of Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki and had a rare opportunity to meet and speak with him.  Keisuke Toyoda, principal of NOIZ Architects, also hosted our students. Tours of the TOTO Technical Research Center and the Kamakura workshop of Yoshihiro Takashita were additional highlights. Last year, student groups visited the office of another Pritzker Prize laureate, Shigeru Ban.  Afterwards, members of his office led the student group on a tour of Ban’s early residential buildings in Tokyo. Students and faculty were also invited to the U.S. Embassy and the Ambassador’s Residence, as well as the offices of the Shimizu Corporation, an international construction firm responsible for many of Japan’s premier structures.


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