Japan: Imagining Totalscape

“Whenever one goes to Japan, one encounters this continuous landscape, which links city to nature and in which the major shift is in the transformation of density. This seamless landscape without physical boundaries is the result of human intervention….the resulting constellation of individual points of buildings is layered onto an agricultural and geographical configuration. This is the Japanese landscape.” —Moriko Kira, Japan. Towards Totalscape

From northern Ibaraki Prefecture to Fukuoka Prefecture in the south, the Tokaido corridor stretches approximately 1,200 kilometers 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. Such intense connectivity results in a built environment of exceptional compression and fluid cross-pollination between design disciplines. Professionally distinct fields such as landscape architecture, infrastructure engineering, architecture, and environmental graphics collide and intermix in unexpected ways, resulting in a fluid, transdisciplinary territory.

In this study abroad course, we address questions such as: What unique design opportunities are created within this so-called totalscape? What is the nature of interaction between conventionally distinct disciplinary territories? How does such a dense urban environment relate to the scale of material details? How are conflicts resolved between privacy and publicity, modernism and tradition, natural and synthetic systems, or Western and Japanese qualities? Participants in this traveling design studio conduct in-depth analysis and generate critical design proposals that probe the disciplinary intersections between architecture and landscape architecture within the Kansai region and beyond. Working in collaboration with local students and faculty, participants are also exposed to meaningful aspects of Japanese culture and daily life that go beyond a typical tourist’s superficial perspective of Japan.

ARCH 4150/5250: May Term in Japan. Co-taught with Rebecca Krinke. Undergraduate and graduate travel abroad studio (3 credits). University of Minnesota School of Architecture.

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