On the trip were 11 second and third year students, 2 teaching staff from BKI (Sonia Vescovi and Brian Stratford) and 2 facilitators from Ceres Global.
The tour started in Tokyo where we stayed in a capsule hotel, immersing students in small scale living and linking to more recent design, exploring Tokyo’s contemporary building fabric. We walked and caught what felt like hundreds of trains in order to view examples of Tokyo’s high tech sustainable buildings by leading architects including Tokyo Skytree, St Mary’s Cathedral (Kenzo Tange), Nakagin Capsule Tower (Kurokawa), and many more buildings along the way. A visit to the Edo Open Air Museum was a highlight, with more than 30 buildings on display from Japans recent history (300 years) including a traditional farmhouse and a more recent example of what we would label mid-century Modern.
BKI partnered with Ceres Global to facilitate the trip, and as well as keeping us safe and well fed, they were instrumental in providing opportunities for the students to gain first-hand knowledge of sustainable building techniques. They arranged a visit to a permaculture cooperative in Fujino where we met with an architect, Mr Yamada, who showed us buildings he has designed where techniques such as cross ventilation and shikkui lime plaster and mud walls allow the building to breathe. Locally sourced timber is used with traditional no nail approach, meaning the building is deconstructable and biodegradable at the end of its life. Another visit was made to a building studio with a presentation by a joiner who demonstrated the use of traditional interlocking tsugite joints to construct houses and furniture with no nails or screws.
Next stop; Kyoto where we stayed in a traditional ryokan with tatami mats and sliding screen doors. A lot more walking – did I mention it was incredibly humid and hot! – to various markets and shrines and traditional buildings. After 2 days we left for Port Uno where we had planned to spend 2 days touring the Art islands – Naoshima and Teshima – however a looming typhoon meant we spent only one morning cycling around Naoshima visiting art installations and swimming in the ocean. Cancelled trains and ferries required us to depart the area before the typhoon hit; our facilitators Katie and Mariko skillfully guided us out of the impending strike zone and after 6 hours of travel we made it to Osaka, weary but glad to be safe. Osaka had a mixture of contemporary and traditional architecture and our last two days were spent taking in all the sights.
The highlight for me was the island of Naoshima. We rode an electric bike around the island with glimpses of ocean and mountains as you meandered through small villages and at every turn, a different piece of artwork. We managed to grab a swim in the ocean which was welcome relief from the clammy heat.