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Transdisciplinary dialogues in contemporary Japanese architecture and culture

A workshop at the Manchester Technology Centre, 1st November 2023.

A group of 25 colleagues from the Manchester School of Architecture (MSA), joined by Julian Worrall (Professor of Architecture at the University of Tasmania), Thomas Daniell (Professor of Architectural History, Theory and Criticism at Kyoto University), Professor Adrian Favell (Professor of Social and Political Theory at University College Cork and Sainsbury Institute Professorial Associate), and representatives from the London-based Japan-related funding organisations, gathered at the Manchester Technology Centre to explore current and potential multidisciplinary research interests around the relationship between Japanese architecture and culture. The event was convened by Professor Dana Arnold of the Manchester School of Architecture and Professorial Associate of the Sainsbury Institute and myself.

An example of the new architecture in central Manchester.

Conversations focused on themes including cultural and religious rituals, ageing populations, climate change and resilience in relation to Japanese architecture, urbanism and culture.  The workshop was kicked off with stimulating presentations by Dr Ray Lucas (Reader in Architecture), Professor Ulysses Sengupta (Professor of Architecture and Urbanism) and Dr Mark Hammond (Senior Lecturer) of MSA, who spoke on their research which ranged from the Gion and Sanja matsuri (in Kyoto and Tokyo respectively), the spatial transformation of Yokohama’s Miyakobayashi Yokocho (Harmonica Alley), the ‘ghosts’ of Shibuya, and a study on differing perspectives of the design of age-friendly landscapes in Toyama Prefecture and the UK. Professors Worrall and Daniell, joining us online from Hobart and Kyoto, responded and spoke about their own research on contemporary Japanese architecture and spatial planning.

We were particularly grateful to colleagues from the London-based funding organisations (the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, the Japan Foundation and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) for taking the time to travel to Manchester to meet with colleagues and discuss options for funding future initiatives in the field. Many thanks to Dana Arnold for coordinating the event and to her colleagues at MSA for all their help.

The workshop in progress at the Manchester Technology Centre.

It has been some time since the Sainsbury Institute facilitated research on Japanese architecture. Just after the workshop I caught up with our former Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow, Ken Tadashi Oshima, now Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Washington – and we agreed it is time we re-engaged with the worlds of architecture and architectural history. This workshop provides an excellent point of departure for new initiatives in this area. Ken had just returned to Seattle following the opening of his new exhibition at the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art Museum on 21st October on ‘Wright’s Imperial Hotel at 100: Frank Lloyd Wright and the World’.

Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director
Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures