CWAJ College Women's Association of Japan


Luncheon and Monthly Meetings

February 22, 2017, Wednesday

Hiroto Kobayashi

Architect and Professor Hiroto Kobayashi

February 2017 Luncheon Program Summary

How fortunate we were to have Architect and Professor Hiroto Kobayashi as our February 2017 luncheon speaker.

Professor Kobayashi studied architecture and urban design at Kyoto University and received his Doctorate of Design from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) with a focus on traditional Japanese communities. He is a founding partner of Kobayashi Maki Design Workshop (KMDW), an architectural and urban design firm based in Tokyo whose work encompasses a full range of design scales from furniture and interiors to large building complexes and urban design. Most recently, KMDW and Kobayashi’s Lab at Keio University’s Graduate School of Media and Governance have been developing a self-build methodology using engineered wood.

Professor Kobayashi spoke a bit about his background and the underlying reason he started promoting sustainability and community connection – feeling distant from his architectural designs and the people actually using the end results of his design work. He first explained the ‘engineered wood’ (plywood) production process then walked us through his various projects around the world that have each been unique in their own way yet connected through his basic design concept and underlying principle of helping communities help themselves rebuild.

His ‘Veneer House’ project was initiated as a response to the 2011 Tohoku disaster with the goal of involving end-users in the building process. By inviting all members of the community to participate, the construction system nourishes a sense of ownership of the architecture. As his projects have moved from Tohoku to other displaced communities such as cyclone-hit Myanmar, the Philippines after the 2013 hurricane, to Nepal after their devastating earthquake and most recently to Kumamoto, his team has been able to gradually tweak the design and expedite the building process.

Once a community experiences the self-build methodology, they are able to replicate their efforts and also maintain their own structures, instilling a sense of pride and helping individuals in their own recovery process. It was amazing to see how quickly his projects were assembled using Japanese technology but local labor and materials; and instead of nails for support specially-designed wooden joints are used to provide stability.

There were a range of questions from some of the 70 attendees, then the luncheon meeting was adjourned. Thank you Professor Kobayashi for an insightful presentation!

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