Open City Studio in Japan

Open City Studio in Japan

By Silvia Alvarez

Open City Studio in Japan

By Silvia Alvarez
Explores Water Management and Transportation with the Army Corps of Engineers

The Open City Studio, U-SoA's summer travel studio, has been based in 20 cities over five continents, over the past 30 years. More recently, the studio has been focused on water systems in Japan. This past summer, students focused on Japanese water management practices and various water-bound transportation systems as a means to visualize advanced infrastructural systems with relevant application to Miami. Students began their journey with an in-depth tour of Hiroshima's canal-based water management and land reclamation projects, followed by two days of touring local ports by boat along the Seto Inland Sea. This journey helped students understand boat types, timetables, and the effectiveness and importance of predictable, efficient ferry service.

The sea journey culminated in Osaka, with a visit to the Museum of Oriental Ceramics. From there, a land and river journey to Kyoto began. Students were able to see the advanced wood joinery techniques supporting masterful roofs, built to protect the delicate paper walls of the Japanese shop-houses and temples. Shelter from rainwater is omnipresent in Japanese design; architecture, infrastructure, fashion, and art, all in some way, are influenced and shaped by the presence of water. The challenge of the studio was to find this essence and apply it to a design project. Final projects included a "Market on the Sea," an underground reservoir, and an elevated temple platform, adaptable to sea-level rises.

Partnering in this Journey was the Army Corps of Engineers, Japan division. The Japan Engineer District has been in the country since 1972, partnering with local builders, architects and engineers on building and infrastructure projects throughout the country. Colonel Thomas J. Verell, an U-SoA alum from 1993, and his staff, provided guidance and knowledge to the faculty and students during the semester. Army Corps architects and engineers also attended the final studio review, sharing their building experiences in Japan as U-SoA students presented their projects. The Open City Studio faculty were grateful to have collaborated with the Colonel and his colleagues in Japan.

The Open City Studio will travel to Japan once again in the summer of 2020. U-SoA will partner with Arts Chiyoda 3331, a well-known Tokyo-based arts center. Deadlines for application are February 1st, 2020.

Read More in the Army Corps Newsletter >>