Tokyo hosted the International Union of Architects’ 24th World Congress of Architecture (UIA2011) during the last week of September. Taking place at the Tokyo International Forum, designed by Rafael Viñoly, FAIA, who was present at the event, the UIA2011 meeting reportedly drew more than 5,000 design professionals and students from more than 100 countries. The focus of the long-planned international forum, Design2050, took on new urgency after the 03.11.11 earthquake and related tsunami catastrophe in north-eastern Japan. Many presentations, panels, and seminars were recalibrated to address what the international design community could do to anticipate, prevent, and respond to similar natural disasters. The major result of the Congress was the issuance of the Tokyo Declaration, which committed the world’s design community to better learn from disasters, exchange initiatives, and promote responsibility within our profession.
During the first day of the conference, a letter was presented to AIANY by Taro Ashihara, Hon. AIA, president of the Japan Institute of Architects, thanking New York’s architects for the support that came in response to the recent disaster. With the involvement of Hisaya Sugiyama, AIA, president of AIA Japan — a KPF alum — a fruitful discussion of disaster preparedness and risk assessment took place.
AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA, along with President-elect Jeff Potter, FAIA, and Executive Vice President/CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA, led the AIA National official delegation. Their blog entries, and those of other delegates, can be found on the AIA National website. Among other functions of the delegates, was voting in the election of the next UIA president to replace Louise Cox, who has served her three-year term, and selecting the venue for the 2017 Congress. Albert Dubler, an architect from Paris, was elected as UIA President; and following the 2014 UIA meeting in Durban, South Africa, the next city to host the conference will be Seoul, whose delegation included Sungjung Chough, Hon. FAIA.
AIANY was represented by Chapter President Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP, and Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, who co-presented the Chapter’s work on Buildings=Energy and Active Design at the UIA’s poster session and technical seminar. At the session, similar research was discussed with colleagues from Nigeria, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The panel discussion on the Active Design Guidelines and public health initiatives drew an enthusiastic audience of architects and others such as Robert Bell, director of the National Gallery of Australia, and Lone Sigbrand of the Danish Building Research Institute.
Keynote speakers included Tadao Ando, Hon. FAIA, Fumihiko Maki, Hon. FAIA, David Adjaye, Hon. FAIA, OBE, Christo (warm and witty with many one-liners, including “Jean-Claude always said we didn’t emigrate to the United States, we emigrated to New York City.”) Somewhat less well-known but as thrilling to hear was Vladimir Slapeta, an architect and historian from the Czech Republic, who wove a narrative of cross-continental cultural influences that linked Japanese Modernism and Metabolism back to the innovations of the Brno International Fair of 1925-28 and its New House Werkbund Exhibition.
As a corollary to the UIA events, the World Architectural Festival unveiled the shortlisted projects from Asia in its annual design competition. An exhibition of the WAF premeated work was held at the galleries in the Tokyo Headquarters of the UCHIDA-YOKO Company, a leading information technology company. WAF President Paul Finch organized evening receptions at which Castillo and recently-elected RIBA President Angela Brady, FRIBA, could renew acquaintances with World Architecture Festival and Architecture Review colleagues including Edmond Katongole, Jessica McFarlane, and Jane Connolly, who had been at the Ibex/New York celebration during the AIA Convention in New Orleans. UCHIDA’s Honorary Chairman Shinichi Mukai, and President/CEO Takashi Kashihara were extraordinarily hospitable to international guests, including AIANY and WAF sponsors from the Hong Kong, Singapore, and London offices of Rider Levett Bucknall.
Apart from the headliner talks, research papers, and design works presented, the star of the conference was the host city itself. An incredible mix of tradition and innovation, Tokyo boasts what is perhaps the most complicated, expansive, and useful public transportation system on earth. The subway made it easy to get around town, to see renowned structures and gardens, ranging from Kenzo Tange’s National Stadium in Yoyogi Park constructed for the 1964 Olympic Games, to more recent commercial structures in nearby Omotesando. The degree to which Japanese and Western cultures have intersected since the removal of trade barriers in the mid-1800s is phenomenal, with European and American branding pervasive. But it is the quintessentially Japanese stores, from Mikimoto to Uniqlo, that capture the spirit of the place.
It was in navigating the street life, urban design, and 24/7 feeling of Tokyo that those from NYC felt most at home. From the New York Grille at the Park Hyatt Hotel — scene of the late-night ponderings in Lost in Translation, to the Frank Lloyd Wright relics at the Imperial Hotel, much looked familiar. Totally different, and totally sublime, was the Supreme Delight club in Roppongi, the pecha kucha basement birthplace where Mark Dytham, architect and expat inventor of that communication art form, holds court. I felt privileged to reprise the UIA “Obesity and Architecture” talk there in the allotted six minutes and 40 seconds.