Asian Architecture and Landscape Urbanism (AALU)
The AALU program will anchor in two countries, Japan and China, and will be based in two important cities in both of these countries. Students will spend the first part of the program in Japan, and the second part in China. Participating students will engage in the translative working forces of urbanism, landscape, and architecture to mediate the spectrum between universal civilization and the indigenous particularities of place, society and culture. To enrich the learning process, students of the AALU program will also interface with a number of local universities in the form of joint workshops, forums, and lectures.
CHINA: In China, the program will be based in Shanghai and Beijing with travel to other important cities. While traditional understanding of Cities and their formation is historically rooted in the Western culture, a major momentum of city growth, social formation and morphological transformation is now taking place in China. China’s mass urbanization effort is unprecedented in the history of cities and societies. The speed and scale for which it is happening is generating tremendous urban, social and cultural friction yet, at the same time, exciting new urban paradigms, morphologies and typologies are being born. As the new frontier of city making and proliferation, China offers a student of architecture, landscape and urbanism the great opportunity for cross sectional understanding of city genealogies, and comparative analysis to Japan and their Western counterparts. The formal structure and socio-economic formation of Shanghai and Beijing will offer an important comparison between the geographic patterns of development between these two great cities as well as the form and process of “bottom up” development. Students will also visit a number of other Chinese mega-cities in varying degrees of formation and transformation (Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou).
JAPAN: In Japan, the program will spend time in Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka as two paradigms of urban development. Though the major momentum of new city proliferation in Asia largely rests with China, as a comparison, cities in Japan have already gone through an initial agglomerated cycle and are now undergoing various phases of regeneration, evolution and mutation. With the globally influential post-war Metabolism movement, Japanese architects and urbanisms have had wide reaching influence throughout the world from post-war era to current times.
Mega-cities such as Tokyo are known as a highly economically efficient constructed environment, seemingly guided by minimum planning. Often times this creates an urban environment with the coexistence of unrelated functions without boundaries, often disconnected from its historic development in a never ending cycle of construction and destruction, a city in perpetual flux. The urban ecology of the Japanese city like Tokyo defies the western model of historic precedence. The multifarious layers of function and program, from transportation, housing, to commercial development, all coexisting in a multitude of juxtaposed adjacencies, layers and inter-connected spaces. Whereas there are many similarities in the western model of “agora” and associated public spaces with a clear hierarchical relationship between public and private space, this diagram is de-constructed and layered to create a much more complex relationship between function and space.
While architecture and landscape may seem peripheral in a critical discourse about cities, it invariably contributes to the physicality and experiences of them. Therefore, equally paramount to the academic content of the AALU program is to understand the contribution that architecture and landscape makes to the everyday life, culture and identity of place. The architecture and landscape to be visited and studied will range from the generic to the iconic, historic to the contemporary, practical to the theoretical.