[Report] 8th Academic Frontier Lecture Series 2023

 On June 9, 2023, we welcomed Associate Professor Yoshiyuki Kawazoe (Institute of Industrial Science) as lecturer for the eighth session of this year’s Academic Frontier Lecture Series. His talk, which was dedicated to the relationship between architecture and air/atmosphere, focused on his experience as project leader for the construction of Hongo campus’ Library Plaza and Automated Storage facilities, both part of UTokyo’s General Library Annex.

 Whether it be light or sound, temperature or pressure, the air around us is filled with a myriad of invisible forces. And all constructions are, in one way or another, a product of our creative interaction with these forces. One could say that within this dynamic process, architects work with air to create space, as much as they work with space to create atmosphere. Yet sometimes they find their original intentions betrayed by the final result. This happens because architecture is essentially a collaborative effort between many different actors. As these actors become involved with a space, they bring about new, often unexpected value. According to Prof. Kawazoe, this in turn can provide architects with precious hints for future projects.

 However, one can’t help but wonder whether this aspect of architecture is enough to automatically guarantee the productive development of a project. For example, originally the design of Hongo campus’ Library Plaza was entirely based on the idea that a university should be above all else a place for discussion. But the unexpected surge of COVID-19, or rather the intervention of authority in the form of prolonged pandemic measures, namely the establishment of a “No speaking” rule, rendered this point practically impossible. In this case, will the set of values originally incorporated into the space be doomed to wither away, a sort of prisoner of the construction? Or will they bloom as part of the atmosphere, a sort of “presence” to be experienced and reinvented by our five senses? It seems that we too are invited to join architects in their quest for answers to these questions.

Report by Viktoriya Nikolova (EAA Research Assistant)