The great disaster of March 11, 2011 differed from any other catastrophe since the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. In the age of advanced technology and “strong” buildings, the tsunami flattened Tohoku coastline in seconds. The nuclear accident that followed further revealed the vulnerability of “big and strong” architecture. In the face of radiation, materials such as concrete and steel were insufficient, even though nuclear energy had been a solution for our drive to be bigger, stronger, and more efficient. Now that this modernization process has collapsed on itself, we must start again from scratch. Kengo Kuma of Kengo Kuma and Associates, Tokyo, will discuss how architecture can respond to this epochal challenge.
Kengo Kuma was born in 1954. He completed his master’s degree at the University of Tokyo in 1979. From 1985 to 1986, he studied at Columbia University as Visiting Scholar. He established Kengo Kuma & Associates in 1990. He taught at Keio University from 2001 to 2008, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008, and in 2009, he was installed as Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Tokyo.
Among Kuma’s major works are Kirosan Observatory (1995), Water/Glass (1995, received AIA Benedictus Award), Stage in Forest, Toyoma Center for Performance Arts (received 1997 Architectural Institute of Japan Annual Award), Stone Museum (received International Stone Architecture Award 2001), Bato-machi Hiroshige Museum (received The Murano Prize). Recent works include Great Bamboo Wall (2002, Beijing, China), Nezu Museum (2009, Tokyo), Yusuhara Marche and Wooden Bridge Museum (2010). A number of large projects are also going on abroad, including arts centre in Besancon City, France, Granada, Spain, and a new Victoria & Albert Museum building in Dundee, Scotland U.K.
Kuma is a recipient of the International Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award in 2002 (Finland), International Architecture Awards for the Best New Global Design for “Chokkura Plaza and Shelter” in 2007, and Energy Performance + Architecture Award in 2008 (France). He is an International Fellow of RIBA, UK, and Honorary Fellow of AIA in the US. He is also a prolific writer and critic; his books have been translated into English, Chinese, and other languages.