Message for the 21st century
Teaching the youth to think about Japan’s future
As an architect, Masayuki Kurokawa has produced works that are both beautiful and functional. In recent years, Kurokawa has garnered attention in China and has become a mentor for future generations both domestic and abroad. In this volume of “Message for the 21st century,” we met with Kurokawa to speak with him about his memories as a Waseda student and his hopes for the University and its future.
My two teachers, Kenji
──What inspired you to become an architect?
My father had his own office that specialized in architecture and design so I have had many interactions with the world of architecture since I was young. I had good grades in art class and spent most of my time in middle school drawing. I think I had an affinity for this kind of thing.
──Please tell us about your time as a student at Waseda’s Graduate School of Science and Engineering.
Waseda had an atmosphere of freedom and was a bit ruff around the edges. Some students would try to be cool and walk around in wooden clogs. I liked that kind of atmosphere. The architecture program at that time was progressive. Professor Takamasa Yoshizaka, who at that time was attempting to transform society, took me on as a pupil. However, I ended up entering the seminar of the calm, older Professor Kenji Imai. Rather than carry on the legacy of the ambitious Yoshizaka, I wanted to create my own style of architecture.
There were only four students in the architecture program but eventually everyone stopped coming to school once we started working on actual projects. Students at that time were aggressive and would immediately go out to meet one another or attend competitions. After one year at Waseda I joined industrial designer Kenji Ekuan’s GK Industrial Design Research Institute as a research student. During the height of the post-war Japanese architectural movement known as Metabolism, which fused ideas about architectural megastructures with those of organic biological growth, I created works such as a lodge made entirely from plastic. I had great dreams as a student but also had worries concerning my abilities and my future.
Living to create the most beautiful works in the world
──Besides architecture and design, you are also involved in product design. Do you have a consistent theme when it comes to your designs?
I am often referred to as an architect and product designer, but for me, product design is just one part of being an architect. Leonardo da Vinci is known as an architect, but he also painted, designed planes, and was well versed in anatomy. Da Vinci considered all of those things as part of architecture.
This was the case throughout the 15th and 16th century, but for convenience’s sake, these fields were separated and now an architect only constructs buildings. Ever since I established my own office at the age of 29, I have been trying to become Da Vinci, fusing all disciplines of design.
At the GK Industrial Design Research Institute, I became aware of industrial influences, and predicted that urbanization and industrialization would change the world of architecture. My predictions have all come true. Areas surrounding train stations have become cities, and cities have become vertical with high rise buildings looming over the streets below.
My philosophies regarding design and life are connected. When I ask myself about the meaning of life, I answer, to search for, meet, and create the most beautiful things in the world. I am constantly asking myself, “What kind of beauty inspires people?” while considering the logical and manufactural aspects of this endeavor. I am always searching for ways to inspire people by creating something beautiful.
Become a leader of Asia!
I am a guest lecturer at Tianjin University, Shenzhen University, Fudan University, and Beijing University of Technology. I also host workshops. My connection to China grew stronger after I gave a lecture titled “East Asian Aesthetics” at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. The Chinese were searching for their identity at that time and they were very interested in my lecture. I have also published books in China. In China, I do not refer to myself as Japanese, but as a citizen of Asia. I want the youth to think about the future of Asia and become leaders. I also want them to stay curious and continue challenging themselves.
──Please tell us about your hopes for Waseda and its future.
I feel like there are few students with big dreams. I rarely meet students who believe “I will become a great designer or architect.” If you believe in your dreams, they will come true. I want students to believe in themselves, be independent, and work towards making their dreams come true.
──Do you have a message for readers?
Parents, alumni, and financiers – will you please reconsider the state of Japan’s education system and think about the future of this country? I express my own thoughts on my Facebook page. Swarms of people access social media platforms every day. I want to pass on my knowledge to the young people of today, so please take a look if you are interested.
Architect Masayuki Kurokawa
Masayuki Kurokawa was born in 1937 in Aichi Prefecture and graduated from the Nagoya Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in 1961. In 1967, he completed the architecture doctorate program at Waseda’s School of Science and Engineering. In the same year, Kurokawa established his own office for architecture and design. Since then, he has been involved in architecture and design, industrial architecture, product design, and interior design. He was won several awards including the Mainichi Design Award and the Good Design Award. He has published several books and is currently a guest lecturer at four Chinese universities.