April 3, 2016

by Arthur Leung
With contributions from Erin Ota, Tamotsu Ito & Dave Hampton

On March 29th, Japan GSD hosted Momoyo Kajima of Atelier Bow-Wow from Tokyo, Japan for a workshop with local designers, Daniel D’Oca (Interboro Partners) and Michael Murphy (MASS Design Group), and students from the Master in Design Studies Risk and Resilience program. Since the earthquake and tsunami disaster of 2011, risk and resilience has been in the consciousness of the Japanese public and practitioners, like Kajima. As the John T. Dunlop Visiting Professor in Architecture at the GSD, Kajima took this opportunity to arrange for a casual sharing session with GSD affiliates who are also exploring ideas for coping with risks.

Organized in a “pecha kucha” format, each presenter briefly shared his or her work. Split into two groups, after each group presented, the presenters and audience launched into discussion. Risk & Resilience co-director Rosetta Elkin led the first discussion with a prompt on whether a unifying theme can be traced through the works presented. What were the differences seen between works implemented in practice, and theoretical studies and speculations? What were the limitations in scale of projects presented (Kajima’s Itakura Core House and D’Oca’s Holding Pattern project for PS1)? How differently would issues of resilience have been treated when scaled up? Would the same optimism remain? How has fieldwork influenced and contributed to design research? Concluding this half of the discussion, Jesse Keenan (Adjunct Professor at Columbia GSAPP) responded to questions on the role of the designer in these sorts of difficult sites. Keenan suggested that the designer can help create a hierarchy of value and process as a mediator. 

After the second half, Erin Ota (MDes R&R 2016) launched the discussion with a question to Michael Murphy on how to effectively project across time scales when intervening in sensitive locations. More pragmatic questions followed about acquiring technical expertise and suppliers in a foreign context, and how Murphy’s business model enables MASS Design Group to engage fully in humanitarian work. But to end on a brighter note despite this serious topic, D’Oca reminds us that “Fun is important!” As designers, we must always remind ourselves of that. 

These casual practitioner-student conversations proved very valuable in providing a link between research and application. We look forward to more sessions of this format.


Momoyo Kajima (Atelier Bow-wow)
Justin Henceroth (MDes R&R 2017)
Daniel D’Oca (Interboro Partners)
Oscar Natividad Puig (MDes R&R 2016)

Namik Mačkić (MDes R&R 2016) + Pedro Aparicio (MDes ULE 2016)
Michael Murphy (MASS Design Group)
Dave Hampton (MDes R&R 2016)
Cristóbal Fuentes (MDes R&R 2016)

Event Info

Photo Credit: Tamotsu Ito