Studio leaders: Mitchell Eaton & Nancy (Yao) Ji
The studio is the second of a series of Master of Architecture Studios at the University of Melbourne focusing on contemporary Japan. The studio aims to introduce basic Japanese design principles, gain an understanding of current challenges faced by rural Japan and respond with a conceptual and engaging project. For 2021 the studio looks to Japan’s rural areas which are experiencing various social and economic decline due to a decreasing and aging population. As one of the first countries to enter into a post-growth era, what is the role of architecture in community revitalization? What kind of spaces promote exchange and sense of place?
The effects of depopulation and decline are most visible in rural areas including the proposed site located in Kamijima, a collection of remote islands in the Seto Inland Sea accessible only by boat. The studio examines this rural landscape between land and sea from a physical and social perspective to interrogate the role of architecture in community revitalization, identity and creative place making.
The proposal is a mixed-use development where students generate their own programs based on their own research on local resources, context and culture guided by the shared studio goal of creating a place that serves both residents and an increasing number of visitors. Our project titled 'Rethinking the Michi-no-Eki: A new destination building for Kamijima' looks at the typology of a Michi-no-Eki (literally: Roadside Stations) which perform multiple functions. At a basic level they provide access to tourist information, bathrooms, restaurants, and a place to rest. Often they will also celebrate and promote the local region, with a small cultural centre or marketplace offering art, crafts, food or other specialty goods. Kamijima is looking to build a new Michi-no-Eki in the future and this studio aims to contribute creative and diverse ideas which will be presented to the community in a local exhibition in Japan. Our aim is to rethink the potentials of the typology to serve both the local residents and visitors in a place that can enable mutual exchange, boost local industry and create a new gathering hub for the island.