Temple Japan library





Specialized Spring Semester Architecture Program


TUJ offers an architecture program, comprised of a six-credit studio course and a three-credit theory/history course, as part of the spring semester study abroad program. The undergraduate program is designed for students majoring in architecture, architectural studies, landscape architecture, and urban design/studies.   To be considered for the program, undergraduate applicants must have completed a minimum of 20 semester hours, or the equivalent, of studio courses. A portfolio is required for admission; please see Application Procedures for specifics. Graduate students are welcome; interested graduate students should consult with Education Abroad

The program is designed to open up the world of Japanese architecture – its history, traditions and influences as well as its highly unique contemporary forms, challenges, practices and innovations – to the student.

Japan possesses one of the most exciting architectural landscapes in the world, encompassing exquisite wooden temples, minuscule micro-houses and futuristic skyscrapers on seismic fault lines. Yet Japan is also facing unprecedented architectural challenges; such as the rebuilding of Tohoku, rapidly changing demographics, global economic uncertainty and ever increasing issues related to the environment and sustainability. What Japan does next in terms of the built environment and urban planning will be watched by architects worldwide. 

Participants will gain an understanding of the history and sources of Japanese architecture and urbanism and become conversant in contemporary thought and practice in Japanese architecture and urban planning. Tokyo itself will be used as a classroom with frequent class trips with professors and guest lecturers.

Participants enroll for 12–17 credits total. In addition to the two architecture courses listed below, participants will choose from a broad range of TUJ’s other course offerings in various disciplines; Japanese and Asian studies are recommended. Click here to view additional course offerings.

Note that the architecture courses have course fees (about $600 for both courses) for site visits and excursions. 


program Faculty

James Lambiasi, AIA

Currently the principal of his own firm, Lambiasi + Hayashi Architects, James Lambiasi has been a practicing architect and educator in Tokyo for 18 years. Fluent in Japanese, he has taught as a visiting lecturer at several Tokyo universities, served on the editorial board of the prominent Journal of Architecture and Building Science, and lectured extensively on his work. He is a founding member of the AIA Japan Chapter, for which he served as President in 2008, and is currently the Director of the AIA Japan lecture series that serves the English speaking architectural community in Tokyo.

Deanna MacDonald, Ph.D.

Deanna MacDonald (Central European University, MA, PhD. McGill) is an art and architectural historian specializing in Western and Japanese architectural history. She is the author of several publications, most recently "New Japan Architecture: Recent Works by the World's Best Architects" (Tuttle, 2011) and she is currently working on a book about sustainable architecture and design in Japan. Her current research interests include the relationship of traditional Japanese architecture and contemporary eco-architecture, authenticity and historical preservations in Japan and the west, and the history of global cultural exchange.  



Architecture 3233/8233 | Architecture Design Studio in Tokyo (6 credits) Spring only

Tokyo offers a glimpse of urban situations that challenges how we define cities.  Knit tightly together by the most intricate public transportation system in the world, Tokyo is a matrix of several cities in one, each one with its own center and vibrant character. Dense population in this metropolis pushes even the smallest sites to accommodate buildings, often producing interesting and new solutions and designs. Whereas in most cities disparities among social classes generate physical barriers, the relative absence of this in Japanese society has allowed the city to mature and develop in a more fluid, delicate manner that blurs boundaries with great subtlety. Add to this the highly sophisticated construction industry and respect for building craft, one may refer to Tokyo as an “urban laboratory” that is constantly evolving.

Design problems posed in this studio will require application of critical thought to this unfamiliar environment and to its larger context of Japanese culture. Writings, drawings, CAD plans, computer graphics, and models will be used by students to present their ideas. Participants are encouraged to bring their laptop, equipped with appropriate software, to Tokyo. Projects should express creativity and new thought while simultaneously stressing the importance of responding to the human inhabitants they impact.

In addition to several lectures, site visits, and excursions, this studio will focus on two separate design problems of contrasting scale. The first project will be a small-scaled intervention which will introduce Japanese concepts of dwelling, flexibility of living space, and inside-outside relationships. The second project is a large-scale project that will focus on an urban problem within Tokyo, requiring new and creative proposals of program and circulation. This course will include an estimated $600 fee for site visits and excursions.


Studio Projects:

Project #1: A Japanese Dwelling

The first design problem will be a short design charette to familiarize students with the Japanese dwelling, both traditional and modern. Traditional Japanese living spaces were formed by architectural elements such as tatami and sliding screens, and have influenced greatly the way in which the Japanese “dwell.”  Even in modern homes today where these elements do not necessarily exist, the subtlety of many traditions has carried on, creating very rich living environments that more often than not are compressed into very small spaces. Topics to be addressed in this studio will include innovative uses of living space and furniture, relationships of interior and exterior, and connection to nature. 

Project #2: Tokyo Urban Intervention

The second project will use Tokyo as an “urban laboratory” by focusing on one of the densely populated nodes of transportation within the city.  Prevalent in Tokyo are complex layers of vehicular, train, and pedestrian traffic that generate new and interesting sectional relationships and programmatic combinations.  The selected site will address these conditions, and the building program will require one to rethink traditional notions of boundary, function, and program organization.

In addition to regular studio sessions, the course will also include:

  • Excursions to the ancient capital of Kyoto as well as other historically significant sites in Japan. 

  • Guest lectures and studio jurors by prominent architects in Japan.

  • On-site visits to building sites under construction by both small-scaled Japanese carpenters and large-scaled sites managed by Japanese general contractors.

  • Regular visits to architecturally significant buildings in Tokyo, ranging from those recently built in the fashionable districts of Ginza and Omotesando, to the intimate communities of still remaining small wooden houses in Tokyo’s “shitamachi” areas.

  • Participation in the AIA Japan lecture series.


Architecture 3242/8242 | Urban Seminar in Japan (3credits) Spring only

This course will provide students a survey of architecture and urbanism in historic and contemporary Japan.

Japan's contemporary built environment is a result of a rich and complex architectural history. We will examine individual buildings and urban landscapes, considering the economic, socio-political, geographic and technological forces that have shaped the built environment of Japan from the earliest Shinto shrines to the seismic resistant skyscrapers of today. The traditions of Japanese architecture and urbanism will be studied chronologically as well as thematically, with special attention to major themes, including the aesthetics of Wabi, the "Modernism" of Kyoto's Katsura Villa, the importance of craftsmanship, the legacy of Meiji era “westernization,” the post-war Metabolist movement, and growing contemporary interest in sustainable architecture, particularly since the disasters of March 2011. The course will examine the varied international influences on, and of, Japanese architecture, from Imperial China to Frank Lloyd Wright to the many "star" architects (SANAA, Fumihiko Maki, Kengo Kuma etc.) working internationally today.

While the class will be a theoretical and analytical complement to the Architecture 3233/8233 Design Studio, students who are not enrolled in the Architecture program may also sign up for this course. The course will give all students a fuller appreciation of contemporary architecture practice and design by grounding them in the history and theory of Japanese architecture.

The course will consist of lectures, readings, class discussions, and student presentations as well as class trips to places of architectural note in Tokyo and surroundings.

Course Philosophy and Goals

Analyzing and understanding the history of architecture in any culture is essential to creating appropriate architecture for the future. The course aims to inspire informed, creative thinking about the architectural past, present and future by a systemic investigation of the Japanese built environment. It will encourage students to undertake comparative analysis of design in Japan, their home country and the rest of the world. Readings will be assigned for each class, and students will be expected to engage in dialogue on the topics covered in class in an informed and thoughtful manner, and also to provide constructive criticism of the ideas presented by their classmates. Group assignments will promote collaborative learning, and in-class presentations will enhance the student’s architectural vocabulary and analytical skills.