AIA Architectural Education Foundation Blog Post 2: CJ Vigil

It is finally starting to feel like summer. If you are thinking of taking a trip or dreaming about taking one, here is another post from one of the AIA AEF’s Scholarship winners.

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14 days in Tokyo                               3 days in Sendai                                       3 days in Kyoto 

During my travels in Japan I expected to discover secrets for living in smaller spaces, especially in comparison to what we tend to live in here in the United States. I was hopping to then be able to implement these strategies in my own work, which tends to be in multi-family, affordable housing. I knew Japanese lived in less space than we do, I assumed they had less “stuff” as well. I expected to see creative storage solutions, technologies that allow more efficient uses of space, and basic design that created useful and exceptional living environments.

After three weeks, I realized there was no real secret. The Japanese are just willing to live in smaller spaces, whether out of necessity or cultural dictation. I saw houses that were just as packed with “stuff” as American homes. If they have the space to fill, they will fill it. The smallest living space I saw was around 20 square meters, about 200 SF. The big difference is that the Japanese are willing to use the same space for multiple activities. They are willing to roll up their beds and sleep in their living rooms. Formal dining-rooms are very rare.

It is also almost unheard of to have the bathing room and the toilet share the same space. However, since the they are in separate rooms, there is less of a need to have two separate American style bathrooms, since multiple occupants can use facilities simultaneously. This concept actually has had a big impact on how I design attached units with more than two bedrooms.

All in all, this trip was hugely inspirational and a trip of a lifetime. The Japanese have such an inspiring aesthetic, I think it would be impossible for any designer to not be inspired. I highly recommend traveling to Japan!

C Joseph Vigil  AIA





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