Let the beauty that you love be what you do.
Have you enjoyed being in a “Japanese inspired” house and felt something unique? Can you put your finger on why? What does “Zen” design mean when describing a store or restaurant? What is it about Japanese architecture and gardens that people find so beautiful? What about Japanese food? Pottery? Art? Perhaps you visited Japan and were intrigued and inspired by what you experienced.
Japanese arts (and for that matter, culture) have a very different look and feel from those having roots in Europe. It has been the inspiration for many architects (think Frank Lloyd Wright) and Chowa Studio explores those aesthetic concepts and uses them as inspiration for our work. We do not seek to recreate replicas of, for example, a rural seventeenth century farmhouse (minka) or a sprawling sukiya style complex, but use the rich Japanese aesthetic ideas to create a unique look and feel that is both beautiful to see and to experience.
by Rick Okada, AIA
I approach design in a three-layered process of architectural problem solving and creativity: finding functional solutions, creating a sensory rich experience inspired by Japanese aesthetics, and incorporating symbolic and metaphoric ideas.
My first task is to listen and gather as much information about the functional aspects of your project. I listen to you articulate the project goals for spaces, functions, energy and sustainability goals, and budget, among other things. I then do research on building codes, zoning ordinance restrictions, and site and environmental opportunities and constraints. Your project has its own set of circumstances that will inform the design process and outcomes.
Having gathered and analyzed this information, I begin the design process. Starting with the functional requirements, I add in ideas about the sensory experience of the design, both physical and psychological, that are inspired by Japanese aesthetics. From the time of arrival at your property, to entering and then inhabiting the structure, I pay attention to what the mind and body might experience. Not only will the five usual senses be employed, but the psychological “sense” as well. This means there will be intentionality involved in what you physically see, hear, feel and smell think as you move through the site and building.
Lastly, the incorporation of symbolic and metaphoric ideas adds a final layer of richness and depth to what might be otherwise a superficial “flavor of the day” design. For example, the design might be a subtle representation of the activities that happen inside or perhaps represent a childhood recollection of a place you have fond memories of.
I draw on the aesthetic ideas found in Japanese art and culture to help articulate the sensory and symbolic meanings which helps to unify elements in a cohesive and pleasing appearance.
While architecture can simply be a shelter from the environment (which, of course, it should be), I believe it can be more than just a backdrop or warehouse for our activities. If we care to pay attention, especially to the subtle details, our experience of well designed architecture (of any genre) can enrich our daily lives.
About The Architect
Rick Okada, AIA is a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture and became a licensed architect in 1983. He worked for numerous firms in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and his work includes buildings in the Minnesota as well as numerous other states.
In 1998, he started Chowa Studio Architects and practices both commercial and residential architecture. He is currently registered in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and is active on the AIA Minnesota Continuing Education committee.
He is a third generation Japanese-American (Sansei) who was born and raised in Wisconsin. Rick has a keen interest in Japanese art and culture and his passion is to apply this knowledge in his designs.
He is a volunteer at the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota and a tea ceremony student of Sensei Patricia Katagiri in the Uransenke tea ceremony tradition.