Renowned architect Koichi Takada discusses the importance of blending nature and architecture, and how his time in Japan and the West has shaped his work. 

How did your upbringing in Japan and education in the US influence your design approach?  

KT: Paying respect to my Japanese heritage is extremely important to how I approach my design process and life in general. It’s important for me not to forget my roots, as it has shaped my identity. Education in US and UK, on the other hand, opened my eyes and pushed me to think outside my comfort zone.  

Why is it important to you to incorporate so much greenery and natural elements into your designs?

KT: Growing up in Japan, I experienced nature in a completely different way to how other cultures may experience it today. Japanese people have a deep respect for nature, as it is a force of much beauty and destruction.  

Natural disasters are a constant threat in Japan as they can destroy entire cities. Hence, Japanese people have learned to design cities in respect with nature. Based on my upbringing in Japanese cities and exposure to such nature as a child, I feel it’s natural to merge both the city and nature in my architectural design.  

When it comes to naturalising cities, what differences or similarities are you noticing between Australian cities and cities overseas?  

KT: Outside of Australia, many people who live in the city have forgotten to interact with nature. If you go to any city, say Los Angeles or Mexico City, you’re confronted with dense concrete jungles.  

Australia has a healthier approach to integrating nature with the city through innovative design.  

Japanese architecture, design and philosophies are becoming prominent in other western countries. For instance, this year’s Pritzker prize winner was from Japan. Why do you think the world is developing a liking for this Japanese influence?  

KT: If you’re in the West, you look to the East for inspiration and vice versa as people always want something that they don’t have, culturally speaking.  

From a Western perspective, it’s natural to be inspired by Japan’s rich culture and history. I often go back to Japan and find the culture fascinating. It’s a completely different way of life. For instance, sitting down on the floor to dine is a Japanese tradition that can be attractive to the West, as it’s a fundamentally different dining experience.  

Japanese people show a lot of care and respect towards their immediate environment, giving inanimate objects and living beings a soul. It is this level of care and respect that is an admirable aspect of Japanese culture that they’ve managed to preserve for thousands of years.  

Preserving ancient traditions and cultural values is perhaps something designers and members of society can learn from. We need to be mindful of preserving culture so we don’t forget our heritage. It’s important for us to have that sense of respect.  

How do you involve all of the senses in the designs and humanise tall buildings?  

KT: Involving all the senses is an important part of humanising a building. As buildings become bigger and taller, the more it becomes more intimidating for us on a street level. We question how we can make a building more appealing, addressing the technology and human value involved in the design process.  

We can’t forget the importance of the human senses and this is an element I’m interested in approaching through architectural design. It relates back to respecting cultural heritage and maintaining that level of human integrity. 

Koichi Takada will be speaking on a panel called 'Urban gardens and the importance of naturalising our cities' at DesignBUILD 2019 on Thursday 16 May at 3pm. Click here for more information.