Kengo Kuma, “From Concrete to Wood: Why Wood Matters”

The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami shattered coastal cities in Japan in 2011. Kengo Kuma, taking as a point of departure his experiences in the aftermath of that natural disaster, will examine humans’ relationship with nature, questioning the perceived strength of steel and concrete and proposing the reintroduction of wood in design as a fair and practical mediator between humans and nature.

Born in Tokyo, Kuma completed his master’s degree at the University of Tokyo in 1979 and spent time as a visiting scholar at Columbia University before establishing Kengo Kuma & Associates in 1990. Among his many works, recent projects include the Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum (2010), which won the 2011 The Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's Art Encouragement Prize; the Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center (2012), Nagaoka City Hall Aore (2012), and Ginza Kabukiza (2013). Two of his buildings outside Japan are the Besancon Arts and Culture Center and FRAC Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence Conservatory of Music (both 2013). The firm currently has some one hundred projects ongoing in Europe, the U.S., Japan, China, and elsewhere in Asia. One of the most high-profile of these is the new national stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Since 2009, Kuma has been a professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Tokyo. He has also written more than a dozen books—including Anti-Object (2013)—which have been published not only in Japanese but frequently in English, Chinese, and Korean, earning him a readership in many parts of the world. Kuma is an International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and, as of 2009, an Officier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France.

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