What informs your eye as an architect? Is there anything in particular that you were attracted to in your youth that made you pursue architecture and design?
Japan is known for its refined quality of industrial and graphic design. I have been attracted them since my childhood. When I first majored aeronautics in college, I was hoping to seek the beauty of shapes in fluid dynamics. As I studied, I came to realize that there was little room for creative shape manipulation in aeronautics. In a way, this rather unexpected experience in aeronautics made me pursue architecture.
What kinds of projects do you actively take on? Do you feel there’s a signature Masatoyo Ogasawara style?
I love to work with a client who rigorously respects the integrity of the design. Without having this in common, it is very difficult to maintain the balance between design and other issues. In the same way, I am less inclined to work for investment driven projects as design often being jeopardized for the sake of monetary gain.
I am attracted tactile materials, such as wood, stone, tile, and brick. They have strong presence in my design.
What was your experience at Harvard like? I understand that their architecture graduate school is one of the most rigorous programs in any field. How did that accelerate your growth?
Even in late 90’s, while other graduate programs actively endorsed computers in architecture, we were required to draw perspectives and drawings by hand at GSD. Retrospectively speaking, my appreciation towards materiality and tectonics might have been accelerated by this rather obsolete condition. Additionally, I chose to distant myself from the flooding up-to-date information in architecture. This decision enabled me to quest my own style.
What do you feel that your personal role as an architect is?
Personally, I’d like to take up a role to revive public appreciation of authenticity. In contemporary Japanese buildings, the substantiality of materials is seriously overlooked.
What other art (outside of architecture) influences your work? How?
Physics, chemistry, and mathematics might have influenced me rather than other form of arts. Science has its own beauty and I appreciate them deeply. Sublimity of nature is another source of inspiration.
I noticed a lot of contrasting materiality in your work, how do architectural materials and tectonics influence your design decisions?
In my project, I usually give my focus on one particular material. For the apartment renovation project in Brooklyn, for instance, I gave existing old brick wall as leading role. The substantiality of the brick wall was emphasized by contrasting with neutral white plaster wall. When two different materials are placed next to each other, it is crucial to give the joinery details into consideration in order to attain tectonic rationality.
Do you feel that projects in the U.S. are more detached from nature and that textural aesthetic, or is it just that Japanese culture emphasizes nature in its architecture more than any other culture that really allows your design influences to show through?
I can only offer two samples: Tokyo and NYC. Despite the fact that industrialized and pre-fabricated materials commonly utilized at the both cities, buildings in NYC are far richer in materials than in Tokyo.
What have been some of the biggest hurdles you have overcome from designing for a Japanese client compared to designing for an American client?
Meeting the demands of clients has always been the biggest hurdle. Though I do not see any particular differences in clients, liability issues are way more severely took into account in the US.
Do you enjoy the intimate nature of designing residences more than projects like Bellevue Hospital project, or do you appreciate the design challenges of all scales of projects?
Every project has different challenges. At larger scaled projects, maintaining the intimate human scale would be a challenge. I have seen as it easily being overlooked for the sake of so-called “DESIGN.”
I would like to think that I could keep sending some sort of messages to the society through my smaller scaled projects.
Masatoyo Ogasawara Interview
Corban Goble and Tom Larkin