The Aesthetics of Tokyo: City Design and Culture with Dr. Rafael Balboa - Context Travel

The Aesthetics of Tokyo: City Design and Culture with Dr. Rafael Balboa


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More than in most Western cultures, aesthetics have played a critical role in the shaping of Japanese social life, cultural ideals, and urban landscapes. This conversation explores Tokyo's aesthetics as told through architecture and design and its critical connection to culture and public life in Japan today. 

Tokyo stands as Japan's capital and center of design, offering the country's best example of aesthetics with the architecture and physical forms of the city itself offering unique insights into the inner workings of its people, art, and politics. During his 1966 visit to the Japanese capital, Roland Barthes famously described the city as one that " ... does possess a center, but this center is empty." We'll discuss how these intersecting ideas of asymmetry and emptiness have long been central to various aspects of Tokyo, from urban planning to personal interactions.

We'll consider these two elements of Japanese aesthetics from a variety of viewpoints, including the organization of Tokyo as a city, Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples, Zen and its relationship to the concept of "mu" (emptiness), the 'bowl of rice' metaphor for Japanese society, and Kawaii's "cute-ification" of contemporary culture.

Led by architect, journalist, and longtime Tokyo resident Rafael Balboa, this interactive seminar will introduce Tokyo to participants through an aesthetic lens. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will emerge with a greater understanding of how Tokyo's aesthetics offer a unique organizing principle for Japanese culture and public life. 

Architect, Ph.D. Rafael is currently a correspondent for Italian architecture magazine Domus based in Japan and has lived in Tokyo for over 13 years. He received his Master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo under the guidance of Prof. Kengo Kuma. He is currently a Senior Guest Researcher at The University of Tokyo (Kuma Kengo Laboratory) and guest researcher at Keio University, besides visiting lecturer in other architecture institutions in Japan and abroad. Member of the JIA (Japan Institute of Architects), he co-founded and runs his architecture and urban design practice STUDIO WASABI since 2013. From 2017 he became Director of Casa Nano, an art residency in Tokyo part of Casa Wabi Foundation in Mexico. An avid toy collector, he has a keen interest in the ludic-cultural aspects between people and their cities.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 9 reviews
67%
(6)
22%
(2)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
11%
(1)
A
A.

Knowledgeable speaker, effective prepared presentation

A
A.

High quality all around

I
I.

The topics are really interesting and the presenters are very knowledgeable in their fields.

J
J.

Since we physically can’t travel at the moment. Your conversations are a wonderful diversion.

G
G.

I truly hope you will continues these remote lecture opportunities long after COVID is gone. They are fascinating AND affordable.

Customer Reviews

Based on 9 reviews
67%
(6)
22%
(2)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
11%
(1)
A
A.

Knowledgeable speaker, effective prepared presentation

A
A.

High quality all around

I
I.

The topics are really interesting and the presenters are very knowledgeable in their fields.

J
J.

Since we physically can’t travel at the moment. Your conversations are a wonderful diversion.

G
G.

I truly hope you will continues these remote lecture opportunities long after COVID is gone. They are fascinating AND affordable.