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The 67th Far East Architecture and City History Colloquium: ‘Traditional Village Kurashiki’

seminar Kim Sujin​ Sept 07, 2023

SPACE September 2023 (No. 670)


The 67th Far East Architecture and City History Colloquium was held by the Far East Asia Architecture History Lab (FAHL), School of Architecture, Engineering College at Hanyang University on July 27 via Zoom. This colloquium, led by Lee Euijung (principal, Architecture Studio ONGNO), on the topic ‘Traditional Village Kurashikiʼ, focused on the formation of Kurashiki and its defining architectural characteristics as one of Japanʼs traditional villages. Lee Euijung studied his M.Arch at Kobe Design University and presented on his experience working at Kurashiki Architectural Studio (principal, Naramura Toru).

Kurashiki is a city located in the southern part of Okayama. Storage facilities lined up along the banks of the urashiki River, which flows through the centre of the town, form an interesting landscape. It is interesting to note that the conservation movement behind this village was led by civilians rather than by government bodies. Activities to preserve the aesthetics of the village have endured from the early 1900s led by the Ohara family, who were local leaders, and the Kurashiki City Art Association, who led the folk art practices. The establishment of the Ohara Museum of Art is the example of this impulse to preserve and rejuvenate. However, with the development of maritime transportation such as the construction of the Seto Bridge, the role of Kurashiki as a transportation hub has declined, and the need for a regeneration of the city has become more pressing. In particular, one street of local residents in the tourist destination district was evidently unmanaged with vacant houses and cross sections of old buildings. In response, the Kurashiki Architectural Studio began to investigate the current state of neglected old houses in order to revive the village, and formed the Kurashiki Renovation Institute to explore the reasons for this phenomenon. They collaborated with the Machiya Trust, NPO for the village, and with the help of the villagers set on projects to repair empty houses. As a result, the first building they revived was transformed into a guest house, the second into the basecamp for the Machiya Trust to lead on the local cultural activities. Lee noted that, ‘it was a case in which the residents themselves recognised the value of the village and confirmed the possibilities for the independent regeneration of the region with a project linked to building assets.ʼ

In the Q&A that followed, when asked about how he thought the regeneration of Kurashiki was being successfully carried out by the private sector, he said, ‘it is because there were local communities and civil organisations that have long been established based on trust that a culture has been cultivated wherein local people can share their stories of the village and contemplate its future together.ʼ In a following question concerning advice for the regeneration of cities in Korea he suggested that, ‘even in the case of Japan, where the public sector failed in its efforts, true regeneration emerged from the private sectorʼ, and that, even though the results today may not be positive today, it will contribute as a lesson in creating better cities,ʼ expressing his hopes and expectations.

by Kim Sujin​ 


Kurashiki Renovation Institute repairing an empty house​​ / Image courtesy of Architecture Studio ONGNO

The second building of Kurashiki Renovation Institute transformed into the basecamp for the Machiya Trust​​ / Images courtesy of Architecture Studio ONGNO