Yoko Kawai’s mission is to create “space for well-being” by utilizing the Japanese spatial concepts. Japanese spatial concepts, by being non-dichotomous and rooted in the ephemeral aspects of nature, potentially contribute to the healthy mind and body of people in the world. This is especially valuable for the modern technology-driven society where people need to work and live with speed under tremendous pressure. She advocates this value of Japanese concepts through research, education, and design practice. She has taught theories of Japanese architecture and gardens at YSOA since 2010.
Yoko is principal of Penguin Environmental Design in Hamden, Connecticut. Her firm focuses on incorporating landscape into architecture. Its works include a residential project that received CTC&G Award in 2015, a Japanese garden at Frost Valley YMCA in 2014, a dry garden for the Yale University Art Gallery in 2009, and the chosen proposal for the Windscape competition by BSA in 2006. In 2016, Yoko co-founded Mirai Work Space Alliance in New York. There, she and her colleagues bring “Space for Well-Being” to contemporary workplaces.
Yoko’s research encompasses Japanese spatial concepts, space for well-being, and the influence of ICT on cities and architecture. She currently focuses on developing tools for spatial interventions to increase mindfulness. Her article appeared in various scholarly journals, including Journal of Green Building and Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering. Her recent works include “Choose, Create, and Connect: How Telework is Changing Space Around Us” in Residential and Community Spaces in the Future (in Japanese) published by Asakawa-shoten in 2014.
Prior to joining the faculty at Yale, Yoko taught Japanese architecture and design studios at the New York Institute of Technology and in Japan at St. Agnes’ University, Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts, and Setsunan University.
Yoko received a B.Eng. in Architecture from Kyoto University, a M.Arch. in Urban Design from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. from Kobe University.
Spatial Concepts of Japan
The seminar explores the origins and developments of Japanese spatial concepts and surveys how they help form the contemporary architecture, ways of life, and cities of the country. Many Japanese spatial concepts, such as MA, are about creating time-space distances and relationship between objects, people, space, and experiences. These concepts go beyond the fabric of a built structure, and encompass architecture, landscape, and city. Each class is designed around one or two Japanese words that signify particular design concepts. Each week, a lecture on the word(s) with its design features, backgrounds, historical examples, and contemporary application is followed by student discussion. Contemporary works studied include those by Maki, Isozaki, Ando, Ito, SANAA, and Fujimoto. The urbanism and landscape of Tokyo and Kyoto are discussed. Students are required to make in-class presentations and write a final paper.