Junzo Munemoto

Search for Design Solutions

Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University Department of Architecture and Architectural Engineering Junzo Munemoto

Science, art and culture are all very much part of what is architecture.

Depending on the particular specialization of architectural study such as research, design, or structural technology, however, there can be a leaning towards certain aspects such as scientific approach, artistic creation and research into engineering technologies.

1. Design Science and Design Thinking

At my research laboratory, we focus on design and first set out to describe using some degree of logical reasoning, what kind of actions and thoughts are involved and what is the solution of the design. Our starting point is asking what it is that we are calling design and this involves thinking about what actions are involved.

When attempting to describe the object of design in architecture in simple terms, it is difficult to pinpoint because although it is conveyed as a fusion of technology and art, you can collect countless amounts of technology and art but still be unable to achieve a design work or design solution.

Moreover it is not an extension of technologies and it is not only the internal workings of the designer in the form of pure art.

At first glance, when people encounter problems of architectural and environmental design, they perceive it as designing elements of form and architecture but actually, the object of focus is space. In other words, while space is the objective, the concrete activity is dealing with form and architectural elements. To put it roughly, this handling of form and architectural elements is the designing light and space and also mood and time. To reverse the logic of this which represents the problem of landscape there are many cases where although the elements of form and architecture are excellent and the architecture as a stand-alone object is great, there is no improvement in the overall cityscape and living space of the people.

Logically speaking, when approaching the problem of design, it is not possible to stay confined to only the activities handled by design because there is also the problem of clarifying the scope of the problem of what needs to be solved and to what extent. In other words, there is also the problem of seeking a design solution that includes the ethical constraints that the designer must adhere to and how far the design should go towards improving the environment and landscape. Moreover, such problems only begin to become clear as the design progresses, so there is the problem of new design conditions being added during the process of design. This sort of problem is termed an ill-defined problem as opposed to a well-defined problem. There are also times when the problem is a wicked problem which is when it is not possible to define a good solution.

Problem Solving Action

The design problems described above encompass a broad realm, the boundaries of the problems are difficult to define and some problems are without closure. This situation makes it very difficult to clarify what is the correct solution and there are cases where the solution provided is provided out of necessity rather than it being the correct solution. However, the correct solution does exist for a design, and the design problems can be multifaceted where multiple solutions exist. The architectural design is a combination of the thoughts of the designer and the thoughts that constitute the wishes for the architecture.

Unless these thoughts and wishes can be correctly defined, the correct solution cannot exist, and one can say that this is a problem of creativity. Reversely speaking, a design problem is where one can be bold and say that highly creative solution is a correct solution. However a firm answer cannot be given to the question of how to acquire the creativity.

When providing answers to the question of what kinds of methods can be employed for problem solving, generally the terms, trial-and-error procedure, generate- and-test procedure, problem-solving planning, and heuristic reasoning are used.

2. Intelligent System and Problem Solving - An Example of Our Research

Currently one of the major research themes at my laboratory are technologies called intelligent systems which have a wide range of applications in design methodology and problem solving. Many of these technologies relate to making models for the evolution of living things, nervous mechanism and human reasoning, and thus are loose mathematical and logical methodologies and of the abovementioned categories, it is a methodology of problem-space planning.

In our research, there are many examples such as bi-objective problems dealing with environmental conservation at the same time as planning the room layout of a building or reconstructing a campus, and planning methods for detached housing to reduce environmental burden based on multi-objective planning.

Using interactive evolutional models, the system learns the likes of the designer and reasons by artificial intelligence to propose alternative proposals. (photo) Currently we are experiencing tremendous advancements in technologies for solution search methodologies that employ models of the evolution of living things and the knowledge of humans.

3. Norm for Design and the Design Work

What relationship does the research and methodology of the design science described above have with projects? The design undoubtedly had a design process and the actions and results of this process are neither scientific nor artistic. However, these actions and results can be described in terms of scientific methodology and logical methodology. These methodologies are the above mentioned design science methodologies.

However, using those alone is insufficient to describe the architectural space. For example architecture that fuses with the natural environment and the urban environment and designing space suitable for enjoying culture are things the designer aims for. For this reason the designer manipulates light and darkness, artificial structures and plants, the external and the internal, and so forth with their sights set on what they consider to be good architecture.

At this time what are the grounds by which the designer can make good architecture? At the very least, the architecture must be functional, easy to use and convenient, but the notion of what makes a good design is also part of the designer's decision making.

These are what we call the norm, and the normative existence is essential when a designer is aiming to create a design work. There are cases where these norm are practiced and cases where they are not practiced but used as language that expresses aesthetic value. No matter what kind of architecture it is, it is impossible to understand a design without norm. Normative and autonomous constraints can be illustrated by presenting my work as examples.

Vangi Sculpture Garden Museum

Here I created spaces of light and darkness in inside and outside, in particular a space consisting of light and darkness that focuses on Mishima's resemblance to Tuscany for the purpose of sculpture. The architecture was therefore limited to extremely simple elements and materials for finishing effect. The purpose of the architecture was to eliminate its presence from the landscape so that the space of light and darkness created became a human space expressed by sculptures. (photo)

South Building of Kyoto University Museum

The Main Campus and West Campus are separated by a main street called the Higashi-ohji. My objective as a designer was to create a new face for the university by creating a new slope and wall on the Higashi-ohji Street that connects the campus and the city. I set my sights towards finding a design solution for this objective. (photo)

Iki Bunka Hall

The form of the building is complementary to the subtle contours of the remote island. (photo)

Photo of Munemoto

Junzo Munemoto

Born in 1945 Field of Specialization: Architectural Environmental Planning
Completion of Doctoral Degree Course Units,
Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University
D. Eng., Kyoto University
Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University

Realizing architectural design is in part science,but also is about being human. It requires both rational thought and sensibility.

Prof. Munemoto received the highly respected international architectural award for architecture for utilization of stone, the first prize of the Marble Architectural Award 2005 in Urban Landscape for the Museo Vangi - The Sculpture Garden Museum in Shizuoka Prefecture. The Museo Vangi is the world's only private museum solely dedicated to the work of Giuliano Vangi, a contemporary Italian sculptor, and Prof. Munemoto received high acclaim for this strongly Japanese themed architectural work possessing a contemporary sense of space that is in harmony with the sculptures. Prof. Munemoto begins the design process for his projects first by visiting the site to get a sense of the “power” and atmosphere of the site. For the Museo Vangi project also, he visited the site, observed the sculptures and decided they would be best placed in a nature setting. Then, what at first glance would appear contradictory to his role as an architect, he sought for ways to erase architecture from the landscape by taking a trial and error approach. For Prof. Munemoto, architecture is more about creating the "place" than creating the structure.

For about 16 years after leaving the Kyoto University Graduate School, Prof. Munemoto steadily gained experience through working for a major construction company. Prof. Munemoto and his colleagues reveled in extensive overtime work, working until late at night designing, to the point that they jokingly called themselves the "overtimers club". Even now, he advocates working on all angles right until the deadline for a good finished creation. This side of Prof. Munemoto, which rejects easy-way-out compromises, illuminates a strong pride that is characteristic of true artistic endeavor.