The World’s School Architecture in Harmony with Culture and History

In recent months, we have been receiving more and more opportunities related to schools, including webinars with the Hanoi  University of Construction and the Ho Chi Minh University of Architecture, and a webinar on the utilization of closed schools.

It can be said that schools play a very important role in forming a city where people gather and breathe.

Schools are institutions that play a central role in the education system, but when we look at them from the aspect of architecture, we find  that they coexist and live in harmony with the local culture, history, and customs, and that they are highly functional and artistic  buildings.

In this article, we would like to introduce some of the many schools in the world that have coexisted with culture and history.

#1.M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, (Russia)

Founded in 1755 at the initiative of world-renowned scientist Mikhail Moronosov, the university is Russia’s oldest and largest, and one of the world’s leading scientific and academic centers. (Moronosov was a world-famous scientist who was often quoted as being a “Leonardo da Vinci” for his glass-making skills, theoretical work in physics and chemistry, astronomy, geography research, writing grammars, historical papers, ode poems, translating poetry, and developing mosaic panels.)

The main building uses an architectural style known as “Stalin architecture”. It is commonly called the “Seven Sisters” because there are seven buildings of this architectural style in Russia. (As the name implies, Joseph Stalin had them built as a symbol of his dictatorship.)The most magnificent of the Seven Sisters is the main building of Moscow State University. It is 240 meters high, has 32 floors, 40,000 rooms, and can accommodate about 6,000 people. Currently, it is mainly used as a student dormitory. The vast 230-hectare site houses 27 major buildings, including school buildings, student dormitories, parks, botanical gardens, and an observatory.







#2. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Mexico)

Founded in 1551, the university was completed in 1552 after more than 60 architects and artists designed and built the campus in 1949. It is the second oldest university in the Americas and the oldest in Mexico. The main campus was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. The campus, a fusion of traditional Mexican culture and modern architecture, houses not only various faculties and research institutes, but also museums, the Olympic Stadium, supermarkets, theaters, and cinemas, forming a university city. One of the most eye-catching features is the mural painting in the Biblioteca Central (Central Library). It is said to be one of the largest murals in the world, and on all four walls (north, south, east, and west) There are mosaics on the themes of “Aztec Civilization,” “Spanish Colonial Tyranny,” “Sun and Moon, Space, Science, and Politics,” and “National Autonomous University of Mexico. Paintings by Mexican architect Juan O’Gorman, who is also a muralist. If you look at this mural after knowing the background of the mural painting movement that took place in the 1920s (aimed at conveying the significance of the revolution and the Mexican identity to the people), you will be able to feel the unique Mexican artistry and the new fascination of Mexican modern architecture. A powerful three-dimensional mural entitled “From the People to the University, from the University to the People” is also painted on the wall of the Rector’s Building. (By David Alfaro Siqueiros, one of Mexico’s most famous muralists.)
Within the huge campus, there are still many facilities and spaces of high historical and cultural value, unique architecture, and other places where you can have a rich and valuable experience.







Schools play a very important role and meaning in shaping cities. By looking at schools from the aspect of “architecture,” we were able to learn that the passion of so many people, including educators, architects, and designers, has been concentrated in schools, which are still carving out a new history.
The utilization, revitalization, and symbiosis of closed schools, as I mentioned at the beginning of this report, is also about carefully protecting and inheriting the history and various thoughts that have been built up over the years, while creating ways to further utilize them in the future. In other words, to create something new is to protect the history that already exists.



Buildings, Design, and Space in Japan and Abroad

One of the best things about traveling around the world is not only getting the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery, culture, customs, food, and people, but also the magnificent buildings with high historical value.

Of these, Italy’s buildings are said to be the best in the world both in terms of quantity and historical value

In this article, we will introduce some of Italy’s representative buildings and interview Italian designer Francesco Ristori to discuss architecture and design in Japan and abroad from a global perspective.

#1. The Pantheon (Rome, Italy)

Michelangelo, a man of many talents in art and architecture, praised The Pantheon as an “angelic design”. Built in 25 B.C. by Agrippa, trusted by Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire, it was destroyed by fire in 80 B.C., but was rebuilt by the emperors Domitian and Trajan. From 118 to 125, Hadrian transformed the Pantheon into a classical building that pursued space, order, arrangement, and light. It is no coincidence that the height of the dome and the diameter of the rotunda correspond exactly to the diameter of a perfect sphere.

The circular structure of the Pantheon was inspired by the heavens and the sun, and unlike the square-shaped spaces that were the mainstay of Greek and Roman temple architecture until that time, the domes were made smaller as they were raised, and the walls were made progressively thinner to reduce the downward pressure of the weight of the dome and to release the physical stress to the foundation.

The only source of light in the Pantheon is the dome’s “great eye”, a circular window at the top of the dome, and when the sun shines in around noon, the magnificent space made of polished marble and finished with geometric patterns shines beautifully.

The Pantheon, which continues to transmit the image of Rome’s glory to the present day, is truly an architecture with a sense of history.

■ Francesco’s Addition: Knowing this makes” The Pantheon”100 times more interesting!

Italian monuments have myths that are based on truth. In the case of The Pantheon, it remains a myth that glorifies Roman architecture.

One of the things that makes The Pantheon an amazing piece of architecture is that it does not have a keystone on the dome, which would normally be present, to avoid structural overload. As a result, there is a large hole that allows you to see the sky. Many people may think, “Won’t it flood when it rains?”.

In fact, when it rains, the chimney effect causes the rain to be sprayed by the warm wind, and it is said that the inside has never been flooded.

Of course, this is due to the superior design techniques of Roman architecture and the chimney effect, this was due in part to the myth that Roman building technology was so great that it would not flood even when it rained.

■#2. Church of San Miniato al Monte (Florence, Italy)

Construction began in the year 1018. This is the first church in Florence dedicated to Christian martyrs. It is said that when the martyrs were decapitated, they carried their heads under their arms and climbed the hill with wobbly steps to come to this place where they were buried.

The façade is made of Carrara marble with white color, which complements the green serpentine stone and adds to the beauty of the building. The first floor, there is a design reminiscent of a classical temple, a 13th-century mosaic at the top of the edicula (stone or wooden altar) window, depicting Christ on the throne with a saint by his side, and at the top of the façade, a mosaic of a man on the throne, and bronze falcon symbolizing the woolen guild. Inside, the main altar is decorated with mosaics from the 13th century, and between the steps leading to the main altar is the Chapel of the Cross by Michelozzo, added during the Renaissance.

It is one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany and is a valuable historical building that had a great influence on later Renaissance architecture, both inside and out.

Francesco’s Addition Knowing this, the “Church of San Miniato al Monte” becomes 100 times more interesting!

If you were to ask, “What is the most beautiful bridge in Florence? Most people would probably answer “Ponte Vecchio”. Personally, however, I would say that the adjacent Holy Trinity Bridge is the most beautiful bridge in Florence.

The reason for this is quite simple: from Ponte Vecchio, you can’t see the whole beautiful Ponte Vecchio, but when you stand on the Santa Trinita Bridge, you will see the Ponte Vecchio in all its magnificent beauty. Therefore, the Santa Trinita Bridge is the most beautiful bridge in Florence.

Similarly, the Church of San Miniato al Monte is not considered the most beautiful church in Florence. But from the top of the hill where the facade stands, you can see all the churches in Florence. That’s why we can say that “San Miniato al Monte” is the most beautiful church in Florence!


Ponte Vecchio                Santa Trinita Bridge              Foreground: Ponte Santa Trinita Back: Ponte Vecchi


■Francesco, a designer, talks about architecture and design in Italy and Japan.

1)Influence from Italy, and conversely, the influence of Japan on other countries  

Trade between Italy and Japan began in 1866, but it took several decades before there was any visible impact. In 1904, “Madame Butterfly” was premiered at La Scala in Milan. The fact that the story is set in Nagasaki is considered evidence of the deep interest Italy and Japan had in each other. It is said that the relationship was strengthened from there and influenced the streets of Nagasaki.On the other hand, in Italy, in the 19th century, the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio admired the charm of Japanese haiku and created an Italian version of it. It can be said that Italy and Japan have strong cultural and historical ties. 

2) About the design scene and production in Italy and Japan

First, I feel that the production process is completely different. In Italy, the skilled craftsman become the architect client while in Japan, the craftsman follows the architect client. This is just my way of thinking, but basically, in Italy, there is a lot of thinking and creating on site, but in Japan, preparation and detailed verification are prioritized.In Italy and Japan, “traditional craftsmanship and manufacturing methods that have been handed down from generation to generation remain strong” can be said to be a commonality in site and production.

3) Design in Italy and Japan

Both Italy and Japan participated in the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26). It is expected that we will aim for a cleaner and greener future.I believe that zero carbon and energy autonomy will be set and introduced as major objectives in architecture as well.In northern Italy, energy-autonomous buildings are already on the rise due to the influence of northern European building technology. On the other hand, it has been suggested that the development of energy-autonomous buildings in Japan may be delayed due to the cost of land and earthquake resistance standards. Nevertheless, I hope that we will make steady progress step by step.


Francesco Ristori

International Design Division, Office Department, Architect, Designer

After achieving a master’s degree in architecture at the University of Florence, he specialized in Italy in housing and retail projects, as well as heritage buildings restoration. Since 2014 he has been involved as designer at GARDE, operating in Japan and Korea, China, and south-east Asia, involved in several project scales, such as corporate offices, hospitality, residential, commercial facilities, and department stores.





『People, Design, Space』#1: Makoto Otani

Otani joined GARDE in 2016, and after working as a PM and local architect, he has been working as a designer since 2021, participating in many projects for apparel, large-scale commercial facilities, and hospitality. In addition to his skills and sense of style, he is also a possesses a deep sense of humanity. We took an in-depth look at the young designer from a variety of perspectives.

■How did you become interested in design and architecture?

The large commercial facilities and mass merchandisers along the national highway, such as toy stores and fishing tackle shops, were at the origin of my consumer behavior and my first perception of commercial space.

I had an interest in design, objects, and shapes from an early age, but my interest in space was secondary to my experiences there. The origins of my own creation began in my childhood, when I spent all my time collecting insects, looking at actual objects and illustrated books, copying them, and making models.From there, my interest shifted to airplanes, tanks, and plastic models, and I developed an interest in industrial objects that led to my current occupation. Ever since then, I have been interested in guitars and furniture design.

I also spent a period in Beijing in the 1990s and often went to department stores with my family and siblings. We would spend half a day in the facilities, from the game center to pottery classes, to dining. We were also a cultured family, so we had all kinds of subcultural materials scattered around the house.

From a very young age, I was exposed to the films of seen Verhoeven, Cronenberg, David Lynch. For manga, I was introduced to Osamu Tezuka, Shigeru Mizuki, Yoshiharu Tsuge, Shotaro Ishinomori and so on. In the midst of all this, my piano teacher gave me the best Beatles album. I fell in love with the subculture of the 60’s and beyond.

I became obsessed with Dylan and Kerouac, and as a result became a bit of an “edgelord”…





●His passion for building plastic models as a child eventually led to an interest in product design…




●He was accepted to Musashino Art University.

■What influences your design and what you are actively incorporating into it?

I think that the way items are combined with each other is an ability that is common to the way materials are combined in space.

For clothing, I am quite conscious of dressing in a way that is “appropriate for the occasion, very normal and ordinary”. Personally, I think it has something in common with my attitude towards spatial design. I feel that there is a slight difference in the sense of distance between clothing and interior/architectural design, as they both focus on the human body.

The process of sewing clothes, starting from the selection of materials, and building from the pattern (flat) to the human body (three-dimensional), is very interesting from an architectural point of view. The way you finish it will affect the completion of the project. More than the technical interest, what I am conscious of is the semantic rationality, whether the combination of items is in line with a certain context or not. Starting from who, where, and how the item was made, to why I chose it now, I am conscious of making sure that each combination makes sense. I want to apply this attitude to each aspect of food, clothing, and shelter whenever possible.

■Who are some creators you admire?

I’m glued to the frightening yet fascinating scenes and characters of David Lynch. 

David Lynch’s work may be considered difficult and lofty, but if you take a closer look at his works, you will find that each motif is mundane and trite in a good way. I think he is an interesting person who has succeeded commercially while making films that are personal and self-indulgent.

■To Mr. Otani, who states “I have no preconceived notions about materials, good or bad.” We propose the final question: What are some of your future challenges?

I feel that experienced people are limited in the space they associate with materials. For example, the unit price of a material is set based on various factors such as scarcity, time and effort of production, transportation, etc. However, I believe that it never determines whether the material is good or bad (luxurious or cheap).

This may also be true for other elements that make up a space, such as spacing, where it makes sense to say, “If it’s bigger, it’s no good” or “If it’s smaller, it’s no good.” However, there are many of these virtues that have no basis in fact. I would like to question this while keeping them as a foundation. There must be much that is strangely missing or curiously in excess that we find attractive. I will continue to learn and utilize as much as possible.

■Makoto Otani

Designer, Large-Scale Design Section, Design Business Division

After joining the company in 2016, Makoto Otani worked in the PM Section of the Brand Business Division, where he managed the interior design work for imported brands opening stores in Japan. In 2019, he joined the Design Section of the Brand Business Division, where he worked as a local architect for imported brands ranging from apparel to cosmetics. In 2021, he joined the International Design Division, where he works as a designer on a variety of projects in Japan and abroad, focusing on apparel stores, large-scale commercial facilities, and hospitality design.


Creative Space Coming through the Window

A design exhibition titled “Window on the Future – Gaudí Meets 3D Printing” will be held at Tokyo Midtown from October 15 (Fri.) to November 3 (Wed., holiday).

This is a project by Mr. Keita Suzuki, a creative director who inherits the spirit of “co-creation” (creation through trial and error with experts in various fields) of world-famous architect Antonio Gaudi, and YKK AP Inc, which designs, manufactures, installs, and sells windows, sashes, shutters, and other products used in homes and buildings. This is an exhibition of new window prototypes created by specialists in various fields who agree with the purpose of the exhibition, transcending national boundaries and genres, using the latest 3D printing technology to create “window on the future”. GARDE is participating in this co-creation as a production partner.

We are very much looking forward to this event to see how the “windows” that we encounter every day are expressed by the hands of up-and-coming creators, and what kind of future they will lead to.

YKK AP’s special website “Window on the Future – Gaudí Meets 3D Printing”;


With this in mind, we decided to take this opportunity to do some research on windows.

First off, when we talk about windows, window glass comes to mind, right? However, it was not until the 17th century that ordinary people in the West were able to use them. When you consider the many functions that windows and windowpanes can perform in combination, such as letting in light, ventilation, security, privacy protection, prevention of noise intrusion and outflow, and pest intrusion, you can’t help but be deeply moved by the concept of windows.

Windows play a functional role as well as a decorative role. Have you ever had the experience of walking down the street and encountering a window with a beautiful design, an unusual shape, or a beautifully polished window, and your eyes and mind are drawn to it?

This time, we would like to introduce you to some buildings with distinctive windows and the spaces created by them.

■Torre Agbar (Barcelona, Spain)

Torre Agbar is a cylindrical building of the Barcelona Waterworks Authority located in Barcelona, the northeastern part of the Kingdom of Spain, where many medieval buildings such as the Sagrada Familia and other beautiful churches remain, as well as the Miró Museum, which houses the works of Joan Miró, one of Spain’s most famous artists, and the Pablo Picasso Museum, which attracts many tourists to the cultural city.

The 4,500 glass blinds that cover the exterior walls open and close in conjunction with temperature sensors. The blinds are designed to block sunlight in the summer and let sunlight in in the winter, thereby saving the maximum amount of energy for heating and cooling. The walls of the building are designed with more red near the ground and more blue towards the sky. The image colors of the facade are fire and water covered with glass that sparkles in the light. The 4,500 LED lights corresponding to the glass blinds can be computer-controlled to create illumination in over 1,500 different colors. The building has become a landmark of Barcelona and is also used for seasonal and event-based performances.


Waldspirale (Germany)

Designed by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser and his last work, “Waldspirale” (“forest spiral”, in English) is a 12-story residential complex with 105 units built between 1998 and 2000. Its unique form, devoid of any inorganic straight lines, is a testament to Hundertwasser’s lifelong attempt to express the nature he admires. In addition to its form, the building is characterized by the fact that it has more than 1,000 windows, none of which are the same shape. Some of the windows have trees sticking out of them, and there are highly artistic designs scattered throughout that overturn the concept of architecture and windows.

At first glance, the colorful wall decorations and golden crowns might make you think that the castle is something out of a fairy tale or fable. The open café and bar at the top, the small pond and children’s playground in the courtyard, and the way Hundertwasser coexisted with people and nature based on his free sensibility are truly masterpieces that he left behind in this world.


Lastly, we would like to introduce traditional Japanese windows. There are many types of windows that do not ring a bell just by hearing their names, such as musō,  kushigata windows, shitaji windows, renji windows, hasou, wasure windows, shishigaki windows, etc. but their types and designs are truly diverse. The designs are not as flashy and eccentric as those of foreign countries, but they show the sensitivity of the Japanese people, who live emotionally rich lives, feeling the changes of the four seasons with their five senses. Among the traditional Japanese windows, I would like to introduce you to the enso, which is relatively easy to see.

 Enso is a circular window that has been used in many traditional Japanese buildings, including temples and Buddhist shrines. Famous examples include Meigetsuin in Kamakura, Genkoan in Kyoto, and Fundaiin, which has a garden created by ink painter and Zen monk Sesshu. The best time to visit is during the season of fresh greenery and autumn leaves at Meigetsuin and Genkoan, and on snowy days at Fundaiin, when the dead trees in the garden are covered with snow and the scenery resembles a Sesshu ink painting.

Traditional Japanese windows, while enclosed in a walled room, skillfully bring the scenery seen through the window, borrowed scenery, into the room, creating a space that looks like a painting framed by a picture frame.



日本の窓 (淡交ムック) ムック


Large International Events and Japanese Design

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have come to a close after about a month of intense competition and excitement. Although the Games were held under a state of emergency and postponed due to a global pandemic, Japanese athletes won a total of 58 medals, including 27 gold medals, the most in history at the Olympic games, and a total of 51 medals, including 13 gold medals, at the Paralympics. However, the remarkable achievements of the new generation of athletes, in particular, demonstrated to the world the strength and potential of the Japanese sports world.

In fact, there is a deep connection between the Olympics and other major international events and the development of Japanese design. For example, pictograms are now commonly used. The world’s first sports pictogram was first introduced at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It was developed in order to communicate to athletes and spectators from all over the world, who could not understand Japanese, what kind of competition was going to be held. A symbolic silhouette of each sport is expressed on the whole body or on some parts of the body, and each time it is designed in a way that reflects the individuality of the host country. This type of design expresses the meticulous hospitality unique to the Japanese people.

The theme of the 1970 Osaka Expo, “The Progress and Harmony of Mankind,” was a successful fusion of the three aspects of the event: a theme that seriously considers ideals and ideals, entertainment that visitors can genuinely enjoy, and the presentation of an original and hopeful vision of the future. A total of 64,218,770 people visited the exhibition in 183 days. 
The symbolic zone, famous for its festival plaza and the Tower of the Sun, was designed by Kenzo Tange, the designer of the Yoyogi National Stadium, and artist Taro Okamoto, and expresses a message through high abstraction. Even today, more than 50 years later, its presence and message continue to resonate with us.

This was not the only reason for the success of the Osaka Expo. Along with Isamu Noguchi and other big names of the time, the expo actively recruited and gave opportunities to Arata Isozaki (age 38), Kisho Kurokawa (age 35), Tadanori Yokoo (age 33), Eiko Ishioka (age 31), Junko Koshino (age 30), and Tetsuya Chiba (age 30), all of whom would go on to play major roles on the world stage. 
One episode that symbolizes the atmosphere of the time is related to the “Sen-i-kan,” – or pavilion of textile –  ​which became famous for Tadanori Yokoo’s eccentric design. Mr. Toyosaburo Taniguchi of TOYOBO, chairman of the Japan Textile Federation said, “I don’t understand your theory of art at all. But I understand your passion. That’s fine. Do what you want.”

*The figures in parentheses indicate their age at the time.  

Four years from now, with the hope that Japan and the world will have overcome the threat of the pandemic and regained their pre-Corona lifestyle, Expo 2025 Osaka will be the perfect opportunity for Japan to show off its wisdom, technology, and sense of style to the world.
We can look forward to the birth of many new designs that Japan can be proud of, including pictograms that reflect the meticulous hospitality of the Japanese people, as well as astonishing new creators and creations. 

Source: History of Japanese Design, Color Edition  (Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha)

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