The Japanese architect Shoei Yoh is an internationally recognised figure of late 20th century architecture and a pioneer of digital design. In 2019 Yoh deposited his architectural office archive including drawings, digital model files, photographs, project notes, architectural magazines, and physical models with the Faculty of Design at Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan. Since then, a research team from Kyushu University and the University of New South Wales, Sydney have collaborated to digitise archival assets and 3D scan living buildings designed by Yoh. In early 2021 the project team were awarded a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Australia Japan Foundation grant for the design of a new and immersive online Shoei Yoh Archive, exhibition, and symposium event.
The Revisiting Shoei Yoh exhibition, presented by Australian Design Centre between the 30th of November 2021 to January 25th, 2022, draws from the digitised assets of the Shoei Yoh Archive to trace a trajectory of experimental design practice across 5 buildings completed between 1979 to 1994. This begins with the Kinoshita Clinic in Fukuoka, Japan (1979) that reflects Yoh’s early interest in material technology. The Music Atelier (1986), Oguni Bus Terminal (1986), and Oguni Dome (1988) tell the story of Yoh’s significant contribution to the modernisation of timber architecture in Japan during the 1980s. The Naiju Community Centre (1994) represents Yoh’s most radical architectural endeavour, bringing together locally grown bamboo, hand weaving construction techniques, and advanced computer analysis to realise a complex geometric form in bamboo and concrete.
The Shoei Yoh Archive website is officially launched on December 2nd, 2021, as part of the online Revisiting Shoei Yoh: Digital Cultural Heritage Symposium. Digital cultural heritage is new field that seeks to creatively disrupt and transform heritage practices using contemporary digital technologies. The symposium will explore the definitions, opportunities, and future directions of digital cultural heritage practices by drawing on architectural project examples in Japan and Australia. It will bring together scholars who are engaging with digital technologies to augment the accuracy, scope, sustainability, and interpretive possibilities of cultural heritage documentation and representation.
Populating the Shoei Yoh Archive is an ongoing project. The site currently hosts archival material related to six projects designed by Yoh and completed between 1979 to 1994. The creation of a 3D spatial archive aims to facilitate a more accessible but also immersive experience of the digitised archival assets that includes multi-media formats such as videos, animations, and newly created 3D parametric and LiDAR models. The 3D environment is based on Yoh’s Naiju Community Centre and Nursery School and has been developed using 3D scan data and parametric modelling. The 3D spatial archive has been developed using WebGL technology which enables participants to access and navigate within the 3D environment through a web browser. The technical approach adopted overcomes common problems associated to the proliferation of proprietary, closed, and restrictive cloud 3D viewing formats. Using a .glTF file format that has no parametric features, or blocks, or arrays, or any other complex geometry forms makes viewing and experiencing the 3D environment easier and quicker. Improving the processing efficiency of web-browser based 3D architectural models is important to enhancing opportunities for audiences to connect with and experience culturally significant sites remotely. In this way Naiju, which is—in real life—currently unoccupied and in a state of disrepair, is brought to life and virtually repurposed as an exhibition space. The Revisiting Shoei Yoh project contributes to advancing digital cultural heritage as a strategy that can protect vulnerable heritage sites from over visitation while simultaneously raising awareness of their significance to support conservation efforts.
By Dr Nicole Gardner and Dr Jack Barton
Revisiting Shoei Yoh is funded by the Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Australia Japan Foundation Grant (2020-2021) AKF2020045 Revisiting Shoei Yoh: Digital Preservation and Architectural Archiving and supported by project partner micro global agency doq.
This exhibition forms part of a research collaboration between academics from the School of Built Environment at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia and the Faculty of Design at Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.
UNSW: Dr Nicole Gardner, Associate Professor M Hank Haeusler, Dr Kate Dunn, Dr Jack Barton, Tracy Huang, Daniel Yu, Anthony Franco, Charlotte Firth, Madison King, Nichola Jephcott
Kyushu University: Assistant Professor Maasaki Iwamoto, Associate Professor Tomo Inoue, Yu Momoeda