Japan showcases new and old architectural perspectives for Adelaide’s Joel Ransley

New Colombo Plan
Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - 10:30
  • New Colombo Plan
  • Japan

2019 New Colombo Plan scholar Joel Ransley jumped at the opportunity to study in the Indo-Pacific region. Through his experience, he has been exposed to a wealth of old and new architectural perspectives and gained a deep appreciation of Asian cultures.

2019 New Colombo Plan scholar Joel Ransley jumped at the opportunity to study in the Indo-Pacific region. Through his experience, he has been exposed to a wealth of old and new architectural perspectives and gained a deep appreciation of Asian cultures.

Joel, a Bachelor of Architectural Studies student from the University of South Australia, has had a long-standing interest in Japan. He learned Japanese from a young age and has visited the country a number of times, including on an NCP Mobility study tour earlier in his studies. He returned to Japan in 2019 to complete his degree with a year-long exchange at Tokyo’s Shibaura Institute of Technology for his NCP program.  

 “This seemed an incredible opportunity to learn and grow from a wealth of new architectural perspectives and practices,” Joel says about his NCP program. “I knew I wanted to study in Japan, as the country’s incredibly rich tradition of architectural innovation in both a historical and contemporary timeframe has much to teach in the context of Australia’s younger urban profile.”

“I was particularly interested in the Japanese approach to bridging the divide between old and new architectural form, and Japanese cultural approaches to authenticity and renewal.”

One of Joel’s most valuable learning opportunities occurred when he participated in design studios, working as part of a team with fellow students to develop architectural concepts. He presented his design for a new cultural centre to teachers, peers and visiting city officials in Japanese, a nerve-racking yet memorable experience.

 “In comparison to my courses back home, which have a focus on the final aesthetic of a design output, I found a much greater focus placed on the broader considerations of context that drives Japanese architectural design. Every thought is given to how a building can best address the needs of its users and how it can integrate as a part of the wider community.”

Beyond the classroom and his studies, Joel has had the opportunity to visit a number of architecturally significant sites in other countries across the Indo-Pacific region on his NCP program including the Forbidden City and Great Wall in Beijing, the grand palaces in Bangkok, Taipei and Seoul and the ruins of colonial forts in Manila.

 “Tokyo itself offers a striking clash of old and new; walking just a few blocks in any direction from my university campus I would soon stumble upon a beautifully preserved wooden Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple, just as often as seeing a bold, futuristic spaceship-esque building.”

Through his NCP program, Joel has learned the importance of professional networking and making important connections. This led him to arrange architectural internships with prominent firms in Tokyo for later in his program, and to attend a lecture by Tadao Ando, Pritzker Prize winning Japanese architect and someone whose work Joel admires greatly. Joel has also drawn on new connections to explore exciting internship opportunities in other parts of the Indo-Pacific region including in Sri Lanka and Singapore.

 “Through these experiences I have developed a deep appreciation of Asian cultures, beyond just Japan. I certainly see the region as somewhere I would like to return to and do further study and work in.”

Joel has many fond memories of his time on NCP so far, from his solo climb of Mount Fuji, bathing in a century-and-a-half-old onsen in Beppu, to watching Australia beat Georgia in torrential rain courtesy of Typhoon Hagibis during the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

 “I am incredibly grateful for the myriad of experiences I have had on my NCP program so far and at each stage have tried to make the most of every opportunity I was presented with.”